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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 March 2008, 08:25 GMT

Bid to save old boats' graveyard

One of the abandoned River Severn boats
The boats were run aground to help prevent the river banks eroding

A campaign has begun to save an historic collection of abandoned boats on the banks of the River Severn.

In the early 1900s, more than 80 vessels were beached to stop the banks being eroded by the tides.

But the wrecks are being vandalised or stripped by scavengers wanting firewood or unusual house ornaments.

Gloucestershire maritime archaeologist Paul Barnett is gathering a petition to save what he feels is an important part of maritime history.

'Time capsule'

"What you have here is the largest collection of this type of craft anywhere in the United Kingdom," he said.

"That alone stands alone head and shoulders above any other reason.

"But if you can also consider the fact this is actually a time capsule, a capsule which represents the maritime communities within Gloucestershire, that's why it's unique, that's why we need to preserve it."

The boats, which include schooners, lighters, barges and Severn trows, were run aground by their owners between Purton and Sharpness up until the early 60s.

The idea was to protect the Gloucester to Sharpness canal - which runs parallel to the Severn - from running dry with the erosion of the river banks.

Mr Barnett will present his petition to the Culture Secretary urging for the site to be protected as a scheduled monument.

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