Monday 14th May; the Purton Hulks
What a beautiful morning with the sun streaming through the windows! After a brief discussion we decided to stay put and do some jobs in this lovely spot. I started with some washing – we aren’t actually running out of things to wear, but with the weather so hot and sunny I grabbed the opportunity – it was done by hand but still almost dry by the end of the morning. Dave washed the roof to get rid of the Gloucester seagull splat, then did the starboard side too. I cleaned the cratch cover, then started indoors till the little Dyson ran out of juice then I skulked inside with a coffee while Dave finished the washing and polishing.
We set off well after 11. It’s such a luxury not having to open your own swing bridges. And without any locks to do we will be getting quite lazy if we don’t watch out. Three boats had passed us while we were working this morning, two from one direction and one from the other, yet all within about 2 minutes. We thought a big barge was coming our way too, but as we approached and went past we realised it wasn't going anywhere …..
We stopped for lunch on the approach to Saul Junction, before going through the bridge and making use of the service block. We had planned to walk down the Stroudwater canal but it was too hot for Meg in the middle of the day so that is planned for the return journey. Instead we cracked on towards Sharpness. A boat that passed us as we took on water had pulled in at a building project and appeared to be delivering some timber, wrapped in polythene on the roof.
Soon we had our first view of the Severn through the trees.
We passed through Splatt and Patch bridges, noting the mooring for Slimbridge which we hope to visit, and then through Purton. We had no idea where to moor to go and see the Hulks and quite by chance picked the perfect spot, though a little gardening was required to avoid being stung by nettles as we got on and off. Meg was keen to get going as she hadn’t had much attention today! The Purton Hulks is a collection of old barges and other craft which were beached over a period of years to help stabilise the banks, after a major landslip in 1909 led to fears that the canal bank would be breached. In the last few years they have been recorded and plaques have been installed to identify them. They are in various states of decrepitude.
All that’s left of Katharine Ellen?
According to a document I found while googling, Catharine Ellen (different spelling) was an ocean-going schooner which has been buried by the tides, and that is all that is visible now. According to Wikipedia, which uses the K spelling, she was impounded in1921 for gun-running to the IRA!
Harriet has been designated an ancient monument and fenced off to protect the remains from visitors who might be tempted to clamber over her. She is thought to be the only surviving example of a Kennet barge, built at Honeystreet on the Kennet and Avon canal. She is on the National Register of Historic Vessels, as are a number of the ferro-concrete barges (all designated as FCB and a number).
Out in the river is a wreck. There used to be a railway crossing here on a 21-span bridge. But in October 1960, according to a Cruise Guide in Canal Boat last year, two large barges carrying oil and petrol crashed into the bridge piers in thick fog and exploded. We later heard that they had missed the entrance to Sharpness lock and been swept upstream by the strong tide. Five crew were killed and the bridge damaged beyond repair. This is all that remains ….
apart from some remains of the bridge which we should see tomorrow on our way to Sharpness.
We cut through back up to the towpath near the first milepost we have noticed on the canal – 1 mile to Sharpness and 15 to Gloucester.
We walked past the boat, just pausing long enough for Meg to hop aboard and get a drink, then followed a footpath along the estuary to the pub marked on the map. We found it, but opening hours are only 7-10 during the week, and 12-2 as well at the weekend. Maybe the owners are at work during the week and this is a way to keep it open. On our way I took this picture upstream of the extensive sandbanks and mudflats at low tide.
Two and a half hours later, Dave took Meg out again and this is what he found – it pays to have your wits about you round here! The tide was running very fast against the river flow and was still coming in.
This is the view downstream with a wind turbine and a hulk to frame the view.
The sky had been that clear blue all day. How long will it last?
8½ miles, 8 swing bridges all done for us.