Thursday, 18 July 2013

The Gloucester and Sharpness Canal and Purton Hulks

It was hot in Bristol last night, so rather than lie on the settee and sweat, I decided to seek out a bit of a breeze.  The River Severn seemed like a safe bet.  

We parked by the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal at the village of Purton to the north of Sharpness and watched a storm of swallows swoop for flies under the bridge.  A couple of swans swanned about, ducks duckled and it was all very idyllic.  

At its beginning the canal runs very close to the River Severn, and in 1909 it was noticed that a new channel was developing near the shore which threatened the integrity of the canal bank, so during the next half century a number of barges and trows were hulked to form a tidal erosion barrier.

Each boat was taken out of Sharpness Dock on a high spring tide, towed towards the shore and left to ride up the bank as far as possible.  Then holes were knocked in the hulls so that they would fill with silt.  

In this boat's graveyard there's also a schooner 'Katherine Ellen' which was impounded in 1921 for running guns to the IRA and several Ferrous Concrete Barges built in World War II.  

Over the years the ground level has built up, and many of the hulks are now submerged in long grass.  

Here wood is stripped and repainted with lichen and great rusted nails stick out at angles.

One barge, its rudder like a whale's fluke, sails below the surface.

Out beyond the shore, another wreck lies visible at low tide. 
By now the sun was setting so we turned back towards the canal.  

The moon was floating among the grasses and weeds.  It was definitely time to go to the pub ...

... where Ted came between a man and his drink.


  1. it's all happening on the G and S! -I woinder if the wreck out in the river there is the remains of the tankers Arkendale H and Wastdale H?

    1. Looks very much like it. The Great Severn Rail Bridge disaster. I remember my dad telling me about it when I was a kid but recall little. Really should research ... and then revisit! :-)