In warm sunshine today we moved off to go in search of our preferred Saturday paper in Sharpness. With just four miles to travel, we first passed through the village of Purton where there are two low swing bridges (the second without a traffic light as once through the first you are expected to continue on through the second).
From hereon the canal runs alongside the river but, for the first mile or so, the view is hidden by trees, after which the view is pretty spectacular.
As we’ve no intention of heading down the tidal River Severn to Bristol, we didn’t enter the busy Sharpness Dock and instead winded in the entrance to the Sharpness Old Arm that leads down to the now dis-used old sea lock, and moored up on the visitor moorings beside the river wall.
We were glad that we’d arrived here early as by lunch-time the entire length of mooring was full of plastic boats (or Tupperware as we call them). The crews all know each other and it appears that they are planning to head off together down river tomorrow. Tonight they are smoking us out with their BBQ. All afternoon narrowboats have been arriving and moving off again as there is nowhere for them to moor.
Our walk to the shop involved a bit of a hike as we had to find a way south of Sharpness avoiding the large commercial dock area that discourages pedestrians with its high fences. We found a footpath that took us past the now-disused lock at the end of the arm, back across the canal via the Sharpness High Level bridge and over another bridge that took us over the an area of farmland that was once the site of the railway sidings, before we reached a road that led to the shop.
With mission accomplished, we headed back to the boat as we were in danger of being ‘mad dog and Englishmen out in the mid-day sun’!
The river north of Sharpness has no channel markings (to deter boats heading upriver) but we did see one boat chancing it and making quick progress upriver on the incoming tide. The boat stayed close to the Welsh side of the river and was soon out of sight. We could see why he’d moved so quickly when we watched the alarming speed of the incoming tide as we walked by the old lock. We returned about an hour later, by which time the tide had turned and was going out just as quickly. It wasn’t long before the majority of the estuary was just sand with only the Welsh side in water.
Shelduck with babies
Today we visited the Slimbridge Wildfowl & Wetland Trust and took lots of photos. Max stayed on board to guard against invaders, but not before he’d enjoyed a three mile towpath run.
We should have written down the names of all the birds we photographed as there are some foreign interlopers that don’t appear in my Collins book of ‘Complete British Birds’.
The sun woke us early and it was so hot I could smell ‘paint’ from our recently painted gunnels. Sitting up in bed, leaning against the side was as good as resting against a radiator.
After breakfast we moved two miles further along the canal to Shepherd’s Patch, the closest mooring for the Slimbridge Nature Reserve.
At nearly every swing bridge along the canal, there are Regency bridge-keeper’s cottages.
At Shepherd’s Patch there were people lingering near the bridge and just after we’d moored up the fourth, and most impressive, tall ship came past. Apparently, this is the last ship heading for Gloucester and I hope the many narrowboats gathered in Gloucester who have navigated the River Severn from Stourport and Worcester are not expecting more.
The long and the tall …
In the sunshine today, this beautiful Horse Chestnut blossom caught my eye.
It was still quite cool but dry when I took Max for his morning walk into Frampton on Severn. I spotted this construction in the reeds. Does anyone know what it is?
This lovely village has more than its fair share of pretty dwellings and gardens, (no doubt attracting high prices), two pubs, and a café that doubles up as the village store selling only those very limited dry goods that you can’t live without, oh and milk!
They don’t sell bread, but there was a notice in the shop window advising that for fresh bread you need to call a mobile number, place your order, and then collect from one of six collections points at the stated time. The only problem was that the next collection time was mid-afternoon on Friday. I returned to the boat to make my own bread.
The other thing the village lacked was a regular mobile and internet signal. It seemed to come and go with the tide!
A third tall ship passed us at lunch-time and it probably came into Sharpness on this morning’s high tide. It was travelling at such a speed I didn’t have time to grab my camera.
My nieces were coming for tea after school this evening and I’d suggested we BBQ. Unfortunately, it was far too breezy and so we had a ‘grillathon’ instead with burgers, hot dogs and garlic bread and Eton mess for pudding.
A slow, lazy start to the day before we moved off mid-morning to fill up with water at Fretherne Bridge.
