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The Odyssey Summer 2008 – Day 29

Posted by indigodream on 10 August, 2008

Tewkesbury to Gloucester Dock

Hurray! We have hit one of our targets for the summer. After 276 miles and 310 locks we finally made it to Gloucester !! Ok so if we had not gone on various detours we could have got here by day 15 but the detours have been fun. 334 miles and 202 locks to go (plus detours). Looks like we will need some more holiday to make sure we get back to London by the end of October and / or possibly miss out going to Lechlade

The photo doesn't do the justice to the horrible weather!

The photo doesn't do the justice to the horrible weather!

We first woke up at 6.30am, considered setting off before the rain and promptly went back to sleep; this pattern was repeated every half an hour until about 9am. What a mistake – we started out just as the rain was starting and so the day went!

On the lockkeeper’s advice, we went through the centre arch of the bridge in front of the mooring and found a wide basin below the weir – plenty of room for turning and an interesting view upriver.

We set off down the river and ‘enjoyed’ one of the most miserable winter’s days of cruising that we’ve ever had. The wind was ferocious in our faces, the water was choppy and difficult, the tiller was heavy and the rain was like needles. We kept running inside for more layers – by the end of the cruise Richard was swathed in his waterproofs and I had multiple layers of thermal underwear plus my fleece balaclava. It’s only August – we’d better shop for some antarctic survival gear for the proper winter!

green trees, brown water, grey skies!

green trees, brown water, grey skies!

We got cold and tired so the river failed to excite – there are trees, they are green; the water’s brown, fast, with large floating logs – what more can you say?! Honestly though, this bit of river (right down to Gloucester) is dull compared to the stretch from Stourport to Tewkesbury.

The Lockkeeper at Upper Lode Lock was very helpful – this would be our first foray onto the ‘tidal’ Severn. A bit of a misnomer as it’s only affected by the Spring Tides (a bit like the last bit of the Avon going into Bristol Floating Harbour). We welcomed his advice anyway – “Read the leaflet about how to approach Gloucester Lock safely” and “keep at least 30 feet away from the bank” along the whole stretch. He did kindly help us to test our newly installed VHF radio – we got our licences two years ago but haven’t had a chance to practice yet.

Barn in need of modernisation!

Barn in need of modernisation!

So on the next stretch we had our favourite (NOT!) river combination – cold, wet and the need to concentrate – aarrgh! Richard kept accusing me of ‘going soft’ and kept lying robustly with phrases like ‘I’m really enjoying this’! But he was wearing his gloves – he never wears gloves – it was a definite sign of distress! In case you’re worried, dogs were tucked up indoors – the inside was snug out of the wind though we did have a serious discussion about whether to turn the central heating on for them! Good august weather.

Several boats passed us going upstream – it was the busiest I’d seen the river despite being the most dismal day.

Old boats have been sunk here to prevent bank erosion - did that cruiser miss the signs?

Old boats have been sunk here to prevent bank erosion - did that cruiser miss the signs?

We tried our new radio out for real at Upper Parting but we didn’t get a reply from the lock so we had to resort to the mobile phone after all. I was a bit disappointed by Upper Parting – I had expected the split onto the broad west channel of the tidal Severn to be huge and impressive – it was just a little cut, though I’m sure I’d have been suitably awed if I’d taken a wrong turn onto the weir!

It’s a sign of my desperation that I willed away the 3 miles from Upper Parting to Gloucester Lock. After all I’d heard and read I was dreading the lock a little bit – not aided by the tale of a women who almost got swept over the weir a few years ago when a log got stuck in her propeller. As it happened it was fine but you MUST follow the lockkeeper’s advice as there’s plenty of potential trouble here.

Lots of landslips on these cliffs

Lots of landslips on these cliffs

So, to get you ready for the real thing:

Gloucester Lock:

When you get past the bridges and see the quay wall on your left SLOW DOWN

Move to the left – aim for the quay wall

If the lock light is red then moor up to the chains on the wall IMMEDIATELY, as far away from the lock as possible

When you moor on the wall, TIE YOUR STERN ROPE FIRST – otherwise the flow will flip you round before you know it.

When you get a green light, approach the lock on the left hand side – do not stray out into the flow as the weir has a strong pull

An alien at the helm!

An alien at the helm!

Don’t do what we did, which is tie up in the lock under the bridge – there’s not enough headroom when the lock is full! I hadn’t thought it through but there’s quite a rise up to the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal – it took quite some time to fill the enormous lock. As we rose up the lock we noticed lots of gongoozlers dressed in normal city clothes carrying little unbrellas. We, in the meantime, looked completely alien in all the clothes we’d put on for the harsh river conditions!

I’d been whinging all day about how I’d have stayed in Tewkesbury if I’d realised the river was going to be so miserable etc etc. But I had to take is all back when the lock gates opened to reveal the glory of Gloucester Docks. There were plenty of available moorings on the pontoons to the left of the lock and after a bit of a fight with the wind we gratefully tied up. These moorings are free for 48 hours and a punitive £25 a night if you overstay BUT if you ask them nicely then the fee for extra nights is a more reasonable £10 a night (we hope).

Gloucester Docks

Gloucester Docks

We had a wander round Gloucester. My first impression is that it isn’t as ‘quaint’ as Tewkesbury but it does have some fine features. The docks are magnificent. I won’t hear a word said against any city that has a Costa and a Starbucks. I can’t tell you how much better the world seemed after I’d downed a giant caramel latte.

We’re back here next weekend to explore the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal. It’s Richard’s birthday and his whole family will be joining us for the cruise. With this in mind I spent the afternoon cleaning the boat while Richard took the train back to Worcester to get the car. We left Indigo Dream gleaming on the inside and ran away quickly as it only takes us about 10 seconds to create mess out of nothing.

The trip home reminded us that we were close to our odyssey’s turning point. We’ve been trekking up and down the M42 for weeks now (always stopping at Cherwell Valley Services) but now we headed cross-country to the M4. It felt very strange but we had a good journey home.

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