Thursday, 25 June 2015

Severn Railway Bridge and the Purton Hulks

Tuesday 23rd June 2015

Firstly what a night I had! I did not get to bed until around 1am and was up at 2am as I needed to go to the bathroom.  Being the middle of nowhere it was pitch black.  I fished around for my phone that has a torch and realised that for some reason it was not charging.  As it is our alarm clock and we needed to be prompt this morning I went and felt my way around for my other charging cable, did what I needed to do and went back to bed.  I was, however, very cold (unusual for me) and it took me a while to get back to sleep.  At around 03:30 Monty woke me asking to go outside – this has never happened before and we found out why this morning – he was not sent down the garden last thing at night!  We won’t make that mistake again!  Then around 4:30am he woke me again as he needed to do something more substantial – system out of kilter I guess!  By now it was broad daylight and there was an amazing sunrise along the canal. The picture does not do it complete justice – was it worth getting up for – I guess it was, but I think I would rather have been asleep.  

Before I knew it the alarm went off at 7am.  We had a lot to do before setting off.  You many wonder how Chris fared with all this going on - he did not hear a thing!!

It was not the best start for me to our 42nd Wedding Anniversary.  

The weather, however, was perfect – wall to wall sunshine (as it was 42 years ago) with very little wind, so I was sure the day would get better.

My main task was a good long walk with Monty.  We set off at around 08:30 and arrived back about an hour later.  And what a walk it was.  The sun was shining, the birds were singing all around us, butterflies were flitting in the reeds, there were cows mooing gently on the other side of the canal and we heard the occasional putt as boats (2) went past us.

The first treat was the remains of the Severn Bridge – this is a model of what it was

This the information - which I hope you can read if you want to.
 And this the remains of the swivel portion of the bridge. It must have been quite a sight when it was operating.  Such a shame that it came to such a tragic end.

The next treat was the Purton Hulks.  I knew they were there, but had no idea that I could get so close.  The added bonus was stunning views of the estuary which did not have that much water – on its way in I hoped.

The information board is not that clear, so a little explanation for those who have never heard of these hulks before.  The banks of the River Severn have historically suffered from erosion, so from 1909 to 1965 unwanted vessels were beached on the foreshore and allowed to fill with silt.  These formed a barrier and helped prevent the river eroding into the banks of the canal.  Over the years research has been done and most have plaques with their names and other details.    I took loads of photos and think that I have most of the individual plaques.  I will let a few photos give you a taste of what you will find – it is definitely worth the walk.  I am grateful to Monty for taking me.

This board lists all the hulks - I am not sure it is that clear, but it gives an idea of how many to look for.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

To Sharpness

Sunday 21st June 2015
Patch Bridge to Sharpness
3.75 miles, 2 swing bridges

Today was a day for another set of visitors – friends from our RAF days again.  They arrived mid-morning armed with milk, papers, pudding and a very special wine – Barola de Marshall.  Home-made and very good it was too.  We set off after coffee for the very short trip down to Sharpness with not a great deal to see, but it gave them a taste of life afloat.

Gill had a go on the helm 

And Lawrie got to hold a rope!  They are both keen to come and help us on our return home later in the year on our trip down Tardebigge – now that is an offer that is never refused!  I wonder if they realise what they are letting themselves in for!

Once we were safely moored the Captain and Boatwif came to join us for lunch of roasted tomato, basil and Parmesan quiches, some cold meat, salad and crusty rolls. Followed by the lovely puddings as supplied by our guests.

After a very social afternoon Laurie walked back to Patch End to get their car and once he was near Sharpness, Chris, Monty and I escorted Gill to meet him.  It was a great day together and we look forward to seeing you again in the autumn.

Monday 22nd June 2015

Today was a ‘no go’ for the estuary – too much wind, but we should be good for tomorrow.  So for me it was a blog catch up day.  All four of us plus Monty did go out for a very long walk in the afternoon to see what Sharpness had to offer and try to find the lock to get a feel of what we are to expect tomorrow.

On the way to the lock we found the local shop which has papers and basic supplies.  We also passed some cottages, some with pretty gardens

Nearest the Estuary the row of houses starts with one big one (the Harbour Master maybe), then two semi-detached houses (managers?) going down to a row of smaller terraced houses (the workers we assume?)

