We arrived in Gloucester off the River Severn on 9 April seeing a pair of Dunlins, a Kingfisher and our first Swallows on the way. Both of us glad to be here as rivers are not our favourite thing. We have been here by boat before, in 1991. Not much has changed around the docks but there is now no commercial activity other than the docks at Sharpness.
We moved straight through the docks and Llanthony Lift Bridge – still operated by a keeper as are all the bridges on the G & S – and moored on the ‘shopping moorings’ outside the new Sainsburys store. After a big shop – Jeannette likes it when she can take the trolley right to the boat – we moved up a hundred yards to moor on the old quayside using the mooring rings provided, at least 18 inches diameter! And there we stayed for 5 or 6 days until I foolishly let the generator run out of diesel!
The Gloucester & Sharpess is only 16 miles long with two diesel sellers about halfway along. Just before we left John & Brenda on their narrowboat Beejay whom we have met several times before, arrived. Promising to return asap we moved down to Saul Junction and then moored so I could bleed the generator diesel feed. A pain as I have to remove so much stuff from the engine/utility room to get at it. Duly sorted we motored on to Sharpness itself for the night. The river here is wide with plenty of sandbanks at low tide.
Back to Rea Bridge where John & Brenda were now moored for a long chat over coffee & biscuits. Also a convenient place to moor for a hire car to return to Godmanchester for Js eye hospital appointment and to collect our prescriptions. Found that my solar controller had shut down and after a lot of checking decided that one pair of panels – we have 2 pairs wired in series & parallel to a MPPT controller – was at fault. These are some 5 years older than the other pair and when I moved their location I noticed that the cables were annealed so I shall rewire them when I can get some suitable cable. For the moment they are disconnected.
There is a Tescos half a mile or so from Rea Bridge and there was 25% off wine so whilst we had the car we took advantage and stocked up. With the weather reasonably fine I rubbed down one side of the boat gunwhales, primed, undercoated and gloss painted them to cover up the rigours of winter cruising through narrow locks. After a few days we moved to Sellars Bridge, filled the water tank and came back to Rea to repeat the care and attention on the other side. I’ll now spend the next few weeks paranoid about the paintwork. The sides of the G & S are all piled but, being a ship canal, the piling can be above the gunwhales in some places so it is one of those times I will leave the fenders down while cruising.
One of the wonders of the Severn is the bore and the weekend of 27 and 28 April promised a decent one so on the Sunday we walked the short distance to the river and walked along the path to find somewhere that afforded a good view. It was about 25 minutes late but at about 11 am we could here this roaring noise followed by a wave some 2 or 3 feet high. Behind it came the tide which seemed to just fill the previously empty river within a few minutes.
The end of April saw us moving back down the canal to Saul Junction. Did an oil and filter change on the generator here but I’ll have to keep the old oil until we get back to Gloucester where there is a HWRC so I can get rid of it. I know some boaters just leave it alongside the rubbish bins but why should I rely on the CRT to dispose of it. After the service we walked along the route of the old Stroudwater Canal towards the river before having a drink at the Ship Inn.
We moored at Sharpness overnight again and walked over the headland to the docks. 20 years ago when we visited I was able to walk over the tidal gates but the docks have now been sold or leased to a private company and the tidal lock is now fenced off. Never the less, the views down the river to the nuclear power stations and the two Severn Bridges are fantastic. Likewise, when walking back the view upriver was some 4 or 5 miles. There used to be a railway bridge across the Severn here but all that remains is the tower that supported the swinging portion. The bridge was the scene of a disaster in 1960 when two fuel tankers missed the lock entrance in thick fog and struck the bridge with several lives lost.
The canal and river here are only separated by a stone wall and a bit of river bank. To prevent erosion, a number of barges have been beached here over the years and are commemorated by a number of plaques along the foreshore between Sharpness and Purton.
On our return back up the canal we stopped at Saul Marina to top up the diesel tanks and buy some coal. Why is it that all marinas seem to have their service pontoons in the most inaccessible part and why does the wind always get up just as you are manoeuvring your boat? Coming back out requires a sharp and tight turn into the canal resulting in a chunk of my nice new paint being removed.
Back to Rea Bridge again and to Enterprise to get a car for us to go to Caterham for the funeral of a friend. These things always make one maudling so we took the opportunity of the car to visit my sister whom we hadn’t seen for about 2 years.
We are back in Gloucester now, looking at returning up river towards the end of the week. First we need to wait for a new part for the toilet to arrive. Something has broken so when you flush the pedal no longer returns. Should be at the Post Office on Wednesday so I’ll keep you posted of how it goes.