Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Carry on up the Severn

Upstream from Tewkesbury to Stourport
September 2015

After a week of going with the flow on the Avon it was payback time - two days of pushing the relentless flow of the River Severn.

Breasted up on the River Severn

To be fair, the river was well in the green zone so there was never a better time to have a go at this mighty waterway with the butty in tow. The first decision was to go breasted up or on straps? Progress line astern is certainly a bit faster but abreast is more maneuverable, better controlled in the locks and has the added benefit of being able to get in and out of the butty whilst on the move.

Plastic boat territory

Abreast it was then, so we sorted ourselves out as we waited for the Tewkesbury Lock Keeper to return from her lunch break, using both the front mooring rope from Wand'ring Bark, plus the butty's front rope to tie her nose in tight. We set it up so both rear bulkheads were about level and the end result is a surprisingly stable combo. Whilst progress is slowed to about 4.5 mph over the water and 3.5 mph against the land, there is no tendency to drag to one side as you might expect. 

 Birdlife abounds

Then it is just a case of exercising patience, accepting that other craft will pass you but sure in the knowledge that we will get there in the end. If Pearson says an hour for 4 miles expect to take an hour and a half.

After about three hours at the tiller Upton hove into view and as soon as I rounded the bend I had my telescopic lens out and I was looking to see in there was any mooring room on the pontoon. Moorings are scarce hereabouts and I was delighted to see just two narrowboats tied on, so plenty of room for us.

Upton on Severn

As we drew closer I was both amazed and delighted to realise that one of the boats was Briar Rose, with Adam and Adrian in attendance. This was one of those happy coincidences which happen from time to time and in a flash meal plans were altered so we could all spend the evening together. Lots of wine was consumed along with just about all their cheese (we provided the chutney and extra crackers because, strangely, we have plenty of both on board).

Briar Rose at Upton on Severn

Adam and Adrian slipped away at 8.30am the next day heading for Gloucester whilst we had a wander around Upton discovering that the quirky bookshop is no more. But as recompense we found a tree of amazing John Downey Crab Apples and its owner was more than happy to let us pick a bag.

The day was wall to wall sunshine which showed the Severn at its sparkling best. The wildlife was out in force but very few boats were on the move. 


We were planning to aim  for Stourport but with the locks closing at 7.00pm it was clear this was not possible. Instead we kept going till we passed Holte Lock and moored on the upper lock landing for the night. There are few moorings on the part of the river and the lock keeper was happy to leave us there, so long as we were away by 9.00am the next morning. As we moored up we saw an amazing orchard on the lock island and after making suitable requests permission was given for us to pick cooking and eating apples plus damsons and plums. In one fell swoop we had made up for the thin pickings over the last few days.

Moody River Severn

Come 9.00am on Tuesday morning we were up and away through a mist so thick I couldn't see the end of the lock cut. We completed the trip up through the final lock in a little world of our own, dropping the butty astern as we approached Stourport and a return to the intimacy of the narrow canals.

A sad end for a BCN day boat

Whilst rivers are not as good as canals, at least this trip has given us confidence to tackle moving water with the butty in tow, and even to run the fast water outside Gloucester Docks at some point in the future.

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