For the first time in around 200 years, skills used to construct the trows which hauled goods along the River Wye are being rediscovered in Nielsen’s boatyard at Gloucester Docks.
On June 3, The Lord Lieutenant of Herefordshire, Lady Darnley, will be on board the trow when it joins 1,000 other water craft for what will be the biggest pageant of boats and ships the River Thames has seen for many centuries.
The spectacular pageant will be one of the highlights of an extended Bank Holiday weekend in June during which beacons will be lit and thousands of Big Lunches will take place up and down the country.
To see how the trow is progressing, Lady Darnley visited the boatyard in Gloucester and heard that the unique construction of the vessel meant skills not seen for two centuries were being called on.
The trow has a clinker bow, stern and sides (the timber panels overlap) with a carvel bottom (the timber panels butt up to each other) – ideally suited to the Wye with stretches of deep water, but gentle banks on which the trows would be gently grounded to load and unload.
The skeleton of the craft is now complete and work has begun to add the planking for the sides which involves steaming the timber – sourced in Herefordshire – to fit its unique shape.
To ensure the trow is an accurate reconstruction of an original Wye Trow, the plans being followed were drawn up after careful measurements were taken of the remains of a Wye Trow which had been uncovered at Lydney.
“This is very exciting, in particular being able to see the shape and scale of the trow for the first time is very special,” said Lady Darnley after visiting Gloucester Docks.
“June 3 is going to be a unique day and I’ll be proud to represent Herefordshire aboard a watercraft which genuinely represents this county.”
Of course, any vessel of this size needs a crew, so the search is on to find eight oarsmen and women for the occasion.
The Wye Trow will carry a complement of 14 people, including the oarsmen/women, who will row the craft from fixed seat positions using 15ft oars.
It is expected that they will be dressed in period costume and the distance rowed is likely to be between 11-15 kilometres (which will take between 1½ and 2 hours).
The Wye Trow project team is looking for athletes from Herefordshire to put their names forward for selection into a team of rowers to train for and take part in this historic event.
A squad of 16 oarsmen and women will be selected from the volunteers to attend trials and crew training on the Sharpness Canal in Gloucester in April and May.
From this squad, eight will be chosen to row the Wye Trow at the Pageant.
However, all 16 members of the squad will be invited to be in attendance with the Wye Trow on Diamond Day in Hereford - Wednesday, July 11 - to be held on Hereford’s King George V playing fields.
The basic requirements are:
• Must be aged 16 or more
• Must be an experienced rower. (Fixed seat rowing experience an advantage but not essential.)
• Good reach and flexibility
• Excellent level of fitness
• Must be available for crew training (likely to be in the first two weeks of April and the second week in May) and the Pageant weekend (May 31 to June 4).
Applicants are invited to write to the Wye Trow rowing director summarising how they meet each of the basic requirements and adding briefly any other information they wish.
The address to write to is: Jeremy Picton-Turbervill, Coughton House, Coughton, Ross-on-Wye HR9 5SF or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.