Lave net fishery, Portskewett
A lave net is a Y-shaped fishing net, once commonly used in shallow estuarial waters around Britain. Today the heritage fishery at Portskewett is one of the last places in Britain, and the only one in Wales, where the ancient tradition continues. Members of the public can observe the fishermen at work from the Black Rock picnic site.
As the tide goes out, fishermen walk into the Severn estuary carrying nets over their shoulders. When the water reaches their waists they open the nets, locking the arms of the Y (known as “rimes”) in place. The fishermen hold the stem of the Y (the “rock staffs”) to submerge the nets and wait for fish swim to into the nets. An alternative method involves the fisherman watching for signs of fish movement in the shallows and running to catch the fish before it swims out to deeper water.
Today’s fishermen, who live in the nearby villages of Portskewett, Caldicot and Sudbrook, aim to preserve the tradition and pass on the skills they inherited to later generations. Their nets are still knitted using a strip of wood and needle. In olden times, members of the Williams family of Sudbrook were the local experts at net knitting. The fishermen also maintain an oral tradition, referring to areas of the estuary by names unpublished on maps such as Nesters Rock, Lighthouse Vear and The Grandstand.