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The Odyssey Summer 2008 – Day 33

Posted by indigodream on 25 August, 2008

Gloucester Docks to Sharpness

Our plans for today were to cruise down the canal to Sharpness and back – hah, I don’t think we’ve made our schedule since we started our odyssey back in June! Never mind…..

Rock on the dock!

Rock on the dock!

I started the day with another long rummage round Castle Meads while Richard went under Llanthony Bridge to fill up with water and do a pump-out. There are good facilities here with visitor moorings at the far end of Llanthony pontoons. I felt a bit guilty getting the bridge lifted just to get to the services, then again to get back to the docks to meet our friends, then again (!) to get back down the canal! Luckily it’s an electrically operated bridge – I think the bridge-keeper might have been less tolerant if he’d had to hand-winch it!

Note: Llanthony pump-out needs a BW card – obtainable from the Gloucester Dock lock-keeper not the Llanthony Bridge Keeper.

The happy crew (dogs asleep inside!)

The happy crew (dogs asleep inside!)

We were joined today by some very old friends who’ve done a lot of cruising with us over the years – Neil, Jenny and daughter Hannah plus two dippy spaniels Max and Hugo! Richard went to meet them in the car park as there is a trick to doggie introductions – if they meet on neutral ground our two are absolutely fine; but if we bring people/dogs onto the boat then there’s a commotion! While all this was going on I got some tips from our narrowboat neighbours and found out that the stage being built on the dockside was for an all-day show “Rock on the Dock” (see photo above). We were gutted – we’ve been stuck in the dock for a fortnight and the minute they laid on some entertainment we moved on!

Crew plus dogs!

Crew plus dogs!

As always, we were late setting out – not normally a problem but there were restrictions on Hempstead Bridge which was only opening once an hour on the hour; we just missed it so that was another delay. The reason for the restriction was boat racing on the other side. Just as well, it was bad enough going through between races – I hate it when the ‘safety’ boats cut over in front of me. I don’t think they realise how invisible they are when they pass right in front of my bow!

We’ve talked to lots of boaters about the Gloucester and Sharpness – everyone told us that it was well worth doing. I was doubtful myself – by the time we’d been through the first god knows how many swing bridges and commented on the breadth and depth of the canal that seemed to be it!

Wide vistas on a broad canal

Wide vistas on a broad canal

But it was better than, say, the Kennet and Avon, the depth meant that we could hack along at 1800 revs and the bridges were all manned! The local boaters were a cheerful lot and the bridgekeepers were very helpful.

The Oliver Cromwell

The Oliver Cromwell

We stopped for lunch at the Pilot Inn – the moorings are just before the bridge. Just after we moored, the bridge was swung for Oliver Cromwell, an ENORMOUS trip boat that regularly plies the canal. We heard the vhf chat that she was on her way. Word on the cut says that your experience with the Oliver Cromwell depends on which skipper is on duty – luckily we were safely moored when she came past! The pub is a pleasant place for a drink, the service was lovely and it was very reasonably priced. But I thought the food let it down – I had a mixed grill which didn’t resemble the description on the menu and seemed to be made up of random ends of meat that they’d found in the fridge. Obviously not a problem – odds and ends of meat are never wasted with our two on board!

As the afternoon wended on, I started catching glimpses of the great Severn valley and the Welsh hills beyond. I did think that this made up for the otherwise dull terrain but there was more to come at the end of the day!

We’d heard that there was a fuel boat plying its trade on the canal and towards the end of the day

A glimpse of Wales

A glimpse of Wales

we finally found Stokie. Their diesel was a very reasonable 79p/litre and they were lovely people. Yet more delay ensued as we chatted about the state of the world and of diesel duty in particular.

By now, I have to admit I was a little fed up with the canal – there had been a relentless wind blowing all day, making the rudder heavy, and there were just too many swing bridges! The fact that we had great company on board made all the difference but I was feeling a bit guilty about bringing them on such a dull trip. Neil is immensely strong and we normally get him on board when we have a murderous number of locks to tackle – he was amazed that there weren’t any! But then we came to the large piers that mark the old railway line and got a glimpse of what must be one of the best views from the water anywhere.

What a view!

What a view!

I can barely describe it, the dramatic stone piers, the deceptively low stone wall by the towpath then the drop down to the magnificent sweep of the river over to the colourful harvest patchwork of the Welsh hills. I was utterly utterly captivated. We turned the boat by the marina entrance (before the high and low bridges) and moored on the towpath just before the railway piers.

