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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The marina stops prior to the basin and there is no boat access into the basin.
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.
There is no sign of any lock gates from the basin into the estuary.
Panoramic view with the estuary on the left and the basin on the right
Looking south I could see the faint outline of the Severn Bridge
Your eyesight is that bad! The Canon lens can do wonders.
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.
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!
They are still working docks.
On my return to Waiouru I happened to notice a memorial tucked away behind a steel security fence.
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]