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.
It’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.
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.
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.
The 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…..
Obviously the bridge will have to be replaced if the restoration is to be successful.
Looking back down the arm to the junction
Saul Junction Marina.
The junction is an interesting mix of bridge keeper cottage and boatyard.
The boatyard was a bit of a concern as it had a galleon full of pirates moored against the wharf.
Notice the guns had been run out!
Somewhat of a relief to discover the pirates had returned from buccaneering and had converted the galleon into a café.