After the somewhat turbulent trip down to Portishead it was with a little trepidation that at least one of the crew on the good ship Wren awaited the opening of the lock gates onto the Severn at 6am on Wednesday morning. But as they slowly opened the water of the estuary gleamed like a smooth sheet of glass and a light breeze blew very gently - a lovely clear morning with the rising sun shining on the water and the distant Welsh hills. It was a big relief!
Tim, the pilot, came aboard to guide skipper Peter through the channels and currents up to Sharpness where all boats have to leave the narrowing and increasingly winding river to travel up the straight and wide Gloucester and Sharpness Canal to the junction with a more sedate River Severn. Wren reached the entry to the canal at 9am - just 3 hours and 3 cups of tea after leaving Portishead. The pilot then left to guide another narrow boat back down the estuary on the ebbing tide and the crew relaxed for an hour - Peter even had time for a shower while Wren was moored in the lock!
At 10am the lock was opened and Wren progressed northwards passing through a series of swing bridges; some electric, some manual and all operated with traffic lights by Canal and River Trust employees. The canal and the river run parallel for much of the way and sandwiched between them at one point is the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve at Slimbridge where the skipper, first mate and cabin girl took a break to go and do a bit of twitching (birdwatching) for a few hours. It was a beautifully warm afternoon for wandering around looking at swans, geese, ducks, flamingoes and even some otters. It was also a lovely afternoon to have a little rest (for Peter) after the early start and excitement of the morning.
Returning to the waiting Wren the next priority was finding a mooring for the night and this was found near Frampton on Severn, a pretty village with, reputably, the largest village green in England. From the canal it was just a short stroll to the north end of the green where The Bell public house was situated and where a hearty meal was enjoyed followed by about an hour of the Wales v Portugal Euro 2016 match. After the second goal was conceded the crew decided to call it a day and returned to the mooring which, perhaps unwisely, was right opposite a large illuminated corn mill that seemed to operate day and night. However, neither the humming sound of extraction fans or the security lights seemed to prevent anyone from getting a good night's sleep.
On Thursday morning it was a peaceful 2 hour cruise through a few more swing bridges and up the canal to Gloucester Docks where Alex packed up his small amount of luggage and unpacked his Brompton folding bike to make his way back to Ellesmere by train and cycle while Claire and Peter set off to do their own thing - Peter to go swimming and Claire to replenish the ships' provisions. The only little mishap was a malfunctioning debit card for Claire - Peter will have to do the shopping from now on!