Note: Don’t go into the marina unless you have a berth there – there isn’t room to turn at the end and it looks like an awkward reverse.

There were lots of boats here and we felt very secure – there just aren’t any roads around!

This proved to be a bit of a disadvantage when we thought about how to get back to the cars. There are no shops or pubs nearby but who cares, it’s such a wonderful spot to moor! We had an extended wander round the marina – if you’re there the you MUST walk right to the end of the basin. There is a tremendous view down to the two Severn road bridges as well as the grand old lock. Follow the path

The Severn Crossings

The Severn Crossings

round and you’ll eventually get to the Dock Workers Club.This has been highly recommended to us as a place for a drink and a bit of company – sadly closed when we passed by but a watering hole for the future! We sent Richard and Neil back to Gloucester for the cars and we girls sat on the lawn outside the club and caught up on life, the universe and everything!

I must mention that we met narrowboat Debdale on our travels but sadly we didn’t meet Adam as we don’t think he has the boat until September. We thought about introducing ourselves as we passed by but Blue and Lou were having a mad greyhound moment on the towpath, chasing each other round and barking wildly. Debdale’s occupants looked so horrified we just walked past quickly!

We said a reluctant goodbye to our guests – all of the dogs have behaved brilliantly today (apart from the end of day mad moment from our two!). Then we had a decision to make – given that our schedule was already in shreds and we had a secure 14-day mooring we decided to leave the boat here and spend bank holiday monday at home. The garden’s reached the stage where a machete just won’t do it and we’ve had to ask the US military for some Agent Orange!

Yet more views!

Yet more views!

It was sunset and the gentle light made a painting of every scene. We spent ages just looking over the estuary – the water and the light were draining away hand in hand, leaving soft yellow sands and the sighs of the sedges. It’s hard to believe that there’s a great river here. The dry channel was inviting – it looked, deceptively, as if you could walk over to Wales without wellies. Across the channel we could see trains passing along the dramatic coastal railway. I don’t have the words – I only hope that the photoblog below says it for me. I believe that this is the most magical place that we have ever moored.

News Flash

As if ‘Rock on the Dock’ wasn’t exciting enough, as our correspondent passed through Gloucester in the evening, a fire had just started at the giant Next warehouse nearby There were dramatic scenes of smoke pouring from the roof and the blue flashing lights from the many fire engines made a fine light show to accompany the surrounding commotion.


Simply glorious

Simply glorious

The Old lock

The Old lock

Big rings for BIG boats!

Big rings for BIG boats!

ASBO dogs

Blue and Lou having a mad moment!

Views and views

Views and views!

5 Responses to “The Odyssey Summer 2008 – Day 33”

  1. Adam said

    Where did you see Debdale? I know that a couple of the owners were doing a remote handover on Friday at Evesham, so I suppose they would easily have got onto the G&S by Sunday.

    What’s your schedule now? Just wondering if our paths might cross when we’re on board next month. We’re setting out from Stockton Top on 12th, and heading down to Stratford, then the Avon, and the Severn to Stourport by the following weekend.

  2. indigodream said

    We saw Debdale coming up Gloucester Lock last Saturday then we moored a few boats up from her in Sharpness on Sunday. She looked very fine indeed!

    Our schedule – ah, yes, ha ha! We are heading up to Stratford this weekend (possibly) then towards Oxford the following weekend (who knows) then we’re taking a fortnight off to hit the Thames. It sounds as if we may well pass but our schedule’s been a bit erratic to say the least :-). Beep your horn loudly if you spot us – I may well be a nervous wreck after a virtuoso performance of ‘greyhounds running into walls’ and Richard may be busy proudly watching the voltmeter on our new batteries!

  3. indigodream said

    Oh Adam, if we do meet up (and I hope we do!) please forgive our ASBO dogs……

  4. Adam said

    I’ll keep my eyes peeled. And I have to warn the dogs that we’ll have a mother-in-law on board…

  5. indigodream said

    Hi Adam

    Actually there is a plan. We will definitely meet so start sharpening the battering ram.

    This weekend will be lazy – we are going to watch the tide coming in and may saunter closer to Gloucester on Sunday.

    We then don’t get back to the boat till the 8th and will head up the Avon / Stratford with a loose aim of getting to Napton Junction by the 15th.

    We then go and do some work getting back on board on the 20th (I will have a hangover, don’t tell Sue) with the aim of getting to Lechlade by 25th.

    So that’s the plan. Obviously the whole point of having a plan is so that you can change it …

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