Phase 2 begins…
It was farewell to Worcester on Monday morning, southbound down the last mile or so of the Worcester and Birmingham Canal, past the festival site where tables and chairs were being loaded onto an open barge to be taken to the next festival site, down two narrow locks to Diglis Basin and two broad locks to the River Severn.
The river is broad, sometimes flowing through a green corridor, sometimes lined with ‘Birmingham navy’ cruisers. There are glimpses of red river bank cliffs and of the Malvern Hills; there are good looking riverside properties – but where exactly are they? It was impossible to identify this house-cum-castle. Visual cues like church towers and bridges crossing the river are largely absent. After passing under the A440 road bridge just outside Worcester there is no other bridge for nearly nine miles, until Upton upon Severn is reached.
What a delight is this little Severn-side town with its distinctive pepper pot tower (once the tower of the old eighteenth century church), its flowers and its flags. Five festivals a year they have, (they’ve had this year’s Folk Festival, next up is the Jazz Festival, then comes the Blues Festival – just look at this public seat – and there’s a Sunshine Festival planned for August).
Uptonians have long regarded the river as friend and as foe. There is an obvious flood protection wall topped by reinforced glass and massive flood doors. Children in canoes rafted together, sea cadets mid-evening heaving their way upstream and down, a small boat with an outboard engine pottering past – on a June evening this was the Severn as benevolent friend.
Mostly the river traffic involves leisure boats – and it’s a surprise when working boats are sighted. See, just south of Upton, how low the loaded gravel barge sat in the water. For miles on Tuesday the river was quiet, with few landmarks and devoid of other vessels. Then, just as a vehicle in the sky was spotted (or so it seemed, so high is the M50 motorway bridge) there were vehicles on the water too: a moored cruiser, a little fishing boat, and looming towards Cleddau and Tentatrice, was a low shape – a laden barge. Take avoiding action! Skulk in the shallows – and let that boat pass… Past it motored, a crew member quietly comfy in a deckchair on the bow!
Under the M50… on a couple more miles, under Mythe Bridge, on the Tewkesbury outskirts, past the Water Treatment Works so nearly inundated by the July 2007 floods, on a bit further to the vast Upper Lode Lock. Exit the lock and this is what you see:
14 miles further to go then after the lock, to Gloucester. There was a tempting looking pub, the boathouse for Cheltenham College – and a sailing boat. The river flow became faster, the channel narrower. At last appeared the Gloucester bridges: one; then two, three and four close together. Prepare for Gloucester Lock. Avoid at all costs the weir race to the right. Go in. Secure the boats – and wait for the water to lock up into Gloucester Docks.
What a spectacular sight –massive warehouses, rigging and masts, trip boats and narrow boats, historic vessels and a training ship, dry docks and a film star ship.
And round the back is the Mariners’ Church…
Constantly gulls wheel and call and dart above the water of the docks, their squawks reverberating even around the city streets. But while the presence of gulls adds atmosphere to this maritime place the messages they leave are less attractive! (A memory stirred of a childhood bedroom, seagulls floating above sand dunes on a carefully chosen wallpaper. Do Senior Sis, Scottish Sis and Baby Sis remember that? No memory though of those two dimensional gulls leaving any mess…!)
There is much to see in Gloucester, the Cathedral, of course, where this week there are Leavers’ Services each morning, services of joy and celebration for all the pupils leaving the diocesan primary and secondary schools. On the quay by the marina is a tall installation, a 22 metre beacon, a reference to spires and fires, and to the work of Gloucester-born poet Ivor Gurney, remembered within the Cathedral.
This phase of Summer 2015, however, is about a potential trip down the tidal Severn to Portishead and Bristol. So after two nights in Gloucester the boats stocked up the store cupboards at a canal side Sainsbury’s and headed further south down the Sharpness and Gloucester Canal…
Next episode: All Washed up at Saul.
Stats since last post: 32 miles, 7 locks
Monkton Moments* to date: 5
(Monkton Moment*- a reference to / recognition of Cleddau’s Pembrokeshire connections)