Yesterday, reporter Nicholas Thomas highlighted the centenary of the unique Portskewett-based Black Rock Lave Net Fishery, and its members' efforts to keep alive a centuries-old fishing tradition. Today, Dan Barnes looks at some of the unusual items they have fished out of the Severn Estuary over the years.

FISHERMEN helping to keep an ancient tradition alive on the Severn Estuary are making a habit of unearthing historical artefacts while working in the river.

Black Rock Lave Net fishermen work the river just off the coast of Portskewett in Monmouthshire and have discovered items as varied as anchors, clay pipes and medieval fishing traps in the thick mud of the estuary.

READ MORE: 'Something to be treasured' – fishermen celebrate 100 years of preserving traditional way of life

The fishing traps are among the oldest items to have been pulled from the mud.

"From time to time we find these traps," said fishery secretary Martin Morgan.

"They vary in size and shape and are buried in the clay and mud. Storms expose them.

"We have reported them to CADW in the past and they have been carbon dated to between the 11th and 15th centuries."

South Wales Argus:

Clam fossil found by Black Rock lave net fishermen

However, dwarfing the fishing traps in terms of age are a number of fossils which have been spotted among the riverbed by the keen-eyed fishermen.

"The latest is one of a clam," explained Mr Morgan.

"We have also found one of plants which used to grow out there when the estuary was a swamp or jungle. They are millions of years old."

Among the larger items discovered in the river is an anchor which was found a way out in the mid-channel of the Severn.

"It's only exposed on the biggest spring tides," said Mr Morgan.

"Two men would struggle to lift it, so we plan to recover it one day using our boat and display it in our net house at Black Rock."

South Wales Argus:

Clay pipe found by Black Rock lave net fishermen

Other maritime finds include a number of clay pipes which are sometimes extremely ornate and are often inscribed with various insignia and mottos. Mr Morgan believes that some of them could display political affiliations.

The oldest of the pipes is thought to date from around 300 years ago.


Staying with a nautical theme, brass dividers, a mast, and rope sheaves from a sailing ship have all been unearthed but by far the largest find of all is the remains of a ship which was sunk towards the end of the Second World War.

Located on 'Gruggy reef' in mid-channel is the wreck of the steel ship named 'John'.

Mr Morgan said: "We often visit when we are fishing."

Signs of wartime are not as rare as one might imagine on the river, with the fisherman turning up shell casings and bomb cases every so often.

South Wales Argus:

A 'torpedo' found by Black Rock lave net fishermen turned out to to be a propane bottle

"Recently we mistook an old propane bottle for a torpedo," said Mr Morgan.

One of the more unusual finds was that of a single hobnailed boot.

While that in itself might not be the strangest item which could have ended up in the mud, especially given the footwear of Wales' industrial past, it was made more unusual given the fact that it was the boot of a small child.

"We forget children had a hard life 100 years ago, with the mines etc," said Mr Morgan.

South Wales Argus:

For more information about Black Rock Lave Net Fishery, or lave net fishing in general, visit