Monday, 26 September 2016

Worcester to Stourport

It’s not our first visit to Worcester so we were reasonably familiar with the street layout. We moored on the 48 hour moorings below Sidbury Lock walking up to the lock passing the Commandery on our way into the city. The last battle of the Civil War was fought in Worcester and the Commandery had a significant role.

First stop was the cathedral.  Some type of official service was being conducted in the Nave so we confined out movements to the Cloister.  The Charter House was also closed to the public.

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The cloisters have stone vault rooves whilst the main roof is constructed of timber.  A small information plaque stated the cloister rooves provide a fire resistant barrier to the main roof.  Whilst this is logical I also suspect the weight of stone in the cloisters helps brace and support the main structure.  Both King John and Arthur Tudor (older brother of Henry VIII) are interned in the cathedral.

The other thing Jan and I remember about Worcester is Royal Worcester Porcelain.  Manufacturing ceased in 2009 and the site is now a museum.

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In the evening I went for a second walk around the city taking yet another photo of the cathedral by night.

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This morning we reversed back to the water point and topped up the tank before winding above the Diglis Basin locks and going back down onto the river.  

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Things started to get interesting above Worcester Bridge.  British Canoeing were holding races and the contestants were certainly adhering to the rule “paddles before power”.  They were also determined to occupy which ever side of the river they felt gave them a competitive advantage.

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For a couple of kilometres we were hard against the left (port) bank when we should have been on the opposite side.  Eventually we reached the end buoy and had the river to ourselves.

Jan noticed a couple of suitable riverside homes……. if we had the money!

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Only three locks today and all of them manned by CRT staff.  The river level must be low at the moment because there was only a 6ft rise at each lock.

We had a small smile as we passed Stourport Marina.  One boater waved at us signally to slow down because we were producing too much wake. Smile

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What wake…. the river is wide and deep here.  However we slowed down to tick-over and received a happy smile in response.

Well that’s the last of rivers for a few months.  It will be back to ditch crawling for us!

Sunday, 25 September 2016

6½ Hours

That’s how long it took us to cruise up the Severn from Gloucester to Worcester.  Yesterday evening I asked the Gloucester lock keeper what the tides were like and when we should leave.  Also, were there any other boats leaving?  He informed me we should leave at 8.30am and six other boats were also going. 
This morning one other boat decided to go and as the steerer had made the trip previously, I invited him to lead.  The lock keeper informed us there was a neap tide which was pushing water up over the weir bringing some large items of debris.  Additionally, a tree had fallen into the channel but the contractors had apparently cleared it.   We were locked down onto a half tide, the idea being the majority of the debris would have gone back downstream over the weir.  Obviously we would be going against the current.  It was slow going for the first couple of miles up the Eastern Channel.
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Some ducking and weaving was required
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The contractors hadn’t exactly removed the tree from the channel.  Cut the top off it might be more accurate.
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You can see how much water the neap tide has pushed back up the river by looking at the banks.
We only passed one narrowboat between Gloucester and Tewkesbury.  With the current behind them, they were gong much faster than us.
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This is a rather boring stretch of water.  The boat ahead was making the same speed as us. We had the engine running at 1500rpm and I don’t like to go any harder unless it’s urgent.
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Three hours after locking down we reached Tewkesbury.  From this point to Worcester is new water for us and fortunately the scenery was also more interesting.  The traffic on the M50 didn’t appear interested in us and was certainly going much faster.
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By now we had left the neap tide well behind and were making good progress, albeit there was still an opposing current.  I did feel sorry for the fish at Saxon’s Lode.  The man fishing from the boat had a fishfinder and was carefully watching the screen in order to keep his boat above the unsuspecting fish below.  It seemed a bit unfair!
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There’s obviously still some commercial traffic on the river.  The boat appears to be delivering aggregate to the wharf where it is moved by conveyor belt to a mixing plant on the other side of the bund.
IMG_0883The scenery became even more interesting and attractive.
IMG_0884And then this damned great box shaped slab of steel came around the corner.
P1030326It’s the hotel boat Edward Elgar out of Gloucester.  She has 11 cabins and can carry a maximum of 22 passengers.  There was very little wake from her which suggests to me she has very little draft and probably a flat bottom.
Diglis Footbridge was another first for us.  However the design is no longer unique.
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A great approach to Worcester.  We were last here in 2009 and were far too nervous on the river to notice the scenery.  All I can remember is my total concentration attempting to collect Jan from the lock landing.
IMG_0889We decided to go up the two bottom locks onto the Worcester & Birmingham Canal rather than moor on the river. 
Perhaps a look around Worcester tomorrow.  

