The Winser Raft Building Group

The founding of the Winsen Raft Builders Group in 1997 was the realisation of a dream: to sail a traditionally built raft down the Aller. This has now been achieved several times. The trip from Winsen to Verden lasts 6 days and covers 96 km – at an average speed of about 2 km per hour!

In the 19th century the demand for wood grew thanks to the rapid development of house- and shipbuilding. In Bremen and Bremerhaven particularly maritime trade blossomed and the shipyards were kept hard at work. In the woods of the Southern Luneburg Heath there was sufficient wood to sell to the Hanseatic towns, but how were they to transport the wood at a reasonable price? The solution was to build rafts which would sail downstream from the Örtze via the Aller to the Weser. Almost 2000 were built and in 1874 this form of transport represented a significant employment for the region. In the following decades, competition from the railways meant that trade declined until it ceased completely during the 20th century.

Around 60 members keep this piece of history alive. For 250 years (1675 – 1925) our forefathers used the rivers to transport logs over many kilometres. It has become the aim to research and develop the living and working conditions of the raft builders and to make a commitment to maintaining the tradition and memory of the harshness of daily life for what was an important source of employment in the past.

The hard work involved in building a raft is all too obvious. The knowledge of the old techniques in the construction of the raft such as sawing and preparing the wood and binding it together is willingly passed on to any interested members. It might be the first time in your life that you have felled a tree, learned the traditional techniques of working with wood, helped others bind together the logs and enjoyed a meal together after the work is done. Your reward is hearing the words, “Cast off!”