IBTC Chet Boat - RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017

International Boatbuilding Training College

The year is 1117. By the edge of a Norfolk river a boat-builder has been at work. His yard, a humble garden, and the Broadland landscape around provide both the materials for his trade and sustenance for his family. A sail has been rigged to provide a makeshift shelter from the sun and rain.

In July 2013 a 1000-year-old boat was discovered by Environmental Agency workers beside the River Chet in Norfolk. The boat was 6 metres long and skilfully built of oak. Wooden pegs and iron nails were used in its construction, and between the overlapping strakes animal hair and tar had been used for waterproofing. In 2015 The Broads Authority commissioned the International Boatbuilding Training College, Lowestoft to create a replica of the ‘Chet boat’. The Broadland Boat-builder’s Garden is inspired by the traditional skills which continue to be taught at IBTC Lowestoft, and by the ancient landscape of the Broads itself.

In the design of the garden we have incorporated plants which are of their time and native to the Broadland area. This garden draws our attention to the fragility of this environment and identifi es a relationship between the delicate biome of this precious landscape and the need to keep alive the skills of those that have shaped it.


The original boat, which was made of hewn oak, was a relatively small vessel, double ended and about 6m long and 1.5m wide. The surviving part of the boat consists of a keel plank with four strakes on either side. In the centre of the boat there is a setting for a mast.

Only two wooden frames were present, although rows of nails indicate that there were originally at least four frames. Unusually (perhaps?) for a small boat the keel plank on this vessel was made of two pieces of timber scarfed together end to end. The presence of this scarf and the long scarfs on other planks suggests a skilled builder working with relatively inexpensive materials.
(taken from Heather Wallis, Archaeologist)


The garden lies close to the water’s edge and contains plants native to the dykes that criss-cross the grazing marshes. Amongst a bank of Common Reed we find Meadowsweet and Purple and Yellow Loosestrife. An area of shorter fenland vegetation is bright with Southern and Early Marsh Orchid, and the stately Royal Fern can be found together with the much scarcer Crested Buckler Fern. Against this backdrop our boat-builder has nurtured a few flowering herbs and vegetables: Peas, Garlic, Kale, Chives, and Plain Cole or Rape.

See the IBTC website

International Boatbuilding Training College