Help for Heroes looking to launch Viking longboat on Ouse

Carving the phoenix for the bow. Photographs: Richard McDougall

A team from Help for Heroes at Catterick Garrison displayed their boat-building skills outside JORVIK Viking Centre in the Coppergate Centre today, Thursday 15 August.

The display was the latest part in a 12-month project which has seen staff from York Archaeological Trust working in partnership with volunteers and wounded, injured and sick veterans and serving military personnel from Help for Heroes’ recovery centre.

The ambitious plan is to create a full-size 26-foot replica of a Viking ship, which will be completed and unveiled in time for the 2020 JORVIK Viking Festival. Participants have worked with archaeologists and the interpretation team to talk about many different kinds of journey – from the epic voyages of Viking explorers to the personal journeys of those who are involved in the scheme.

The wood-turning techniques being used to transform a tree into a replica Viking ship were demonstrated along with the carving of the bow decoration. Usually a dragon head, it will be replaced by a phoenix, to represent the recovery centre where the wood shop is based, Phoenix House. The plans for the boat were also on display, showing how the team plans to turn planks of wood into a sea-faring craft.

Plans for the boat

The experiences of the team building the boat will also be collated into an exhibition at DIG in St Saviourgate, exploring all aspects of the build process and what the craftspeople involved have learned along the way. The project is the latest in an on-going community engagement programme for York Archaeological Trust, which empowers communities to explore the archaeology around them, using innovative techniques and skills, from experimental archaeology to the creative arts.

Bob Marshall, wood shop manager at Help for Heroes’ Phoenix House recovery centre, said: “I am constantly looking for challenging projects which will inspire, enable and support our ex-military personnel in their recovery journeys.