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Page last updated at 09:21 GMT, Friday, 27 August 2010 10:21 UK
Norman replica boat invades for Maritime Woodbridge
By Andrew Woodger
BBC Suffolk

Bayeux Tapestry
It's believed the Bayeux Tapestry was created between 1067 and 1077

A replica of a Norman ship will be invading Woodbridge - coinciding with the BBC's series on The Normans.

The longship was built by furniture maker David Jones in his back garden in London and was launched in 2005.

Maritime Woodbridge takes place by the River Deben on 11-12 September 2010 when costumed warriors will 'invade'.

"One of the key aims is to preserve the Woodbridge riverside by making people appreciate just what we've got here," said Mike Rines, festival president.

"We've got a glorious river, a fascinating tide mill and granary and traditional old boatyards which still do work on wooden boats.

"You can see old wrecks in the river which help to give it character.

"It's hoped that one day we can restore the ferry across the river and link more directly with Sutton Hoo."

This is the fourth Maritime Woodbridge and previous festivals have had Anglo-Saxon and Viking themes.

The festival will also have music such as shanty singers and a big band from Farlingaye High School, three boats once owned by author Arthur Ransome including the Nancy Blackett (as featured in the River Orwell-based novel We Didn't Mean To Go To Sea), exhibitions and a chance to try coracle paddling and archery.

Historian Dr Sam Newton will deliver a lecture about the the Bayeux Tapestry and the Norman influence on Suffolk.

The Lille Draken
The Lille Draken with its triangular sail and crew

'Little dragon'

The highlight will be the arrival of the replica Norman boat the Lille Draken. It's around 25 feet long - making it a quarter of the length and 1/64th the volume of an original invasion vessel.

"The boat shape fascinated me and I wanted to explore how they were built and sailed," said David Jones.

"The Bayeux Tapestry is one of our key sources of information. There doesn't seem to be a great deal of difference between them and the Viking invading craft [200-300 years before].

"[The tapestry] shows that the first half of the Norman fleet seemed to have a very ragtag collection of sails, whereas it's only the leading fleet of the main invasion vessels which have these three-colour sails which I believe are triangular storm spinnakers.

"I think they probably cut down their square sails after their disastrous first attempt in 1066.

"They had tried a couple of weeks earlier, which is overlooked by a lot of documentaries, but the wind turned and drove them back onto the cliffs of the French coast.

"To hide their embarrassment, those that were lost in the storm they buried in secret.

"Then it was two weeks before the winds became favourable again.

"If you've got over 700 vessels trying to attack in the dark, you probably had a lot of collisions.

"So, I think they used some form of storm spinnaker so that the fleet could sail as one in good weather or bad.

"You wouldn't have this situation where people are trying to reef sail above the heads of horses, which had never been to sea before, or inexperienced crews which were trying to tack left and right which is very difficult to do in a Viking-type boat."

David believes the boat was a design classic for invasions, but that changed as trade grew.

"You didn't need landing craft anymore," he said. "You needed something that would carry large volumes of goods from A to B.

"Boats didn't need to be run aground for people to jump off ship and go slaughtering."

Maritime Woodbridge
The Tide Mill provides a backdrop to Maritime Woodbridge

Fostering civic pride

Mike Rines, who is also the editor of the Woodbridge Society newsletter, said local history is important.

"It helps to give people a pride in the town and therefore people are prepared to give attention to preserving the lovely old buildings and streets," he said.

But he said they're not trying to preserve the town in aspic.

"If you look at some of the recent developments, such as the facilities block in the Tide Mill marina, then it really has the right feel for the town - it's modern, but it looks right.

"In the same area, there's a publishing company called Top That which has a building which fits perfectly into the marine setting."

Although he doesn't have evidence, David Jones is confident a Norman boat would have sailed up the Deben in the 11th Century.

"When you think that manoeuvring round Britain would have been either by horse, by foot or by boat, then boats would have sailed into every creek that was physically possible.

"My wife has banned me from crossing the Channel in Lille Draken, which is a shame because I would dearly love to re-enact the full invasion of William the Conqueror."



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