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Review: Edward Elgar

Cruise - River Cruise

Gloucester-Sharpness Canal

  • By SilverTraveller Alan-Fairfax

    83 reviews

    Ribbon Ribbon Ribbon

  • Oct 2013
  • Wife
  • Regular holiday
  • Outside

53 people found this review helpful

This was to be my first river cruise and having become used to large ocean going ships I did wonder how I would adapt to a small river boat.

I was about to spend 3 days aboard the Edward Elgar, a river cruise boat owned and operated by English Holiday Cruises. Carrying a maximum of 22 passengers it was certainly going to be different.  I joined the boat on the second of its 4 day cruise along the Gloucester Sharpness Canal at Slimbridge. First impressions were it looked large compared with the canal boats but not so large as to be out of place. The passengers were out on an excursion so time for a cup of tea and a chance to look around what was to be my home for the next 3 days before they returned. Down two short flights of stairs to the accommodation deck and my cabin. The cabins are compact but very functional with great use being made of available space. All cabins have a window and air conditioning so no one will feel claustrophobic. The beds are formed in an ‘L’ shape and on unpacking there was certainly enough drawer and hanging space. The bathroom is cleverly arranged by operating it as a ‘wet room’. The shower unit gives a good pressure and the shower head has three settings, jet, shower and spray. Shower gel is provided as is soap and towels. 

Unpacked and back to the saloon for afternoon tea. There is a constant supply of tea and coffee and Andy the chef supplied a very good cake to go with it. That evening was ‘Captains Cocktails’ at 6pm so a little before the appointed hour I ventured into the bar area to meet Capt. Dave and the boats ‘Mate’ Fran. The cocktail was mixed by Fran and called ‘Forbidden Secret’ as she would not disclose the contents but it certainly went down well. The bar is well stocked and the prices will not break the bank. It is here that you can order any wine for your evening meal and again the prices are reasonable. And so it was off to dinner to sample the chef’s delights and what a delight they were. Pate to start, followed by Sea Bass and vegetables that I must say were beautifully presented. A desert of Orange Bread and Butter Pudding followed by Cheese Board with Grapes and Celery with coffee or tea to finish. An excellent meal by resident Chef Andy and served by Jade and Jeannie.

A table quiz followed which was enjoyed by everyone. Come 10pm most of the passengers had retired to their cabins for the night and so I decided to do the same. End of day one and very much enjoyed.

Next morning on 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.  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 proper percolator. 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 Seven 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. Lunch came next in the form of Jacket Potato and salad with a choice of Chilli, Beans or Cheese fillings followed by a desert.

On arrival at Frampton a coach was waiting to take 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 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.

Dinner that night was Tomato and Basil soup followed by Roast Lamb with vegetables, Bakewell Tart and Custard followed by the Cheese Board and a choice of tea/coffee. Tonight was live entertainment in the guise of ‘Ain’t Misbehaving’. Great entertainment and enjoyed by all. Finally another day gone and time for bed.

Breakfast this morning apart from the usual choices had Bacon and Mushroom Croissant instead of the Muffin. Our stop this morning was Saul Junction for a talk from the Cotswolds Canal Trust. With the sun shining I took the opportunity to go up to the top outer deck and admire the scenery. There is something very tranquil about cruising the canal at a steady 5 mph, passing fields of sheep and cows, admiring the tree and shrub lined banks with their leaves displaying those colours that only autumn can bring. The water ahead of us, so still that it acts as a mirror to all around. It makes you realise that life really is wonderful and a great gift. We go to the visitors centre of the Cotswolds Canal Trust where we meet Clive who gives us a most interesting insight into the canal and its history. I for one did not realise the history of the town of Stroud and its cloth making industry. Neither did I realise the various types of felt from that which graces the tops of billiard tables to that which is the outer of a tennis ball.

Back to the boat for our last meal on board, a Ploughman’s with a selection of three different cheeses, pickle, silver onions, salad and bread rolls again followed by a delicious creamy desert mixed with fresh fruit. During lunch the crew carried our luggage from our cabins to the bar area ready for disembarkation. Soon the large swing bridge marking the entrance to Gloucester Docks came into view and swung open to allow us passage through and to our final berth.

This is a small boat but it brings with it an intimacy that is enjoyed by all especially those of mature years. The food served to us by Chef Andy was really first class and far surpassed my expectations. Yes the cabins are small but the way they are arranged makes full use of the available space and at no time did I feel restricted. I spoke with all the passengers on the cruise and without exception everyone said they had had had a good time. Some had returned for a second year and were talking about returning next year. If you want glamour, glitz and lots of entertainment then this is not the boat for you. If however you want a boat that offers value for money, good food, relaxation, small happy staffs for whom nothing is too much trouble and you enjoy the company of a small number of like-minded travellers then this is the boat for you. The cost of all your tours is included in the price and even umbrellas and suntan lotion are supplied. Yes, I enjoyed it and would do it again.

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This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.

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Other Members' Thoughts - 2 Comment(s)

  • ESW
    over 6 years ago
    This sounds like my size of boat. It sounds wonderful.
  • coolonespa
    over 6 years ago
    Good review Alan & another entry added to my bucket list.