Week ending 27th May 2012.

Take a rusty steel garage door, open and shut it a few hundred times, that’s what the seagulls sound like in Gloucester.
For a couple of days I thought it was people coming and going at an industrial unit on t’other side of the canal. I’m wiser now, it’s those pesky birds, possibly the new generation of gulls screaming to be fed.

Sunday was a veggie day, we sat around vegetating with Ter and Claire who slept-over on Saturday night. We resisted opening most of the mail they brought but V couldn’t resist looking at her tea delivery. Mike Barrie on Anastasia put her onto a supplier of interesting teas (Canton Tea Company) and she’s fast becoming addicted to the ‘difference’, creamier white tea than shop stuff and Jasmine is a delight to watch as well as drink as the leaves uncurl.

Monday we topped up at ACP fuels of Frampton which is probably the best place to buy diesel around here. A friendly service at 85p/litre (self declare), it beats the competition by 0.9p. You can’t be too careful, every penny counts doesn’t it.

With the back end down in the water again we set off south waving our magic wand at the all the bridges down to Sharpness. You just turn up and the bridges open without you having to lift a finger. I shall pay the boat licence without complaint next year now that I’ve seen how hard these guys work on the manual bridges.

I know the bridge keepers have cameras and can time bridge openings to the second but I’ve worked out that they derive some amusement from watching you put on the brakes as you draw level with the traffic lights. As soon as you move that throttle lever to go into reverse they flick the red light to green.
But I have developed a system, I fake the gear change movement and I now get my green light without slowing down.

Reaching the so called end of the navigation I felt cheated that we couldn’t cruise all the way to the sea lock. I had the same feeling when we reached Goole the other year, I wished they were more accommodating to boats when there is so little going on in the inland shipping scene.

There’s a high bridge and a low bridge and the low one is just a touch too low to let us pass without a ‘man’ to do the honours.
sharpness docks

In that last half mile or so to Nav’s end we spotted Terry and Pam on Roosters’ Rest, very nicely moored overlooking the River Severn. A lovely spot with fabulous views across the Severn to west Gloucestershire under almost continuous sunshine from dawn to dusk.

It was a perfect day for setting up the meat burner on the towpath and we ended up inside with Terry and Pam for a noggin or two.

High tide was around 9.30 and we marvelled at its speed around the old dock wall. I may have to rethink nipping out onto the river for a jolly at high water.
Can’t get to the real sea lock so here’s a picky of the old one at low tide.
old dock entrance

Tuesday was brilliant for a short walk to explore. Couldn’t get as close to the ships as I’d have liked but perhaps that was all for the best seeing as how the Maria was loading grain and the hayfever season is upon us.

Near the Dockers Club we found a monument to the Vindicatrix, the training ship for boys entering the Merchant Navy. Between 1943 and 1966 it is estimated that 70,000 boys were trained at the camp and on the ship which together were known as the National Sea Training School.

Does anyone remember how cold and damp it was a fortnight ago? Neither do we, funny how the memory works isn’t it.
V had a clear out of the cupboard space below the wardrobe and it wasn’t good news. There’s evidence of damp on the ply walls, and what’s worse, on her summer shoes.

“Look at this, I’ll need new shoes…..”

First time she’s used an excuse.

She wore them on our next walk and the whole of Sharpness agreed they were in a bad shape, especially when she pointed at them and pulled bits off to make things worse.

Bumped into a guy and asked him about his pride and joy – this ex RN Pinnace.
She’s about 100 years old, originally in steam and linked to owners in France and Belgium but nothing is known of her first 30 years.
He’s hoping someone will be able to shed light on her early years or indeed her time on the continent. He thinks that she is the only survivor of her kind.
ex RN pinnace

Talking of boats and ships we stopped off at the Purton Hulks on our way north on Wednesday.

Some of the Purton Hulks were barges built during WW2 (1941-ish) using ferro-cement because steel was in short supply. They were typically 84 feet long by 22 feet wide, grossing 332 tons and most were scuppered on the foreshore by the time they were 20 years old.
purton hulks

Having just read a book that touches on the subject of ferro-cement vessels I think I can understand why they had such a short life.

R.W Chandler (“Sparks at Sea”) writes about his first ferro-concrete coaster, the Lady Wolmer.
At 1883 tons she took her maiden voyage in 1941 from Newport to Barry, S.Wales to load coal for Devonport dockyard.

“Going through the dock gates in Barry, we hit the wall. A steel ship would not have noticed it but the Lady Wolmer gave a horrible crumbling sound”.

The dock pilot was somewhat surprised, being unaware that “he was handling the first of a long line of concrete coasters”.
Examination revealed a hole where a large section of concrete had crumbled away, leaving steel reinforcing rods open to the elements. Progress around the coast was slow because they were continually being held up for repairs to the concrete after touching dock walls.

Now I know why the hulks on the Severn had huge timber strakes protecting the bow.

But these aren’t the hulks we used to visit when we were kids, I remember wooden hulks possibly trows, not concrete barges. Were these further down the Severn?

There’s so much to see and learn along this canal, it’s hard to know where to stop.
The Severn Rail Bridge has to be mentioned because of its sad history.
I’ll leave that to you to research but just to say it’s disappearing fast, in fact this last remaining bridge arch will be gone by tomorrow.
Severn Rail Bridge

Thursday to Sunday saw us motor up to Gloucester to get a well earned rest on the wall at Sainsburys (right next to another blogger nb.Oakfield as it happens).

When my ship comes in I’ll be looking for one of these monsters.
She’ll have room inside for everything including my full size snooker table.
big one

Gloucester makes an ideal meeting place. Tim and Marion and Tim’s sister Celia called in on their way through which was great. We made a start on catching up on ten year’s news. This was the umpteenth attempt at getting us all in the picture and I forgot to smile. Nothing to do with my false teeth.

We also met up with Derek and Sheila taking nb.Clarence for a night up the town. I’m looking forward to hearing about their guest’s experiences of narrowboating in Europe.

We did the boat museum one morning, which was interesting, but I wasn’t overwhelmed by the exhibits. However, they do run a brilliant video showing lighters running from Avonmouth to the Sharpness and Gloucester Canal.

Here’s a piece of useless information. Did you know that the first narrow working boats in this part of the world were called long-boats and not narrow boats?
So perhaps one shouldn’t give quizzical looks to towpath walkers when they ask about living in a long boat.