Friday, 29 May 2015

Back to the docks

Now that's what you call a rich mixture of boats
What's been happening over the past few days? A gentle jog back to Gloucester Docks is the answer, followed by a couple of days looking round what has proved to be an interesting small city. I say small because once it was the gateway to Wales but, after the Severn Bridge was built in 1966 the road and the world seemed to pass Gloucester by.
The extensively and expensively restored Robert Raikes House, now a pub

The city centre has its fair share of sixties and seventies nastiness but a rather lovely cathedral and a number of delightful old buildings, some recently restored and others in line for the treatment. One, the 16th century Robert Raikes House, had a £4.5m refurbishment and is now (as it was in its recent former life) a pub – with an impressive interior that shouldn't be missed.
The cathedral was originally part of a large monastery and houses the tomb of William the Conqueror's eldest son, Robert while in the cathedral is the tomb one of England's early kings – Edward II. That was fortunate for Gloucester because when Henry VIII started knocking down or selling off the monasteries he spared Gloucester because it had a royal tomb and instead made the church a cathedral.
Edward II's tomb in the cathedral
Part of the cloisters of the original abbey
Memorial to Robert of Normandy made by Knights of the Third Crusade
And a stunning modern element, this beautiful stained glass window
While we were wandering in the wilderness down at Sharpness the Docks hosted the Tall Ships Festival – some of the ships passed us as we went down the canal and others on their return trip home as we came back.
Quite something to look at from the windows of Harry
Two were still in the Docks when we arrived: a Lowestoft trawler that I immediately fell in love with and an eccentric Spanish built vessel, created not so long back to match the design whims of its owner who wanted a ship to sail round the world in and then use as a sail training vessel. Worthy ambitions both, but it still looks like the front half of an elegant schooner attached to the rear half of something out of Pirates of the Caribbean.
A classic working ship with its history written in every fibre
With a rich and varied history
The Lowestoft trawler on the other hand is an utterly honest workaday vessel that was bought by its owner for £1who rescued it from being sunk as a dive site in the Med then spent a year working on it to get it back to the UK where he's done a steady amount of work to restore it. What a hero – albeit one with a decent bank balance. Well, he did have a decent bank balance.
The pair were joined by a massive three master yesterday which is due (like the others) to have work done at Tommi Nielsen's yard. Today we watched them manouevre it, the pirate ship and a big river party boat around in the wind and rain, using ropes and a powerful rib to push and pull them around. Made manoeuvreing narrowboats look easy.
While we shelter out of the curiously variable weather; rainstorms one minute, warm sunshine the next, we are planning our next destination. More news soon.

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