Saturday, 24 September 2016

A visit and a discovery

Sharpness is the end of the line for us so it’s now a case of retracing our route back as far as Tewkesbury and then further on up the River Severn.  Today we cruised back as far as the Pilot Inn at Quedgeley stopping on the 14 day ringed moorings beyond the water point.  I was on a mission and started walking east away from the canal.  After servicing the engine several days ago I completed the paperwork by entering the details into the engine manual.  That’s when I realised we were currently quite close to the manufacturer. Hence the walk.

P1030317Beta Marine was only 2.5km from the mooring and it seemed too good an opportunity to pass without purchasing some filters.   The staff at Beta Marine were quite helpful but I had the impression very few customers arrive by foot.

It will now be some time before we need to purchase more filters.

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Can I also draw your attention to the white package on the right in the above photo.  Jan has made another useful discovery.  The package contains Sainsbury’s brand ‘wet wipes’ and they do an excellent job of cleaning the ceiling and chrome fittings.  Waiouru’s white ceiling isn’t painted, it’s a white laminate and we hadn’t realised just how much grime had built up until Jan started wiping it down.

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She has made a start and you can see the difference in the above photo.  The wet wipes are doing a better job on the chrome than the brass cleaner.  I’ve discovered it’s terribly stressful watching Jan doing all this reaching and cleaning.  Fortunately I’ve found beer relaxes me!

One other observation whilst walking to Beta Marine.  In the same industrial park I noticed another trade name synonymous with diesel engines.

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I had assumed Lister and Petter were names from a bygone era and was somewhat pleasantly surprised to discover they continue to be viable commercial entities.  As a young soldier I remember the NZ Army had generators powered by Lister engines and the boat engines were Petter.     

Friday, 23 September 2016

Sharpness and a disaster

The scenery on the second half of the cruise along the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal is very similar to the first, although there are more open views of the Severn Estuary to the west.

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We passed an interesting small ‘square rigged’ yacht along the way.  It appeared ‘himself’ worked the helm whilst ’herself’ was the deckhand and also managed the sails.  Rather her than me…. I wouldn’t fancy going up and down that rigging all day.

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We were halfway down the final straight towards Sharpness when I noticed the stone abutment and tower either side of the canal.  The view became clearer as we got closer.

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This looked suspiciously like a bridge abutment.  However I’d already read that until 1966 the furthest downstream road bridge across the Severn was back at Gloucester.  So if there was a bridge here then it would have to be a rail bridge.  As we passed by I also noticed the tower was round.  Logic tells me that if there was a railway bridge here then a section would need to swing so ships could use the canal.  

IMG_0827However if there was a bridge across the estuary then I would have expected to see signs of former piers….. and there are none!

A little search on Google revealed there was a railway bridge here and strangely enough its name was the Severn Railway Bridge.  Completed in the 1870s and consisting of 22 spans, the bridge was 4162 ft long and 70ft above high water.  It was built to carry coal from the Forest of Dean to the docks at Sharpness.  The bridge wasn’t a great financial success because by 1886 Great Western Railway had built a competing rail tunnel under the Severn further downstream. 

In 1960 two barges overshot Sharpness Docks in thick fog and collided with one of the piers collapsing two spans.  A year later a tanker collided with another pier seriously damaging it.  A commercial decision was then made to demolish the bridge. and now nothing exists of the piers in the estuary.

There is a Y junction at Sharpness.  Turning right takes you to Sharpness Marina and the old tidal basin.

IMG_0830 Tidal basin in the distance with the hulk of a former barge in the foreground.  The white building is now the Sharpness Lifeboat Station.

