The Watchet Boat Museum is housed in the 1862 Victorian architecture former railway goods shed of Watchet railway station, which is today located on the heritage West Somerset Railway. The exhibits include several types of boats found locally and associated artefacts, photographs and charts, plus nets and other items associated with their use. There are displays of maps, knotwork and boards showing the various uses of withy. A withy or withe is a strong flexible willow stem - typically used in thatching and for gardening. There is also an example of a mudhorse which is a wooden sledge that can be propelled across the mudflats to collect fish from nets. The museum specialises in the shallow draft Flatner, a form of vessel once prevalent in the Bridgwater Bay and adjacent coastal areas. Flatners are small double-ended boats with no keel and a longitudinally planked bottom. This style of boat is found in use all around the world, but in Britain seems to be confined to Somerset and parts of Gloucester. Around 20 to 24 feet long, the Weston-super-Mare flatners were used for fishing and day Tripping round the bay during the holiday periods.
Withy Boats and Turf Boats, which were between 16 feet (4.9 m) and 20 feet (6.1 m) long, were used on the Somerset Levels to carry peat and withies to market. Turf boats have considerable flare to allow very large but light loads to be carried. The bottom is flat. Withy boats have less flare on the sides to take a smaller but heavier load. Like the turf boat, the bottom is truly flat. They were built from elm boards or clinker and were pulled along the banks of the drainage ditches on the levels. River boats had a similar construction, but the bottom was curved to allow them to be launched down sloping muddy banks of rivers including the River Parrett, where they were used for Salmon fishing. Bridgwater Barges may not look like flatners, but the construction is basically the same - but bigger. They were up to 60 feet long and used for carrying general goods on the local waterways. They were also used to load and unload freighters in Bridgwater as the original bridge there prevented ships going any further upriver. There is disabled parking with level floors and ramps where necessary. Boats and exhibits may be touched. Assistance dogs are welcome.
Location : Harbour Road, Watchet, Exmoor National Park TA23 0AQ
Transport: Watchet (West Somerset Rail). Bus Routes : 15, 18, 23B and 28 stop close by.
Opening Times : Daily 14:00 - 16:00
Tickets : Free
Tel: 01984 634242