Diglis Lock to Gloucester Docks Pontoon
Plenty of miles to cover today, so no Sunday cooked breakfast for us today.
Our push off was a little bit later than planned, but we still had plenty of time to make it down the Severn to Gloucester in one go. We reversed out from our space and backed up past NB Chrysalis, we’ll most probably see them in the week as they are heading all the way to Sharpness and then have a pilot booked to get them to Bristol! One day we might just be brave enough to do this journey.
We winded nearer the lock, avoiding being anywhere near to the weir and called the Lock Keeper. All the locks on the Severn are manned and a phone call or vhf radio call stirs them into action. We had a short wait for him to set the lock for us with the red flashing light, then once the gates were opening a green arrow pointed us towards the small lock. There are two locks here one small, which we could have shared and a large one, which looks like we’d have fitted in eight times. The large lock is currently closed, but I suspect we’d have been directed to the small one anyway.
As we pulled in, I first of all couldn’t see the dreaded wire risers. But they were just metal wire, not covered in a blue sleeve like they are on the Trent. Mick slowed Oleanna down and I passed my bow line round it as calmly as I could. Even though my rope had been coiled well it decided to tie itself into a knot just as Mick was wanting to pull the back in to get his line round a riser too. Fortunately the knot gave way and we pulled Oleanna into the side. Phew! I don’t like risers (only click on the link if you are not squeamish).
Dropping only a couple of feet we were now on our way, fast along the river. Boats like being able to go faster than most canals allow, Oleanna slipped along with ease doubling our normal cruising speed. At first we were reminded of the Ouse with trees down to the water line and not much view. Then the Malvern Hills came into sight as the channel opened out a bit.
There was a bit more traffic than we’ve been used to of late, but not too much to start with. A small cruiser passed us slowing as he did so, then cranking it up leaving us to rise and fall with his wake.
Should we have wanted to stop there was nowhere until we reached Upton On Severn. A 48hr mooring and another for partons of the many river side pubs and hotels. Here we spied NB Henry Thomas whom we’d met in Llangollen. With what looked like an interesting church tower topped with a copper cupola Upton looks like a place we may stop at on our return.
It being the weekend we weren’t going to meet any gravel barges, they were all moored up at a wharf side by side waiting for Monday.
Mythe Bridge spans the Severn shortly before the turning onto the River Avon and Tewkesbury, I do like a good Tewkesbury! Designed by Thomas Telford it was built in 1826, one large elegant iron span with a criss crossed structure. In 1992 the bridge was strengthened so that it could withstand modern traffic weighing up to 17 tonnes.
We continued round to the right on the Severn towards Upper Lode Lock. When it came into sight Mick called the Lockie, but only got the answer phone. Up along the side of the lock we could see him being busy cutting grass, no chance he’d hear the phone. So we trod water as there wasn’t really anywhere to tie up to until he spotted us. The light flashed red and then turned to green and we were in. We started to sort our ropes out, but the Lockie said we needn’t as we were on our own. The lock is an unusual shape as it widens out towards the bottom gates. The Lockie had set the lock for a boat coming up stream, but it hadn’t shown, most probably stopped somewhere enroute, so he’d had to refill the huge lock for us. The river level board was showing green above the lock, and amber falling water levels below.
Verbal instructions were given to us about our approach to Gloucester Lock. You need to call the Lockie as you approach Upper Parting, where the river splits three miles out, take the channel to the left. Then as the lock comes into sight slow down. If the red light is flashing hang back, pass a stern rope around the chains on the wall and wait for the light to go green. This is because in this lock you go up and the paddles that empty it can cause quite a bit of turbulence. Then on the green follow the profile of the wall, don’t pull outwards, into the lock with a bit of umph so as not to get pulled to the right and down the channel that leads to the weir. Instructions received and understood we were allowed on our way.
There were plenty more possible moorings along this stretch, numerous pubs with their own pontoons looked enticing. Should we stop for lunch, we decided not to.
When I bobbed below to make sandwiches I could hear the engine tone change from ahead to reverse, what was happening? There was a dinghy tacking it’s way along the river, so Mick hung back until it had passed our course and then full steam ahead to get through before they’d turned and headed straight for us again. Collision avoided. But up ahead there were even more dinghies. Mick did his best and the boats did their best. I looked out of the window to see one chap let go of the pontoon as the sail filled, his face suddenly struck with panic as he realised he was on collision course with us! Then the strain dropped from his face as he realised he would actually just miss us. Phew all round!
The phone call was made at Upper Parting and we were asked how long we thought we’d be. ‘No idea, we’ve never been this way before!’ We were now in a cutting rather than a river, a whole different feel to it. A dart of blue shot across the water top. This is only our second sighting of a Kingfisher since the canals froze, I suspect the lack of water to fish in had an effect on numbers.
Monitoring the VHF radio we started to hear crackles of conversation. One audible extract was ‘It’s half empty’. Would the lock be ready for us? After several bridges the wall with chains came into view, soon followed by the lock entrance. The light was red flashing, but the gates were open and the lock empty. The light turned green, we wouldn’t have to cling onto the wall.
Once in the lock, we passed our ropes around the risers slowly and with care. Looking back towards Mick signalling that I was ready I could see that over the lock there was a road bridge. The Lockie came out from his booth and crossed the road. All three of us gave a thumbs up, we were ready to go up. It took forever for anything to happen, I wondered if he was going to have to open the bridge before we rose in the lock, but still nothing happened. Bigger boats would necessitate the bridge being opened, but we’d miss it. After a few minutes I could at last see that water was being let in, very gently holding us against the wall. It was one of the most gentle river locks we’ve been in, we hardly needed the ropes.
We had a choice of where to moor. Either on the wall where we could hook up to electric or round on the pontoons. Opting for the pontoons we winded assisted by the wind and pulled up. We’d made it, an easier cruise than we’d thought, narrowly avoiding dinghies and having done a load of washing and a dishwasher load full too, bonus. What a place to moor, surrounded by refurbished warehouses, tall ships with rigging, quite a sight.
3 locks, 28.67 miles, 1 reverse, 2 winds, 2 rights, 2 lefts, 5 hours cruise, 1 flymo, 1 length of string, 2 many places to stop on the way back, 1 pot bellied lock, 0 bucket, 7 rowing boats, 3 cruisers, 2 at really bad times, 6 dinghies, 1 panic stricken face, 1 topiary motorbike, 1 Kingfisher, 9.75 digits still, 2 dry docks, 1 full, 1 not so full, 1 more day without shore leave!
Severn River level at 9am today (at Bewdley a mile upstream from Stourport) 0.895m,
level at Diglis, Worcester at 9am today 0.763m,
level at Gloucester Docks at 9am today 0.872m.