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Black Rock is on the Monmouthshire coastline of the Severn Estuary about one mile north of the M4 Severn Crossing (The Prince of Wales Bridge). There is a picnic site and the location gives fantastic panoramic views of the estuary and both Severn bridges. Black Rock is the home of a traditional method of fishing which has been practiced for hundreds of years and has links to earlier ways of crossing the river.
- Download a leaflet about Black Rock
- Download the Black Rock 3-mile walk starting at the picnic site car park.
Lave Net Fishing
The waters of the Severn Estuary are among the most dangerous in Wales but this has not deterred generations of fishermen from fishing its rich waters for salmon. Traditional Welsh methods of catching salmon survived particularly strongly in the area. Within living memory a range of methods were used, including putcher ranks, stopping boats, putts, drift nets and lave netting. Lave Net fishing is the only traditional method to have survived into the 21st century.
The number of lave netsmen has declined over the years and now can only be seen near the Second Severn Crossing close to the villages of Sudbrook and Portskewett in Monmouthshire. The Blackrock Lave Net Fishermen Association, carry on a tradition that has a unique cultural and historical significance. Fish are caught at low tides, known as spring tides, using a hand-held net. At one time fishermen were allowed to fish from February to August but this has since been restricted from June to August. At most, they can fish for an hour and a half at a time depending on weather conditions.
Fishing commences as it always has with the fishermen going down to the shore at Black Rock standing where their grandfathers and great-grandfathers once stood. The basic technique for lave fishing is simple, the hand-staff is held in one hand and the headboard with the other, whilst the fingers are entwined in the bottom of the mesh feeling for the fish. The net is positioned in front of the fisherman, to face the run of the water. The fishermen consider wind direction and the height of the tide, with the optimum conditions being flat and calm.
At one time there was no need to divide the catch as there was sufficient salmon for everyone. Times have changed and commercial fishing using the lave net has not been viable on the estuary since before the Second World War. Prior to 1939 the fish were sent to Billingsgate Market in London.
The lave netsmen are as skilled as their forefathers but due to the diminishing fish stocks they are lucky if they catch more than a dozen fish for the season. They fish to keep their centuries old craft alive as Martin Morgan, Secretary of the Association explains, "Lave fishing has a tradition going back a thousand years in Wales. My great-grandfather was a fisherman and passed his skills on through the family."
The lave net fishermen of Black Rock promote the fishery as a heritage site and invite all to enjoy this last remaining Welsh Severn Estuary salmon fishery which can be watched quite safely from the picnic site.
If you don't see any fishing when you visit the picnic site, you can view the the wooden sculpture, The Fisherman, created by Caerleon-based sculptor, Chris Wood, as part of The People of the Landscape Sculpture Trail.
Crossing the Severn
Today the spectacular bridges are the main route from England into Wales with the first bridge opening in 1966 and the second crossing, thirty years later. Before this, the only alternative to a long road detour, via Gloucester was the Aust Ferry which operated close to the site of the first bridge. However there was also a crossing from Black Rock which may actually be older. Both of these ferries were dangerous and many preferred the longer route through Gloucester. Roman coins have been found in the mud at Black Rock and these may have been an offering to the gods for a safe passage.
In 1886 the Severn Tunnel (rail crossing) opened and the location for this is just south of Black Rock. A recently installed sculpture, The Engineer, celebrates all the men and women who built the tunnel and the two road bridges that cross the Severn and the sea wall that protects the Gwent Levels. The figure is inspired by Thomas Andrew Walker, who undertook the completion of the Severn Tunnel and built the nearby Sudbrook village for the tunnel workers. The Engineer stands at the top of the old slipway at Black Rock picnic area, staring out across the water towards the Prince of Wales Bridge.
Booking & Payment Details
- Free Entry
- Picnic site
- Children welcome