 At the end of the houses we were rewarded with a view of the Severn Bridges

These are the bridges we will go under tomorrow – well under one and the other will be swung for us before we go into the lock

There is dredging going on – I hope we don’t get in their way

A view towards the lock

The lock itself - rather large which we might need as we have been told we may well be sharing it with a big ship!

The view out to the estuary

And the floating pontoon we have to tie up to to await the pilot

On the way back we noticed this outfitters from a time when the docks were very different from how they are today

We are moored just round the corner from here, but you can spot a rather interesting boat

It is a lifeboat from Anstruther.  She saw service from 1933 to 1950 and saved 72 lives as well as a few in the War that the new owner cannot get information about.

She is being lovingly restored – it is the gunnels at the moment – they are made of cork.

By the time we got back there was not much water left in the Estuary.

This was the canal at 9pm when we went aboard nb Cleddau to view the DVD of the trip nb Chouette did down the Estuary in 2008 – a refresher for us all before the big day tomorrow.

And this was the sky when we went back to our boat at 10pm – hopefully it bodes well for good weather tomorrow.

Monday, 22 June 2015

To Gloucester, Saul Junction, Patch Bridge and Slimbridge

I have said it before, but I must say it again - this is a log for Chris and I primarily and I hope it helps friends and family keep abreast of where we are and what we are up to.  This is a very long post - if you want to read it you might need a cuppa, but please feel free to 'skip'!

Tuesday 16th June 2015
Upton on Severn to Gloucester Docks
19 miles 2 locks

It was another glorious day as we set off along the River Severn and once again we really enjoyed it.  We met one of the only working boats on the river, but thankfully not on a blind bend

One has to admire this man ‘at work’.  One of the best uses I have ever seen of a deck chair!

There appeared to be a fisherman behind every bush

And some had even taken to a boat to fish – they had the dog, but not the ‘third man’!

Every now and then the real world intruded – in this case in the form of the M50, but even then it did not disturb the peace and serenity of the day

Safely through Tewkesbury Lock – room enough for a large convoy

Past the Yew Tree Inn

With a small ferry about to collect some passengers

Across they went with the best view we had of Tewkesbury Abbey behind them

To arrive safely on the other side

A boat under sail with a very relaxed skipper went past us

Past the Haw Bridge Inn which has some moorings for patrons

Then when you reach The Partings (the River splits into two parts one is unnavigable) the river narrows considerably

As you approach Gloucester there is a large wall to moor against if the lock is not ready – the stern instructions are to attach the stern first or you could end up in all sorts of trouble due to the current.

For us the river was in a benign mood and the lock was ready, so no need to moor and test our skills.

It is very slow to fill, but after about 10 minutes the gates opened and

We were in Gloucester Docks with plenty of space on the far side

The wind was playful which made for interesting times particularly for nb Cleddau with no bow thruster, but we both made it safely and tied up for the next 24 hours or so.

Wednesday 17th June 2015
Following in the footseps of Dr Foster we went to Gloucester……
0.25 miles, 1 swing bridge

Thankfully we did not encounter a single drop of rain so no danger of stepping into deep puddles! 

Today was a day to explore and our first port of call was the Cathedral – definitely worth a visit.  My photos are not that good as I had to resort to my phone.  I got a new camera recently and now only have one battery which had run out of charge.  Something to amend next time we are home.  Just a few photos to give an idea of what you might find there.

The Tomb of Edward II

The tomb of Robert, Duke of Normandy, eldest son of William the Conqueror

We popped into The World of Beatrix Potter which, naturally, is mostly devoted to the story of The Tailor of Gloucester.

Did we buy anything?  Yes!

In one of the main shopping streets there is this rather magnificent shop frontage – constructed, apparently, to attract ones attention – it certainly does that.  It portrays from the left an Irish Woman, English man, Old Father Time, a Scotsman and a Welsh woman

Above it is a rather splendid clock – all very appropriate for a jeweller and watchmaker.  I am not sure if they are still an optician as well – not a mix I have ever come across before.  Looking at their website - HERE it appears not, but the shop and family do have an interesting history. I did not go in to peruse the treasures I might have found inside.

The Mariners Chapel is a delight in its simplicity and compactness giving one a very peaceful and serene feeling.

The docks themselves are surrounded by Warehouses that once housed grain.  I hope you can read enough of this board to get a feel of the place.  The plan on the left should be clear enough.  We were moored in the main basin.