Ade, note the fibreglass cruisers are on finger moorings whilst the narrowboats are moored to a buoy at one end and the bank at the other.

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The marina stops prior to the basin and there is no boat access into the basin.

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In one corner of the basin is the wreck of “Mary” built in 1875 and abandoned here in the 1960s.  She was 49ft long, 17ft wide with a gross tonnage of 25 tons.

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There is no sign of any lock gates from the basin into the estuary.

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Panoramic view with the estuary on the left and the basin on the right

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Looking south I could see the faint outline of the Severn Bridge

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Your eyesight is that bad! Winking smile  The Canon lens can do wonders.

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OK, I couldn’t see the second bridge with my eye!

We cruised the Kennet & Avon last year so we’re not going that way.  I walked around to have a look at Sharpness Docks.

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I remember seeing hundreds of this style of dock crane when we cruised up the Thames with my parents in 1957. 

Another narrowboater not going to Bristol!

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They are still working docks.

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On my return to Waiouru I happened to notice a memorial tucked away behind a steel security fence.

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This overgrown and abandoned piece of land was the site of the National Sea Training School which operated between 1943 – 1966.  It trained boys as deck hands and stewards for service with the Merchant Navy.  The former sailing ship Vindicatrix was moored beside the basin and initially used as accommodation.  “Life on board was made a close reproduction of the conditions of sea service, with watches kept night and day, time signalled on the ship’s bell and navigation lamps trimmed and lighted. The boys were taught ropework, boat handling, signalling, knowledge of the compass, cleaning and serving in the mess. When they left at the end of the course, they were found employment on a ship”  [TS Vindicatrix]

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Saul Junction

The Gloucester and Sharpeness Canal is 16 lock free miles long and Saul Junction is almost in the middle.  The canal was built for ships up to 600 tonnes and is 3.7 metres deep.  There are two immediate impressions.  Numerous swing bridges but each has a bridge keeper to open it for you.  There are large mooring bollards along the towpath side.  However the bollards are located on the far side of the towpath?   I doubt horses were used to pull 600 tonne ships so the towpath was probably used for canal maintenance.

IMG_0813It’s easy to moor almost anywhere as there is plenty of water against the bank.

Another observation was the unique looking cottages located near the swing bridges.  They were all a similar style with the “Roman” style columns at the front.  It appears these might have been the bridge keepers cottages when the canal was a thriving commercial entity.

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Saul Junction is where the ‘new’ Gloucester and Sharpeness canal bisected the existing Stroudwater Navigation.  The latter has been abandoned but there are plans to fully restore it.

The Stroudwater Navigation joined the Thames & Severn Canal at Stroud.  The two canals provided a link between Lechlade at the end of the Thames and the Severn estuary.  These canals lost most of their trade when the Kennet & Avon Canal opened in 1810.  However it continued to provide shareholders with a dividend until 1922 and was only abandoned in 1954.  If the restoration is completed it would make an interesting large cruising ring avoiding the need to take a pilot between Sharpeness and Bristol.

You can see the route of the navigation in the following extract from Paul Balmer’s Waterway Routes Map.

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The water level of the Gloucester and Sharpeness Canal is four feet higher than the Stroudwater Navigation so a lock was built either side of the junction.  CRT were in the final phase of replacing the lock gates on the lock leading down to the estuary.

IMG_0816The above photo was taken from the lower end of the lock and the canal actually terminates where I was standing.  It did seem rather strange that CRT would spend so much money replacing four lock gates on a section of abandoned canal that is currently 70 feet long?

I walked the Stroudwater Navigation towpath going in the opposite direction (towards London).  About 500 metres is in water and being used as linear moorings.  This ‘arm’ also provides access to the rather large Saul Junction Marina.

The arm ends here…..

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Obviously the bridge will have to be replaced if the restoration is to be successful.

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Looking back down the arm to the junction

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Saul Junction Marina.

The junction is an interesting mix of bridge keeper cottage and boatyard.

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The boatyard was a bit of a concern as it had a galleon full of pirates moored against the wharf.

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Notice the guns had been run out!

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Somewhat of a relief to discover the pirates had returned from buccaneering and had converted the galleon into a café.