Tuesday 15th May; Purton to Sharpness, then Splatt
We were on the move earlier than usual, at 8.30. When the morning is so sunny and bright it doesn’t seem right to slum around inside, so it was straight down to Sharpness. Here were the railway bridge piers that weren’t demolished after the disaster described in the previous post.
At the far end of the visitor moorings we found Cathy and Michael, who we had met at Tewkesbury. They were waiting for the Anglo-Welsh engineer to bring a new set of batteries. On we went along the marina moorings to Sharpness point where the outgoing tide was barrelling past the wall at tremendous speed.
I did take a video but I can’t work out how to register with YouTube to upload it at the moment.
In the hazy distance the two Severn Bridges were just visible.
There are lots of mown paths all round this area, popular with dog walkers.
Apparently you can follow them all the way to the lock that leads from the docks to the estuary, but somehow we missed a vital turning and ended up alongside the dock fences. There was a small engine and wagon quietly rusting in the grass with the old tracks now partially buried.
On the way back we passed a memorial to TS Vindicatrix, a training ship which took boys aged 15-17 and trained them for service in the Merchant Navy. The boys from the Gravesend Sea School were evacuated here during WWII.
There was time to cruise back to moor before Patch Bridge for an early lunch. I bought some amazing tomatoes in Tewkesbury Farmers’ Market on Saturday – called Chocolate Cherry, they are grown in hothouses in Worcestershire and were delicious!
Though the sun was strong it was shining on the stern of the boat rather than the side, so we knew that Meg would be ok on her own for a few hours if we closed the curtains, opened all the windows and took some of the hoppers out to maintain the air flow. Then off we went to the Slimbridge Wetlands Centre. The wild Bewick’s swans will be back in Russia now but some ‘decoys’ live here all year round. Their beaks show they are not mute swans, and they have straighter necks and a different call too.
Cranes, which used to be common in the UK (place names such as Cranbrook indicate where they were known in the past) have been re-introduced in Somerset over the last few years. Some of these wild ones visit Slimbridge and this year are breeding here.
Large numbers of moorhens have chosen to live and breed here, which could have something to do with the food people buy to feed the wildfowl … but it does make for easier photography than from a moving boat!
We saw three kinds of flamingos – Andean and Chilean below, and Caribbean beneath them. The Andean were my favourites. I think the Caribbean look like boiled prawns.
We sat (very quietly) in the Kingfisher hide for quite a while watching the kingfishers zooming back and forth feeding their young. Unfortunately the nest hole was behind some reeds and we didn’t have the equipment (or expertise) to get a photograph as they shot by. Then we found a pond with Eider ducks. I love their calls, ‘Oooh, Oooooh’ very Frankie Howerd. Here are a male and female snuggling in their very own eiderdowns, and a close-up of the handsome markings of the male.
Before we left we visited the hides along the creeks leading to the river. We were lucky enough to see a little egret catch a fish, before it disobligingly walked behind a fence to eat it.
Finally we saw what we thought might be an avocet, confirmed by someone who knew what he was talking about (and had a big telescope too). But it wouldn’t turn its head for a picture to be taken. I think it’s actually preening, with its curved beak pointing at its left shoulder.
We walked back to the boat eating ice-creams (over a mile, I’ll have you know, so we felt we deserved them) to find Meg cool and comfortable and wanting to play. But we wanted to move on a bit before the evening, so through Patch bridge we went with its flamingo and otter sculpture,
and past the work boat which had moved up from Purton where we last saw it. It had what looked like a load of cement and fencing so clearly some work is scheduled here.
When we reached Splatt, the bridge keeper had the bridge open long before we arrived so we felt obliged to go through. Luckily there was plenty of room to moor the far side too.
We walked up along the field path towards Frampton and through a magnificent avenue of chestnuts (though several had died or been felled, it was still a beautiful sight). Conker heaven this autumn I should think!
We were just at the bar in the Three Horseshoes when Cathy and Michael from the Anglo-Welsh boat came in, and we had a great evening in their company, enjoying a lovely meal too (3-Shu pies, lovely). As well as being hirers of many years’ experience they also move boats for Anglo-Welsh. They found the Gloucester and Sharpness canal refreshing – there is much less prejudice against hirers because not many of them make it down here. The bridge-keepers kept recording Anglo-Welsh as the boat’s name, as they weren’t familiar with the company.
A busy day today, we should sleep well - because of all the walking of course, nothing to do with the drink or pies ….
10 miles, 5 swing bridges, lots of flamingos and two delicious 3-Shu pies.