We’d intended reversing onto the visitor moorings just north of the bridge but the bridgekeeper came to chat with us on the water point and persuaded us to continue through the bridge and moor up about 500m beyond where we could enjoy a view of the river. We took his advice. He was right the view was quite spectacular with fields beside us, and the river and Forest of Dean beyond.
Our friend Terry drove up from Bristol to join us at lunch-time and we walked back to meet him at Fretherne Bridge. He’d brought his puppy Springer spaniel, Pablo, with him and so we decided to walk to Upper Framilode via Saul for a pub lunch at The Ship Inn to try to wear the dogs out.
Max wasn’t particularly welcoming to Pablo and there was some growling as we walked with them both on leads to the pub. Unfortunately we didn’t quite walk fast enough as we arrived literally a minute late for lunch and the landlady wasn’t prepared to make an exception as she stopped taking orders for lunch at 2pm!
Also the dogs had to stay in the beer garden so we tied them to separate tables and left them to get to know each other, at a distance.
We stopped for a drink and then left to return to the boat, but not before we walked to village church that sits right beside the river.
Max was still growling on our walk back, despite a stiff talking to.
We timed our walk back to perfection as within minutes of getting back the fast approaching black clouds had signalled we were in for a downpour and the heavens opened and we had a couple of really heavy squally showers before the wind dropped and the sun came out again.
Once back on the boat, Max and Pablo played well together and after five hours of mischief they had worn themselves out and were both fast asleep.
We had a lovely afternoon and evening chatting and it was starting to get dark as we walked with Terry back to his car.
Weatherwise the forecast was for frequent heavy showers in the morning with strong winds developing in the afternoon.
We’d moored up on the 4hr Sainsbury’s mooring after they’d closed yesterday afternoon and this morning visited the store to browse the clothing and homeware departments before shopping for food.
With the worst of the showers over after lunch, we moved off and followed another boat southwards. The two boats stayed together as far as Saul Junction before we pulled in and moored up for the evening. The wind had picked up during the afternoon and we had pulled in as soon as we found somewhere that offered some shelter.
We’ve visited here by car before a few years ago and it looks quite different from the water,
The geese came to greet us to introduce their young family.
Before we ate our evening meal we went for a walk along the towpath and turned towards Frampton, a beautiful linear village notable for its village green which is allegedly the largest in England at 100 yards wide and half a mile long with the lovely Georgian mansion of Frampton Court facing the green. We returned to Saul Junction via the arm that once was part of the Stroudwater Canal.
My former sister-in-law telephoned to see if they could come and see us and perhaps go for a little cruise if she brought lunch. With an offer like that, how could we refuse? Before they arrived, we went off to explore Alney Island, the island in the River Severn that is about 2.1 miles long x 0.74 miles wide, that is a nature reserve, prone to flooding in wet weather. We found cattle grazing, and spotted our first water irises of the year.
Gloucester cows with amazing horns
Water irises with Gloucester cathedral hiding behind the tree
We walked to Lower Parting, the point where the two channels of the River Severn merge again before flowing south towards Bristol. According to the information board there, it is a good place to observe the Severn bore, the tidal bore that sweeps up the estuary on high spring tides.
Lower Parting where the east and west channels meet, heading south
Our visitors arrived at 12.30 and after a quick call to Llanthony Bridge to notify the bridge-master that we were ready to leave the dock basin, we set off making sure we didn’t pass underneath the bridge until the light turned green. All the bridges along the canal are manned and controlled by traffic lights and whilst most of them have a headroom that is sufficient for us to pass underneath it is still necessary for us to wait for a green light. At the second low bridge, the bridge-master waved us over to the side and as he swung the bridge we could see the impressive sight of two tall ships heading our way and we had to wait for them to come through the bridge before we could continue.
These two had arrived early as we understand that most are expected to arrive from Wednesday onwards.
Afterwards we motored on for about three miles before mooring up near Sellars Bridge. We had a lovely lunch of lasagne with garlic bread, followed by a brief circular walk into the Gloucestershire countryside, before we headed back to the boat. The canal is over 100ft wide and we are able to wind anywhere, although there are winding holes marked on the map. These winding holes are huge and look big enough for a cross channel ferry to turn round in! We winded and headed back towards Gloucester and moored up on the canal rather than re-entering the dock. We plan to fill up with water later, and wind again as we wish to travel further along the canal this week towards Sharpness.