Students to transform giant oak tree into working medieval boat

The Oak tree being felled at Raveningham. Photo: Water Mills and Marshes, Broads Authority.

The Oak tree being felled at Raveningham. Photo: Water Mills and Marshes, Broads Authority. - Credit: Archant

A giant oak tree which stood near the discovery site of the original ‘Chet Boat’ is set to be transformed into a working replica of the ancient vessel.

In 2013 diggers working on a flood bank along the River Chet at Loddon uncovered a medieval boat thought to be around 600 years old.

And now students at the International Boatbuilding Training College (IBTC), in Lowestoft, have been commissioned by the Broads Authority to build a working replica using the same material, tools and techniques that would have produced the original.

The tree has been donated to the Water Mills and Marshes Project by Raveningham Estate.

Students will forge their own nails and make the tools needed to turn the timber trunk into a watertight boat capable of transporting people and goods.

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A spokesman for Raveningham Estate said: “This is a wonderful chance to tell a story and keep it local.

“A 200-year-old oak tree suffering from acute oak decline has been chosen, whereas we would normally leave standing dead wood for environmental benefits, on this occasion we get to prolong the life of this magnificent tree in the form of an ancient vessel.

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They added: “Unfortunately this beautiful old tree is dying and has deteriorated to the point where we have to remove it.

“Given the Chet Boat was found so close to where this oak has stood for so many years we thought it fitting to donate it to this project.

“It would be nice to think that in time she will be sailing past the estate.”

The tree is seven metres tall and weighs around six tonnes. It is expected to be transported to the college in the coming weeks with the boat build taking around 18-months.

Project manager Will Burchnall added: “We never imagined we would be able to source materials from a location so intrinsically linked to the Chet Boat and we are very grateful to the Raveningham Estate.

“I know the students will relish the opportunity to take materials in their rawest form.

“I’m sure they will develop a deep appreciation of those that practiced their ancient craft many years before them.”

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