Monday 31 July 2017

Gloucester and Sharpness Canal. Saul Junction to Splatt Bridge Via Sharpness.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that after three weeks of driving around the country visiting a sizable proportion of our friends and relations we’d have given ourselves a rest, but no. As soon as we’d unpacked and managed to find somewhere to put the leftover food that we’d brought home from the wedding, we were out for a walk round the Arlingham Horseshoe.
Our intention was to follow the loop in the river, walking along the flood bank.

This is a Big River.

Fishing the incoming tide.

It was a bit windy.

Really tall pylons span the river.

There's another lightship.

About half way round it became apparent that if we didn’t re-arrange our plans, by the time we got back to Legend we’d be either walking in the dark or hungry. Neither option was desirable, and the thought of both together was completely unacceptable, so instead we cut across the loop, through Arlingham, Milton End and along the end bit of the Stroudwater Canal, and were home just in time for tea.

Dave’s sister Kate had been one of Cat and Ben’s wedding guests and after the weekend, she’d gone to see a cousin of ours in Leicester. After that she came to stay with us for a week. Dave picked her up from Worcester Train Station and we had a very pleasant evening catching up. In the morning we cast off and with a quick stop at Saul Junction sanitary station made our way to Splat Bridge near Frampton on Severn.
Passing through Saul Junction Bridge.

Kate at the tiller.

As far as we’re concerned, this is the G&S at its best – beautiful views over the river on one side and a glorious village on the other.

We moored up and had a sumptuous picnic lunch on the towpath before going for a walk through Frampton. A tithe barn, endless picturesque cottages with equally picturesque gardens, a large village green dotted with ponds and a cricket pitch, two good-looking pubs and a community shop all await the visitor to this quintessentially English village.

We bought some blackcurrants from a garden gate table and, after a game of Cluedo (which Ann-Marie won), and good helping of delicious Moroccan Chicken, had them for pudding.

Our next move was down to Purton. On the way, Kate opted for a berth in third class in the tender.
Third class accommodation. 
Just messing about in the river.
Next morning we left Kate in charge and walked back for the car, passing the Slimbridge Bird Sanctuary and helping the Shepherds Patch bridge keeper rescue a swimming hedgehog.
Back at Purton we all had a walk around the ships’ graveyard. We came here with John and Cam a couple of years ago when we were staying with them – on that morning it was cold, misty and a bit spooky – today we could see right across the river.

The next day we had another look at low tide.

In thick fog on the night of the 25th of October 1960, two oil tankers travelling up the river from Bristol missed the dock entrance at Sharpness. Not realising their mistake, they continued upstream until they hit one of the Severn & Wye railway bridge supports and burst into flames. Three of the crew were rescued from the river but sadly five were lost.  The wreckage of the two oil tankers can be clearly seen embedded in the mud along with pieces of the bridge which was subsequently demolished; a reminder of just how much respect this big river demands.
From there it was a short move down to the moorings just before Sharpness.

According to our Nicholson Guide there are services at Sharpness but, apart from a tap, there aren’t, so we went for a walk instead.
After crossing the high-level bridge and following the Severn Way round to the dock we came to the picnic site overlooking the piers protecting the sea lock.

We munched through our sandwiches then carried on down the flood-bank for a bit, but it was too hot and humid to go far.

Because of the lack of an Elsan at Sharpness and in order to avoid a cassette crisis, instead of staying the night there we turned round (which, in a channel 80’ wide, we can do almost anywhere) and went back to Purton where the car was. With both cassettes, the rubbish bag and all our re-cycling in the boot and armed with a washing kit each we drove back up to Saul Junction, returning an hour later, showered, clean and fresh. When we got back Edward Elgar was moored behind us, making Legend look very tiny in comparison.
Next morning, with the heatwave still continuing, we drove over to Dursley for a look round. There was a well and some lovely buildings to look at, and we found out that Mr Lister had his factory here. Which means that our engine had come home! On the shelf in a café we noticed a Cluedo box so we had another game and Ann-Marie won again. From there we went to Wotton under Edge where we found a café with outside tables in a lovely little cottage garden. Despite intending to just have a light lunch, we were tempted by the Full English, and then felt compelled to work off the calories and guilt by climbing up to the Tyndale Monument.

This time when we got back T.S. John Jerwood was moored up behind us, again making us look tiny. After tea we had an evening cruise back down to Sharpness. First thing in the morning T.S. John Jerwood came past us heading for the lock and the morning tide. Dave was immediately up and out with the camera.

He got to the high level bridge just in time to see the bridge keepers shutting it...
No push buttons for these guys!
...and managed to get round to the lock in time to catch the John Jerwood as it set off down the river towards Bristol.

After Kate went home we boated back up to Splatt Bridge where we moored up with the solar panels in the sun and set up the latest of our (hopefully) Good Ideas; an automatic watering system for the plants on the roof.
For £6 we bought a 12 volt timer switch…
...which is attached to a small bilge pump…

 …which hangs in the water and goes into a micro irrigation system…
…which, via several T junctions ends up at one of these drippers in each plant pot.
With a bit of experimenting we found that 45 minutes each day was enough to keep the saucers full and, if we also emptied the fridge and turned it off, wouldn’t put too much strain on the batteries. We set it to come on each morning, giving the solar panels plenty of time to recharge the batteries even on dull days.

Having that set up and taking care of things means that we can go away from the boat in the summer for as long as we like knowing that a) the plants won’t die, and b) it will look as if it is continuously occupied. Also, in the winter, we can plug a couple of lights into the timer which we can set for different times each day on a weekly cycle. Very handy.

A problem has raised its head over the past few months. If you were paying attention Dear Reader, you will remember that we blacked Legend at Easter using a relatively new product called Keelblack. Thinking that he was doing the right thing, Dave put a coat of rust converter on before the blacking, but over the last couple of months it has become apparent that this was not a good idea. The rust converter and the Keelblack are incompatible; something Dave would have known if he’d read the rust converter tech sheet properly, and all the blacking is coming off.
We’ve written to Keelblack who, without admitting responsibility, have offered to give us another 10 litres, which is as good as we could hope for.
So, because there is a year-long waiting list at Hawne Basin, we’ve booked into the dry dock at Stourport. The first booking they had was in October which means that we’ll be kicking our heels down here for a little while longer than we first thought, and then going up to Stourport and onto the Staffs and Worcestershire canal rather than the River Avon to Stratford. The end result remains the same though; down the Oxford canal to the Thames in the spring, then the Wey, Basingstoke and the Kennet and Avon over the next two years.

One canal that Legend can’t get to (without the help of a lorry) is the Mon and Brec, so when we found out there was going to be a Waterways Recovery Group canal camp there we signed up for it. WRG is something we’ve only recently got involved with; so far we’ve been to two weekends so a week-long camp will be a step into the dark. This afternoon (July 15th) we packed up our steel toe-capped boots, every sock we own, a bag full of scruffs each and as many waterproofs as we could find and piled it all into the boot. As well as us newbies there are going to be 15 volunteers camping in a church hall for a week and we’ll let you know how it all went next time.

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