English Holiday Cruises - Gloucester to Sharpness - Chapter 2
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What was that noise, ah yes, the alarm clock buzzing. Looking out of the cabin window dawn was breaking on a cloudless sky. Arriving in the saloon most of the other passengers were already there having an early morning cuppa before breakfast. Grabbing a mug of tea I head for the wheelhouse and a chat with Capt. Dave who tells me the boat was built in 1999 specifically for river cruising carrying a maximum of 22 passengers in 11 cabins and has a crew of 5 who all work as a team doing various jobs. The view from the windows was breath taking. A mist was covering part of the water and surrounding area, like a fairy wonderland as we quietly made our way along the canal and through the various swing bridges. Time for breakfast which again for a small boat the selection was a surprise. Choice of fruit juices, choice of cereals, fresh fruit salad, egg and bacon muffins and fresh coffee in a cafettiere. During breakfast the captain told us that we would be sailing to Purton for a guided tour of the Purton Hulks.
On arrival we were met by a very knowledgeable guide who took us to the hulks. In years gone by the River Severn which runs adjacent to the canal started to wear away the banks that separated the two. To avoid this an idea was developed to tow old barges to the river bank and allow them to form a barrier. The first barges were dumped there in 1909. Further vessels were added over the years and this continued until early in the 1970s. Each of these vessels was taken out of Sharpness Dock when the water was high enough, usually in the Spring and towed by a tug towards the shore. It was then released and allowed to impact with the river bank and imbed itself as far as possible. Holes were then knocked in the hull allowing silt to build up with the constant tides which then became a barrier protecting the river banks. Some of the old barges are now fully submerged with just their tiller arms above the surface whilst others still have their bows above the river line.
Back on board it was time for a game of Quoits on the upper open deck as we sailed along the canal to Frampton our next destination. Now whilst having seen this played many times on ships I had never indulged. However today was different, how can it be that difficult to throw a ring of rope into a square? Well, actually it is, and at the end of the match I had had the distinction of finishing last. Time for lunch, Jacket Potato and salad with a choice of Chilli, Beans or Cheese fillings followed by a desert. Just right.
On arrival at Frampton, Capt. Dave moored us expertly alongside the towpath. A coach was waiting to take us to Berkeley Castle the home of the Berkeley family for nearly 900 years. Built as a Norman Fortress it has a fascinating history with lots to see including Drakes Room named after one of its occupants, Sir Francis Drake. The cell where Edward 2nd was kept prior to his being murdered. The castle boasts beautiful collections of furniture, paintings and tapestries. The Great Hall is awesome and is where they now hold weddings and other functions. There is so much to see and unfortunately not enough to see everything in detail. I could have spent the day there. It was then back on the coach and back to the boat in time for tea and more of the Chef Andy’s excellent cake.
Time for shower, change and a visit to the bar for that pre dinner Gin and Tonic. First however was a presentation to the Quoits Competition winner who was Maurice with 24 points. How many did I get? Well, err, ok 6 now stop laughing. Dinner that night Tomato and Basil soup followed by Roast Lamb and one of the best Roast Lamb dinners I have had for a long time. Lots of vegetables and more if you wanted them. Then came Bakewell Tart and Custard followed by the Cheese Board and a choice of tea/coffee. Tonight was live entertainment in the guise of Tony and Diane performing as ‘Ain’t Misbehaving’. Tony plays keyboard and trombone whilst Diane sings and plays a variety of instruments. Great entertainment and enjoyed by all. Finally another day gone and time for bed.
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