Holiday Boating

Well, off we went. Young Ryan Dimmock (of Southern Cross fame) had never seen the sea, he said, so we offered him the chance of a lifetime - a trip down the Severn to that fine Gloucestershire resort of Sharpness. Needless to say, he jumped at the chance. 


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We loaded him up with coal on the off-chance that our customers would want some, and set off. We managed to get to Stourport with few problems and many photo opportunities, and even managed a pint or two in a pub or two. Having off-loaded some coal on the way, we eventually locked down onto the Severn, where Ryan’s grin widened as he realised that deep water was available. PLAYTIME! 

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Even though Southern Cross appears to have been built with two rear ends, it doesn’t go too badly. It’s not got the sleek, sporty lines of a Josher (like Roach!), but Ryan did manage to keep up after a fashion. A few shots of the boats are included here for the delectation of the armchair enthusiast.

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A cracking trip was had down the river to Worcester, where Jake, the skipper of the trip boat, decided to show Ryan what a ship-shaped boat was capable of by whizzing past him under Worcester Bridge causing very little wash. 

A large delivery of coal at the Diglis Lock island was interrupted by astonishingly heavy rainfall, but with Ryan and I being hardy souls, the delivery was eventually made even though some of the bags were still damp. We even amaze ourselves sometimes. 

Upton-upon-Severn was our host that night, and we tied on the concrete steps below the bridge. It was a Friday night and absolutely dead. There was hardly anyone in any of the pubs, so we manfully set about helping the local economy all on our own. Come the morning, it transpired that Southern Cross was parked on a rock and could not move. I was already half a mile down the river before I noticed that Southern Cross had not moved, so I reversed back up the river to assist. Having snapped Ryans front tying-up rope trying to pull him off, I tied abreast of him and all of the the mighty HR2’s horses were brought into play; no problem - the boat was free.

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We decided to continue down to Upper Lode Lock breasted up, so that Ryan could concentrate on polishing his brasses up to dazzling on the Brasso-ometer. The wind was up and this caused quite a lot of spray from the fore-ends; this only served to heighten Ryans’ excitement. 

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Upper Lode Lock is unusual in that it has a tidal basin at the lower end of it. This basin has steps set into the sides up which we unloaded coal for Paul in the lock house. We carry out this drop with the lock full, as there are fewer steps to negotiate. This is a major consideration for someone of my advancing years. 

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After dropping coal at various public houses along the way, we eventually landed in Gloucester. There had been a big tide, so we came down the East Channel towards Gloucester Lock at a good lick, accompanied by various items of flotsam. The brakes had to be applied sharply as we came round the last turn onto the quay-side as the light for the lock was showing red. We got a green light just as we were about to grab the chains hanging from the quay-side and so entered the lock without further ado. After rising up the lock, we passed through Gloucester Docks and noted the appalling state of the ex-working narrow boats on display outside the Waterways Museum. The state of these boats is even more galling as the Canal & River Trust has just re-opened the museum with a mass of publicity trumpeting the excellence of said museum. After passing under Llanthony lift bridge we had a quick stop at Sainsburys to top up the pot-noodle supply. There is a light-ship tied on this length, and it is for sale. I’m not quite sure what one could do with such a vessel - I don’t think that it has its’ own motive power. At present I think that the owners offer some sort of holistic foot massage; the speed at which the light flashes probably signifies the extent of the current clients delight.

Sharpness was eventually achieved after a night of drunken debauchery at the Ship Inn, Framilode in the company of a whole host of local inebriates; the Langfords, Mr Cawston, the Mitchells, Mr Jones et al. A fine night over which a veil is best drawn.

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Having made our deliveries at Sharpness, and been fed home-made scones with jam and cream by the lovely Sue Painter, we found time to wander down to the old dock. Our intrepid traveller, Mr Dimmock, was certainly taken with Sharpness and spent a whistful minute or two staring out along the Severn estuary, dreaming, no doubt, about taking Southern Cross abroad to Lydney. My mate Bernie who hails from these parts joined us here, and so we set sail for a few minutes to tie up by Purton to view the “Hulks”. These are a number of barges that have been driven onto the bank between the canal and the river on big tides to provide bank protection. Some of these vessels are still recognisable, but most have either been covered over with mud deposited by the tide, or the timbers have disappeared over time. They are absolutely fascinating and well worth visiting.

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That night was spent in Gloucester, and after a few drinkies, we walked to Over Bridge to view the Severn Bore. It was due at a quarter to midnight and we were the only two people there. It turned out to be a very good bore, and made a fine end to the day. All in all, it seems that Ryan enjoyed his sojourn Severn-side, and he has even suggested that he would like to do the trip again. He did say that his outstanding memory of the trip would be the other Jules (Julian Jones) astride his tiny tractor as he fetched his coal from the boats at Sandfield Bridge.

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