The Warehouses are many and varied and all in a good condition.  I found it a fascinating place to walk round.

We did visit the Waterways Museum, but here I had complete failure on the photograph front.  It was 
worth a visit and there were some parts we could have done with longer for – I would like to have stayed to watch the video on Canal Art all the way through, but there are only so many hours in a day.

What we did not get to see was the Folk Museum and the Soldiers of Gloucester Museum that is housed in the old Customs House.  We will have to come back one day.

For the dog owners and those who like a rural walk you need to get over behind the lock.  Go over the gate at the dock end of the lock, through a ginnel (alleyway, snickleway – call it what you will!) to the road, cross and turn right.  Past the antiques centre turn left into another ginnel – at the end of this you have a choice – both ways are part of the Alney Island Nature Reserve.  I preferred the left, but there is a dog box just after you turn right.  It is about a 5 minute walk from where we were moored, so a bit of a step for the first thing and last thing ‘garden’ visits!  It is not stunningly scenic, but it has a real charm – many wild flowers and we even found a field of cows some of whom were sporting some magnificent horns.

 We became aware that there were several other boats planning to move down towards Saul on the Thursday, so we decided to go through Llanthony Bridge onto the moorings just below it Wednesday evening.  We both needed water and we did not want to be fourth and fifth (or worse) in a queue in the morning.  So a very short journey, but we were glad we did as the water filling took a long time.  From the moorings at Llanthony if you cross over the bridge to the side with the water point, turn left you will find some grass for dog exercising.

Cut behind a bit and there is this old building.

and a ruin Abbey with Gloucester College behind the old façade

On Thursday morning Monty and I found lots of students sitting at picnic benches having breakfast in the sun along with enough grass to have a game of ball.

Thursday 18th June
To Saul Junction via Sainsburys
7.5 miles, 4 swing bridges

First stop was just a few hundred yards down to Sainsburys for a good stock up as this is the last place for supplies until Sharpness and even there there is only a very small shop.  Then we were off on the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal – a first for us.  What a delightful waterway it is.  The big feature of this canal is the swing bridges, but most narrow boats can get under bridges 19-17. 

The weather was glorious again, the canal very pretty and for the most part very quiet

There are milestones all the way along to help you chart your progress

We passed the Edward Elgar holiday cruise boat on it’s way to Gloucester

At the bridges that need to be swung you get a red flashing light to let you know they have seen you

And yes it is green for GO!

There are some great views

Just before Saul Junction there is a derelict dumb barge with a cargo of grass

Through Saul Junction and we needed to turn left to go to the Marina, however, there is NO LEFT TURN.

So a wind (turn) was necessary

To head down to the Marina for fuel – the instructions for the trip down the Severn Estuary is to have a full fuel tank.

Back up to the canal where soon after we moored two Primrose Trust boats came past.  There was a wave and a cheery hello from the bow of this one – it was Patrick form nb Chouette who we went across the Wash with last summer.  Angela was also on board one of the boats.  This may seem like an amazing coincidence, but we did know they were going to be there – a meal out had been pre-arranged.

Angela and Patrick took us on a wonderful walk along what used to be the route (and they hope will be again one day) of the Stroudwater Canal.  It was varied and enjoyed by us all – this is just a taster

This is a restored lock that has sadly gone back to nature

With brand new lock gates

The Canal was under here somewhere

Over the River Frome

Past a pillbox in remarkably good condition

Through the undergrowth

Over the last field to

Whitminster Church

Two features of the church yard were many standard roses and small figures (cherubs maybe) on the top of the gravestones

And back to Saul Junction

Past the Willow Trust boat with a note to the milkman - would we could all do that!
Before heading off to The Ship Inn in Framilode for dinner.  Patrick kindly ferried us.  The food was excellent and the company superb.

A very successful and enjoyable ‘Wash 2014 Reunion’
Chris, Boatwif, Angela, Patrick, Me and Ken

Friday 19th June 5015
Saul Junction to Patch Bridge
3.75 miles, 2 swing bridges

We were both expecting men to arrive to service both engines and ‘wash the diesel’ – both requirements before we head down the Severn Estuary.  Both men arrived on time, did their jobs and went on their way.

This is the fuel washing equipment.  I am glad to report that no diesel bug was found in either tank.

