DAVE Purvis loves whittling with wood. Well-known in Ripon for his skills in making clocks, door signs, rocking horses, figures and more, he is not perhaps so well known for his other passion (he has several, as you will learn) - creating coracles.

The coracle, a circular boat without a keel, is made from green ash, woven basket-style and covered in calico and sealed with three coats of bitumen.

The coracle has been used in one form or another since prehistoric times.

"In fact it is the oldest form of fishing boat, and was even written about by Julius Caesar," said Mr Purvis. "They are still used widely in Vietnam, India, Tibet and Iran."

The coracle is the ultimate small craft for the needs of the fisherman, outdoors man or naturalist. It is lightweight and easily portable and can be carried in the traditional back-slung position or transported in most medium-sized hatchback cars.

"Once on the water, the coracle is more stable and can be manoeuvred more easily than most modern kayaks (or canoes). You have to learn how to use it or you would just go round in circles, but it isn't a difficult skill. It draws only three to four inches of water which means it can often go 'where no one has gone before'."

He added: "Building a coracle is a celebration of both nature and the skills and patience of the craftsman. On the river it can be converted into a useful umbrella in bad weather and even an overnight shelter."

For 33 years, he worked at Plumb Center in Ripon, but retired early as development director in March this year when "my work was getting in the way of my hobbies. I was up varnishing clocks at midnight and then had to get up early for work."

He brought the art of coracle making to the region when he became co-ordinator of Ripon Youth Arts, a group formed this year to encourage youngsters to take up the arts.

"It was a good project and helped youngsters with their Duke of Edinburgh awards."

Since then, ten vessels have been made and he and his group have attended regattas and roadshows up and down the country.

"We are quite happy to travel to any water events on request. We often set a slalom course.

"There are 22 different designs of coracle in the United Kingdom, each designed for different river conditions."

He first became interested in coracles when canoeing while living in the Scottish Borders and joined the National Coracle Society two years ago to help promotion of the craft.

"And apart from that, I'm a bit of an eccentric," he said.

His other passion is folk music. He plays with Beggars Bowl, an Irish folk and ceilidh band and was a folk singer for 45 years. He now plays the bodhran, a hand-held drum.

With his wife, Hazel, he has run Ripon Folk Club for five years.

"Hazel doesn't play, sing, or swim but she is an enthusiastic follower and very good administrator for both the folk club and coracle association," he said.

He has five grandsons, but has only recently got a granddaughter.

"So I suppose I shall be turning my interest next into making dolls' houses," he added.

* If you would like the coracle team at your summer event, contact Mr Purvis on 01765 690318.