Black Rock has been an important crossing point of the River Severn for many centuries. Numerous coins found in the mud show that it was in constant use throughout the Roman period, on the route between Aquae Sulis (Bath) and Venta Silurum (Caerwent).
By the 18th century, a regular ferry service crossed the Severn estuary from Black Rock to New Passage on the Bristol side, carrying passengers, cattle and iron ore. The Black Rock Hotel served travellers and became a popular local entertainment venue; it was later destroyed by fire. In 1863, the Bristol and South Wales Union Railway built a branch from the main line to Black Rock. Trains would travel out onto a wooden pier, where the passengers would get off before climbing aboard the ferries. The pier was severely damaged by fire in 1881 and demolished after the Severn Tunnel opened in 1886, but parts can still be seen at low tide.
Black Rock Lave Net Fishery
At Black Rock a traditional method of fishing for salmon with lave nets is practised. The fishermen, who come from local villages, are the last such in Wales. They actively promote the fishery as a tourist attraction, with the aim of maintaining its history and tradition. Demonstrations of the lave net fishing are given on certain days from the picnic site.
The estuary has one of the highest tidal ranges in the world (traditionally reported as the second highest though more recently reckoned to be third highest), which enables the fishermen to wade out at low tide with nets on shoulders to traditional fishing grounds, with the water up to their waists. The net is then opened and lowered into the outgoing tide which rushes through the net. With his fingers placed at the bottom meshes of the net, the fisherman then waits for the fish to hit the net. The net is made in a traditional way by means of a "Y" shaped structure consisting of two arms called rimes which are made from locally cut willow that acts as a frame work to the loosely hung net. The handle is called the rock staff and is made of ash or willow and the arms are hinged to the rock staff and are kept in position while fishing with a wooden spreader called the headboard.
In 2020 the lave fishermen of Black Rock were featured on BBC One's Countryfile programme.