So what did I do whilst all this went on – I slaved over a hot stove (in every respect) and made 6 mini Roasted Pepper, basil and Parmesan quiches and a gingerbread loaf.  The latter, I am afraid, only made it as far as the bin!  I have made many over the years and they have all turned out beautifully – my error – I forgot to add the bicarbonate of soda!  I blame the heat.

Once all jobs had been done we headed off to Patch Bridge.  We were rewarded with our first view of the Severn Estuary

Past this rather pretty church at Splatt Bridge

Splatt Bridge is operated by manpower

There are several of these rather charming bridge keeper’s cottages along the canal

And we moored up at Patch Bridge

Opposite the Edward Elgar back from Gloucester that comes complete with a man with a blue fluffy duster to keep things spick and span.

Go across the bridge and you will find this sculpture – not in it’s first flush of youth, but still worth a look.

This gives more information about it

Saturday 20th June 2015

The day dawned bright, but with the threat of heavy showers.  Boatwif and I set off to Slimbridge equipped with good waterproof coverings ‘just in case’. 

The visitor centre is visible from a distance.  We got to the bottom of the observation tower at 16:20 to be told that the lift was out of order, there were 70 steps up and that it was closing in 5 minutes!!  Another ‘miss’ for me!

In the centre there is good cafeteria where the prices are not too bad although the selection was a little limited.  We were both looking for fruit, but the only options were an orange or a Granny Smith apple.

 The view from the café was wonderful

There is a painting by Sir Peter Scott of Nenes on Mauna Loa painted in 1972.

We spent the day walking several miles in very pleasant surroundings.  We had been told it was very commercialised, but that was not our impression.  It is well laid out, very clean and tidy with informative boards.  The maps were essential, but even with them we managed to be ‘temporarily misplaced’ on a few occasions.

There were, of course, many different water fowl from all over the world.

Several species of whistling ducks – Black Bellied Whistling Duck from South America

The West Indian Whistling Duck which is confined to the Caribbean and is a threatened species

Plumed Whistling Ducks from Australia – these ones really do whistle almost constantly

Some Black Headed Cranes

And Red Crowned Cranes

 Black Swans from Australia

Many different flamingos


And Puna to name but three
 We listened to a talk from a very passionate lady about the 5 year Common Crane project to try to re-establish breeding colonies in the UK.
 Eggs were taken from German cranes, taken to Slimbridge and hand reared by staff heavily disguised as parent cranes in an attempt to give them as normal an upbringing as possible.
 The chicks were released on the Somerset Levels each September and so far all seems to be going well.  In fact some have returned to Slimbridge and last year – Chris (F) and Monty (M) and had two chicks, but despite constant vigilance from the staff both died.  They were very young parents, so they are hoping for more success in the future.  They do have five cranes on site that have had their wings clipped, but the others can come and go as they please.

The other talk we attended was about the three American Otters they have in residence – Mum Flo and daughters Minnie and Ha Ha.  One of the daughters is in mid moult, hence she looks rather unkempt.
 Why American Otters you may well ask – well firstly when they were thinking of including some wetland mammals at Slimbridge, Flo was in a nature reserve in Norfolk that was about the close and she needed a home.  She arrived pregnant.  Secondly they are diurnal – better for visitors than the nocturnal European otter and thirdly they are sociable and the females often stay in family groups unlike their European cousins who send Dad packing as soon as they are pregnant and send the cubs of both genders away when they are about 18 months old.

One of our aims was to do the Summer Walk (be sure to be back before the gate is locked at 4pm)

Out to the Estuary for a closer look before we tackle it ourselves

Two birds that I particularly liked were

The Chiloe Widgeon from the island of Chiloe off the coast of Chile

And the Common Shellduck

 With their charming, incredibly busy, stripy offspring

Another point of interest was the RHS Chelsea Flower Show winner from 2011 – the RBC Rain Garden

There is, of course, a statue of Sir Peter Scott

Two other things I learnt

1.    How many bones does a swan have in it’s neck?  Well I knew that despite it’s length a giraffe, like us, have just 7, but swans have 25

What big feet moorhen chicks have in comparison to the rest of them

And finally we never did find out what this is – the label gave no information at all

There are a couple of good play areas if you have youngsters in tow.  Certainly enough to keep everyone occupied all day.

All in all was it a good day – most definitely yes.  Did we need our water proofs – yes, but by the time we had sorted out how to work the ponchos (we took shelter in the mammal house) the rain had stopped!  I guess they worked then!