Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Leo's furthest South (for this year at least)

We are now in Sharpness and since we are not intending to go out on the tidal Severn to Bristol, this will be our furthest South for now and we will be making our way back up to Gloucester in the next couple of days.

On Friday we stayed in Gloucester and enjoyed a damp walk onto Alney Island which lies between the two arms of the River Severn.  We then explored some of the city.

There used to be a lock on the river below Gloucester basin and we walked through it!  It was beside Llanthony Weir and allowed access to the tidal waters below and to the Severn estuary.  Nowadays all traffic has to go via the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal.

Telford built a bridge over the Western channel of the Severn in 1829 but it was not opened until 1832 because when the supports were taken away the centre of the bridge subsided by 25cm.  They did not use the bridge for 3 years but it did not move any further and so it was opened and was used for traffic until 1974.

If you look along the balustrade you can see the subsidence.

Gloucester Cathedral has the earliest fan vaulting in England around the cloisters.

We loved this clock above a jeweller's which still works today.

After seeing friends in Bristol over the weekend we returned to the boat on Sunday evening and set off along the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal on Monday morning.

Gloucester docks are well preserved with some lovely old warehouses, one of which houses the Inland Waterways Museum.

There are no locks on the G&S but there are many swing bridges each operated by a bridge keeper.  Originally the bridge keepers lived  in houses like this one with splendid porticos supported by fluted columns.

Leo is shown in this picture approaching the swing bridge at Saul Junction.  We moored just the other side and then explored the area on bicycles.

At Saul Junction the G&S crossed on the level an earlier canal, the Stroudwater Canal, which is really an extension of the Thames and Severn Canal which linked Lechlade on the Thames with the Severn.

You can just make out here the old lock on the Stroudwater Canal right by the G&S.  The former canal had to be lifted 4 feet in order to cross the G&S on the level.

This is a bit of an aside but this shield on the wall in the Church at nearby Frampton on Severn amused us.  The lion has a human face which may possibly be intended to be a likeness of George III.  Frampton is a lovely village with reputedly the longest village green in England.  It also has a pub selling amazing pies which we hope to visit on our way back to Gloucester.

We cycled West to Upper Framilode to admire the River Severn.  It is certainly a lot wider here than at Gloucester.  Across the water you can see the hills of the Forest of Dean.

The luxuriant green ditch opposite these cottages at Upper Framilode is all that remains of the Stroudwater Canal as it approaches the Severn.

Today we've come down the rest of this scenic ship canal to Sharpness.

Towards Sharpness the Canal runs right beside the Severn.  We've watched the tide this evening first filling and then emptying the sand and mud channel between us and Wales.

This is the view through two swing bridges to the docks at Sharpness.  If we were going out onto the estuary and down to Bristol this is the way we would go.

The Severn is a huge river at this point and scary when you see the speed of the tide.

This is looking towards the docks.  The boat Zeus on the right is apparently going out onto the river on the morning tide.

This is the ship lock accessing the river.  It is 55 foot wide, nearly as wide as we are long.  We are used to locks only 7 feet wide.  There is a floating pontoon half way along which is presumably used by narrowboats.

The way out to the River is between these jetties.

And finally after all the scary bits here is a nice restful view of narrowboats and reflections in the Old Arm of the docks which used also to go out to the River but is now only used for mooring.

From here our way lies North back to Gloucester and on to Tewkesbury to pick up the River Avon.  We have heard that Tewkesbury is flooded but hopefully if we take our time the waters from recent rainfall will have gone down by the time we get there.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Down the Scary Severn to Gloucester

Actually with the exception of the final few miles into Gloucester, it wasn't really that scary, though we could see how it could be very different if the river was in spate.  Fortunately it wasn't.

Back to Stourport from where the last posting was done.  On Sunday we had a day off boating altogether and cycled to Bewdley, a pretty town upstream from Stourport.  We rode along the path by the river which was tricky in places being a bit overgrown and cycled back on minor roads after a good pub lunch.
Fellow boaters and cyclists by Bewdley Bridge
Bewdley has an excellent museum where Ian and Helen got engrossed, whereas David and Victoria decided to cycle back to the boats.

On Monday we set off down the locks at Stourport onto the Severn.

Here is Leo in the upper of the two locks in the second staircase down to the river.  Behind you can make out the entrance to the upper staircase.  The funfair to the left is part of what gives Stourport its seaside resort feel.

Here we are at the bottom of the locks just about to go out onto the Severn.  Helen is holding the gate and you can see we had plenty of spectators.

