Day 31 Saturday 31 August Gloucester to Playley Green

Miles walked: today 16.5 cumulative 473.1

I started the day by visiting Gloucester docks and then going to see a Severn Bore

The docks were enlarged and became important in Victorian times as a place where goods could be transferred from sea going vessels (sailing up the Severn estuary and the ship canal) to barges that could sail along the canals to the industrial towns of the Midlands. Later, cargo was transferred at Gloucester to the railway. The docks were used commercially until the 1960s since when they have been used for pleasure craft. The Onedin Line was partly filmed here.

The warehouses remain in use and there is a maritime museum as well as shopping and cafes and bars.

An old lightship, renamed Sula lies in the dock. It used to serve off the Humber coast. It is currently being refurbished as a B and B. Apparently the foghorn has been restored so there will be no excuse for missing breakfast.

Near the docks are the ruins of St Oswald’s Priory. There has been a priory here since the 900s but it fell into disuse when the main cathedral was built. There are only a few stones now although there is still a nice medieval barn.

The Severn divides near Gloucester to form Alney island which is a nature reserve. My next detour was to the southern tip of the island where the waters merge to form Lower Parting which is meant to be a good place to watch a Severn Bore. This is a large surge wave that spreads up the Severn. The phenomenon requires the shape and depth of the estuary to narrow uniformly forming a funnel that transmits the wave. Nearer the coast the wave can be surfed for a considerable distance.

Remember, I am several miles from the estuary here and the wave is travelling upstream. The first thing you hear is the roar of the water. Until I saw the wave come round the bend, I thought the noise was a train on the nearby railway.

I set off, following the Severn upstream. For the next hour or so the river appeared to flow upstream and the current was strong enough to carry large branches. It was a bizarre experience to be following the river upstream but in the same direction as the flow of water.

It started to rain as I approached Ashleworth. I stopped in the really nice but quirky Boat Inn which lies on the river bank. Small rooms and the ale comes straight from the barrel.

Looks more like someone’s front room rather than a public room in a pub.

I set off up the road passing an old tithe barn

Ashleworth was a pretty was the annual fete and children were being given rides in a pony carriage. There were the usual stalls and bouncy castle. The sun had come out now as well

Village green, Ashleworth

I set off across fields towards Playley Green. This is where it is really useful to have a 1:25000 map as they show field boundaries which makes navigating easier. Drinking at lunchtime doesn’t help either and I wandered nonchalantly along not looking at the compass or map. Consequently I lost the path and veered too far west ending up at the rather nice stately home of Foscombe.

As I came over the hill to enter the Vale of Leadon I had a good view of the Malvern ridge

After stopping for a cup of tea in Staunton I continued across fields to the Chartist village of Lowbands. The Chartists were an early Socialist movement active in the 1840s. At the time only landowners could vote and MPs didn’t get a salary so only the rich could afford to sit in the House of Commons. The constituencies could be really small and parochial (called rotten boroughs). The Chartists campaigned for a vote for all men (!) over the age of 21, a secret ballot, equal sized electoral districts amongst other issues. Some male householders were allowed to vote after 1884 but working men did not get the vote until after the First World War. At this time female householders over the age of 30 could vote but universal franchise for women was not acheived until 1928.

I set off on my final path of the day but this ended as a virtual path, blocked by 8 feet high maize plants. There was even a footpath sign pointing into the maize. This time I was sure I was on course so I headed across the field between the plants. I felt like an extra in a war movie set in the Far East. It seemed to go on and on but I eventually I arrived at the Rose and Crown, a delightful pub near Playley green, with a very friendly landlord and landlady.

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