Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Bores and boats

The  Gloucester & Sharpness is only fifteen miles long and it's straight enough and deep enough to race down it at high speed – as many boats do. But if you take things easy and have an explore away from the boat there's plenty to slow you down.
We arrived back after our long weekend away to find Harry safe and sound by Rea swingbridge. Before we left there was a last chance to see the famous Severn Bore, with the river just a five minute walk away down the road at Stonebench. By Bore standards this one was weak (just one out of five possible stars according to the experts) and we'd also missed the best of the spring tide over the weekend.
Before and after - barely a minute as the Bore surges up and fills the river

All the same, a Bore, even a small Bore would be worth seeing so I waited on the river bank for its arrival. And waited. And waited. Until at 11 a.m. I gave up, walked up the bank and suddenly, with staggering speed the fresh tide came racing up the river and I rushed back.
It wasn't terribly high, true, but the sheer speed of the water is awesome and within a minute the level was three or four feet up the bank and still coming on hard and fast. A five star Bore must be a sight to see.
The handsome schooner Vilma heads up the canal
Back at the boat, we unmoored and headed on for Sellars Bridge and a fill-up of water. This is another of the manual bridges that are opened and closed by a keeper heaving round a large wheel. All that's due to change in a year or two when the bridges are automated and the keepers sadly lose their jobs in a cost saving exercise by CaRT.
There's enough headroom for a narrowboat to get through Sellars with the bridge closed so when the keeper started spinning the wheel to open it, something tall was clearly coming through. And it was a beautiful tall ship, 'Vilma' from Beaumaris, built in Denmark in the 1940s (so Mr Google told me later) and rigged as a topsail schooner. That sounds knowledgeable but actually haven't a clue what it means!
An old barge lies derelict and its water filled hold turns into a reed bed
The next bridges are much lower to the water; no chance of getting under them, and electrically operated, though still by a keeper. We went through Parkend and then arrived out of low lying rural scenery into the hustle and bustle of Saul Junction.
The junction is dominated by the large, busy looking yard of RW Davis where there is everything from lifeboats to the famous RW Davis Northwich Trader narrowboats being worked on. Saul Junction was once a watery crossroads where the Stroudwater Canal, coming up from the Severn, crossed the G&S en route to the inland port of Brimscombe near Stroud where it met the Thames & Severn Canal which went the rest of the way to the Thames at Lechlade. The Cotswold Canals restoration project aims to have this stupendous link back in service one day and already has significant sections back in water.
For the moment though there's just a quarter mile giving access to Saul Marina, a massive mooring basin tucked out of sight behind the boatyard.
Tomorrow, weather permitting, we will do some more exploring in the area. As I said, this is not a canal to be rushed.

The busy boatyard of RW Davis dominates the canal scene at Saul Junction

1 comment:

  1. Rightly or wrongly I have always felt that the South West is rather forgotten in waterways terms.....the hard industrial Midlands and the North are the real places of waterways heritage. Those who ignore the region are doing themselves a disservice...there is so much explore. As to the Severn Bore....I guess at full height you can call it the eighth wonder of world. Have fun