This is looking back into the canal lock as we turn onto the river and, yes, Helen is onboard again by this point.

To start with there are some lovely houses by the side of the river, quite reminiscent of the Thames.  Lower down the banks are higher and most of the view is of tree lined banks.

On Monday afternoon we tied up in Worcester just below the Sabrina footbridge from where this picture was taken.  You can make out Pas M├Ęche with Leo in front of her.  The prominent tower behind the railway bridge is Worcester Cathedral.

We had a good look round Worcester on Sunday and on Monday morning.

This is the Guildhall which has a splendid frontage.

The Cathedral is in a wonderful position right by the river.  This photo of the West Front is taken from close to the river.

There were loads of swans in Worcester.  Here they are gathered for feeding by tourists.

We did tour the Commandery which started life as a monastic hospital, became a Tudor merchant's house, was Charles II's retreat after losing the Battle of Worcester, was a Georgian House, became a college for the blind and later a print works.  Phew!! Quite confusing despite excellent audio guides.

Tuesday we cruised a little way downstream to Upton on Severn.

Here is the signpost at Worcester close to where the Worcester and Birmingham Canal leaves the river.

This view of the Cathedral from the river shows just how close it is.  You can see how it stands proudly above the river.

The river was much quieter below Worcester and we had some fun cruising side by side for a while.

And here we are in Upton on Severn, a lovely small town with rather too much traffic going through.  This curious tower, called the Pepperpot, is all that remains of the original parish church and is now a Heritage Centre with information about the town and its history.

Mooring was tricky at Upton.  Though pontoon are provided, these were nearly full but we managed to get Leo on the landward side of the pontoon and another boat was happy for PM to moor alongside them.

On Wednesday we came down to opposite Tewkesbury going through Upper Lode Lock which is the tidal limit of the Severn.  Between here and Gloucester Spring Tides come over the lower weirs making this section tidal.  Fortunately we are now away from Spring Tides.

This is looking back to Upton Bridge with the King's Head to the left.  Upton has a great number of pubs and a multitude of music and other festivals throughout the summer.

Down on this part of the river, there are some larger craft.  Here PM is pursued by a gravel barge.  Fortunately the barge was only going a short distance and stayed behind us both.

And here is the Edward Elgar, a trip boat from Gloucester.

Thomas Telford was responsible for this rather shapely iron bridge just North of Tewkesbury, called Mythe Bridge.

Here we are passing the mouth of the navigable River Avon (the one that comes from Stratford and Warwick).  We will be going this way later on our return upriver.

The locks on the Severn are enormous!  This is Upper Lode Lock with both our boats in.  Down the far end of the lock we could just about have turned the boat round!

Here the lockkeeper is lowering a bucket to David with some leaflets about how safely to navigate the tricky section down to Gloucester.

We spent yesterday afternoon moored at Lower Lode on a pontoon mooring side by side.  We were able to do quite a lot of jobs on the boats and go for a country walk on mostly non-existent footpaths.

Today we've come down the last 12 miles to Gloucester in astonishingly quick time.   The river here was flowing faster and Ian was using a speed app on his phone to monitor the speed.  3 miles above Gloucester the river divides into two channels and the navigable East channel is narrow, fast flowing and twisty and not the place to meet a large boat going the other way.  We have found the VHF radio invaluable for this section and elsewhere on the river for contacting the lock keepers.  We were able to ensure that the lock at Gloucester which goes up into the basin was open ready for our arrival.  This is advisable as the current can easily sweep you round the corner to the nearby weir.  Instead we were able to charge into the lock and then slow down in order to put stern and bow ropes round the sliders in the massive lock.

Here we are with both boats safely in Gloucester Lock.  Big sighs of relief all round.

We have moored just above the Dock basins because there is a regatta in the basins this weekend and most of the visitor moorings are closed.

We aim to stay in Gloucester for the weekend and move on next week down the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal to Sharpness before returning through Gloucester back to Tewkesbury to cruise the Avon.  We've enjoyed the Severn as a completely different experience to the canals.  We're now back on a canal though this is a ship canal with no locks but many swing bridges all worked for you.  We're looking forward to this new experience.

Finally here is a distant view glimpsed of Tewkesbury Abbey seen from near to Upper Lode Lock.  Tewkesbury is not really accessible without venturing up the Avon, so this is a delight to be savoured later.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Ready to go out on the big river!

Over the last few days we've come down the rest of the Staffs and Worcs Canal to Stourport.  It has been a delightful canal to travel and we cannot recommend it more highly.  The countryside is superb, there is interesting canal architecture and places to visit nearby so we've taken our time and enjoyed ourselves.

