A Four-Seasons Day

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The weather today has provided a perfect backdrop to the drama of starting on the boat. As the bus wound its way down over the Mendips, the Levels were awash with golden light, but by the time we were in Wells it was hailing.

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The stormy skies and half-light of the day made our new workshop seem a bright haven (though not quite cosy enough to risk taking off our coats, hats and gloves)

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planks

We spent an exciting afternoon wrestling with timber and getting everything together for the boat, ready for marking out tomorrow. Then, to round off the day, we had a great session with our friends at the Langport Huish Youth Club.

workshop

The adventure of making the boat has just begun.

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A generous gift

travis perkins

After a long, slow journey – late buses, hail storms, missed connections and all – it was lovely to have such a warm welcome back to Langport.

Some:when has been made possible by a great deal of creative and generous input and support from people locally, who’ve contributed in so many ways. It was good to be able to add to this list the support of Travis Perkins, who generously agreed to sponsor us with a donation of materials and equipment for the boat. We’d like to say a big thank you to the management of the Langport branch of Travis Perkins, who so kindly arranged the sponsorship, and helped make sure we had all we needed.

It’s exciting to have all the materials, tools and workshop set up and ready to go. Thanks to all who helped today, and on the project so far!

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Winter’s greetings!

A warm hello to all our friends and followers, this bright winter’s day. We are visiting friends and family (Jethro in Scotland, left; Seila in Spain, right) and recharging our batteries for the excitement of January.

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The exciting news is: we have found an excellent work space and will be starting work on THE BOAT in mid January – we are also looking forward to some more creative workshops while we are there.

We hope you are all having a nice toasty time with your loved ones, and enjoying the spectacular return of the sun.

Best wishes and looking forward to seeing you soon

Jethro and Seila

Some:when gathering and exciting news!

On Saturday we enjoyed another great visit to Somerset, this time to run a workshop more directed to adults in Langport. We wanted to generate a conversation around the project from a different angle, revisiting the history of the Somerset Levels and Moors and looking at poetry, a historical text about Somerset and an image of Bow Street (the main street in Langport) which we found in a visit at the Somerset Heritage Office, to provide inspiration for the discussion.

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texts

The session was really interesting and we talked about all kinds of things: windmills, rivers, water, nature, hydro power, recovery, cycles, boats, history, canals, floods, willow, traditions and many more.

If you couldn’t attend the session and would like to have a look to the resources please do, here isthe link: Some_when_gathering. Feel free to share your thoughts with us!

 

market outside

While we set up the workshop in the Town Hall we looked out on the Christmas market, that we had the chance to visit for a bit afterwards – what an excellent day for it!

We also popped down to visit the river Parrett, in an extraordinary light and  very low water level. This enabled us to see the vegetation at the bottom of the Parrett, which normally gets hidden by light reflections in the surface of the river.

 

river

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(photos taken from Cocklemoor, Langport)

To finish the post, we would like to share our excitement that we’ve found a fantastic space to build the Flatner!  The build will be taking place in the middle of January!!

So if you are as excited as we are, and you would like to know more about it do get in touch – we might even be able to arrange a visit to the site.

 

“… and I saw a boat appear”

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

(from the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”)

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boat museum 1

Following the trail of the Somerset Flatner, we discovered a set of plans to build it had been drawn up by enthusiasts at the Watchet Boat Museum. That was  how we ended up in Watchet, looking for the plans, and hoping also to see the real boat. After an interesting journey, getting to know a few more people along the way, we arrived in Watchet – possible birthplace of Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner. An interesting small town on the coast which that day was blessed with remarkable and irrational weather…

2:00 pm: the museum opens… and we get to enter this fantastic space packed with floating inspiration, independently created and curated by a passionate and inventive local group, Friends of the Flatner. Bruce, a founding member, kindly met us at the museum and we had our first tantalising glimpse into the world of knowledge the group have accumulated over the years. We begun to realise just how complex the project is – the boat we want to build, the “Flatner” is a whole spectrum of plan variations depending on their functionality, context and owner. A couple of hours’ explanation opened windows and even doors, to look at the making of this fascinating project. Finally able to explore its history in depth, and being able to touch and handle the actual boats, we started to see the boat take shape in our minds’ eyes.

 

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Thank you so much to Bruce, on behalf of the Watchet Boat Museum and The Friends of the Flatner. So much passion in one little shed – so much knowledge to learn from!

 

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A welly of water will do

books

We were sitting in the library when the phone rang, books stacked about our feet and on the little side table. We had divided the morning between phone calls and local history books, on the trail of the elusive Parrett Flatner. So far we had three interesting photographs, and one promising conversation. Now on the phone was Ron Coombes of Bineham City Farm, kindly inviting us out for a look at his hand-built punt, recreated from the original specifications of Colonel Hawker

wellies

Cycling as fast as we could in the baking sun, we made it out to the farm just in time to catch Ron on his lunch break. He took us out to the barn to admire the boat, a long, low craft built constructed from light timber and marine ply, painted a wintry pale grey. Holding his hand to the side of his Wellington boot to show just how little water was needed to float the boat, he described the extent of the Winter floods and the trips he’d taken wild-fowling with his dogs when the Levels were submerged.

boat

Standing by the boat with the sun at our backs and the cool musty smell of the barn before, our quest at last began to take on material qualities – the feel of the marine plywood, the weathered texture of the flaking paint, smells of straw and wood, oil, rust and dung. The swallows among the rafters and the wet nose of the dog gently sniffing about our ankles. This wasn’t exactly the boat we were after, but its flat bottom and homegrown feel gave us a taste of what we were after. Ron said the boat has carried them for miles across the floodplain, needing very little to keep afloat. Running aground on the mud, it takes only a quick shove to get going again. It seems an ideal boat for access and mobility in an unstable and unpredictable water-scape.

At the back of the house, another boat lay upturned on the narrow lawn, a battered fibreglass dinghy propped beside the rusting garden gate. Ron marked out the line for us, where the water had reached halfway up the  drive. The house, the yard and the cattle sheds were safe on high ground, but a boat was still a handy thing to have about.

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Cycling back, we stopped besides golden fields of sunbaked corn beneath an innocent blue sky. The smell of warm earth, tarmac and milky thistles revealed nothing to our of the wet, waterbound Winter months.

On the trail of the Somerset Flatner

The following text is reproduced from a forthcoming notice in the next edition of the Langport Leveller with thanks to Janet Seaton.

Artists Seila Fernandez Arconada and Jethro Brice are working on a project with community groups in the Langport area, to recreate this iconic local boat – a flat-bottomed craft valued for its stability in a changeable landscape. Please get in touch if you have information, stories or pictures relating to the traditional Somerset Flatner and its smaller cousins, the Turf boat, Withy boat and Flattie. We are interested in collecting local memories to flesh out what we know from museums and archives – and perhaps even finding an original boat in somebody’s barn!

For more information about the project please visit http://www.some-when.co.uk.
Contact us on somewhenproject@gmail.com

Mannering, J (2008), The directory of inshore craft: Traditional working vessels of the British Isles, Barnsley, Seaforth Publishing, [distributor] Pen & Sword Books Ltd

Mannering, J (2008), The directory of inshore craft: Traditional working vessels of the British Isles, Barnsley, Seaforth Publishing, Pen & Sword Books Ltd