On Wednesday we came down the Bratch Locks.  This set of three locks was originally built as a staircase but was later changed to introduce side ponds and a very small gap of about 6 to 8 feet between the locks with this little gap connected to the side ponds.  This was apparently done to save water.

We had to wait at the top for three boats coming up (you cannot pass in mid flight) so we had ample time to study this unusual canal feature.  The octagonal building at the top was a toll house but is now used to sell useful canal gear and postcards.  The view is taken showing the bottom lock in the foreground with the top one above the bridge by the toll house.

Here is a boat in the middle lock coming up.

And here is Leo in the same middle lock later going down.  The lock flight is beautifully kept by a lock keeper who has been there for years and loves his job.

An interesting feature of the southern part of the S&W is the extent to which it is cut down through solid red sandstone.

There are a number of places where the canal is bordered by a sheer wall of red sandstone.

This door in the sandstone cliff apparently gives access to a narrowboat house cut into the rock.  It is difficult to see but is just North of the Aqueduct over the River Stour which the canal then follows all the way to Stourport where the river flows into the Severn.

It was a really still day on Wednesday and there were some lovely reflections.

This is the best picture we've taken so far this year of a grey heron.  He had a fine perch here on a broken tree trunk high above the canal.

On Thursday we passed Stourton junction with the Stourbridge Canal which links with the Dudley canal system and can lead up into Birmingham.

This picture is looking left away from the Staffs and Worcs Canal to the first lock on the Stourbridge Canal.  The fisherman was a cheery fellow who waved good day.  They are not always so good natured.

Here is the signpost at Stourton Junction.  We were coming from Wolverhampton and heading to Stourport.

Soon after the junction comes Stewponey Lock with this toll house beside it.

There are a couple of very short tunnels on this canal.  This one is Dunsley Tunnel, all of 25 yards but clearly cut through the solid rock.

On Thursday afternoon we moored below Kinver Lock and walked up onto Kinver Edge, about 550 feet above sea level with wonderful views.

Here we are looking West from Kinver Edge into South Shropshire.  We think one of the prominent hills is the Clee Hills but we didn't take a compass with us, so it is difficult to be sure.

This picture is looking South from Kinver Edge and is definitely of the Malvern Hills.  We could also see the Northern outliers of the Cotswolds.

Kinver is also famous for its rock houses of which the best examples are now owned by the National Trust.  Carved out of the rock these were relatively spacious and fairly dry houses in the 18th century.  There are three levels of houses in the cliffs.

This is taken inside the bedroom of one of the rock houses.  Lime washing the walls not only made them more light inside but also bound the sand that would otherwise fall on the floor and have to be swept up.  Large windows meant these houses are not at all dark.

The rock is apparent everywhere in Kinver.  This was the path to the Church, again cut through the solid rock.

Not only the canal but also the roads are cut through the rock.

Today we've come down from Wolverley, another nice village, through Kidderminster which was great for shopping with both a Sainsbury's and a Tesco right beside the canal.

Here we are with both boats waiting above Kidderminster Lock, a deep one at nearly 12 feet.  While I was taking the photo and Helen and David were posing, Victoria was busy filling the lock for the first boat.  The Church at Kidderminster is on a rocky bluff behind us.

Further on towards Stourport at Pratt's Wharf a branch of the canal went down a lock into the River Stour which used to be navigable for a mile or so from here.  This bridge to the side of the canal is all that remains of that branch.

It is only about four miles and a couple of locks from Kidderminster to Stourport where the Staffs and Worcs Canal enters the River Severn.  Stourport has a series of canal basins at two levels with both wide and narrow locks connecting them.  The town owes its existence to the building of the canal but on a hot and sunny Saturday was more like a seaside resort with crowds enjoying a fun fair and ice cream beside the Severn.

Here is our very pleasant mooring above York Road lock which drops down into the basins.

This is one of the two middle level basins.  The bridge in the distance just to the left of the lamp standard leads to York Road lock and the canal.

The narrow locks to the Severn form two double staircases.  This is the first one up from the river to the lower canal basins.  Under the curved roof is a dry dock where two boats were having their bottoms blacked.

Tomorrow we plan to have a day off boating though we may move down to a pontoon mooring on the River.  We want to visit Bewdley which is a small town on the Severn a few miles upstream of Stourport so we will be walking or cycling tomorrow for a change.  After that we will be setting off down the Severn to Worcester, Tewkesbury and Gloucester.