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Bristol , United Kingdom
My fifth poetry collection, Learning Finity, will be published early in 2022 by Indigo Dreams. I am co-director of the Leaping Word Poetry Consultancy. https://theleapingword.com

Friday, 15 February 2019

Whale Watching on the River Severn

By late morning, the fog had burnt off and it was a beautiful day, so I wrangled the dog into the car and set off for Aust in the hopes of visiting the church there. 


Many churches on the flood plain of the River Severn/Bristol channel are built on what were once islands of higher ground, jutting out of marshland. The Ancient Chapelry of St John is one.  


When I saw the iron gates, my heart sank but they weren't locked, hooray! 

The church door, however, wouldn't budge and there was no notice indicating where a key might be held.


So we haunted the churchyard for a bit.


There was a gravestone which appeared to have been inscribed in moss. Maybe not quite as precisely as the one I saw at Tetbury some years ago, but intriguing all the same.
Feeling disconsolate, we decided to have a bit of wander and headed for Oldbury-on-Severn.

Another commanding church - St Arilda's - on its man-made tump atop a hill. But we weren't visiting it today.



Instead we walked out to the mouth of Oldbury Pill ... 
... and headed south-west along the top of the sheep-trodden flood defences ...


... towards the old Severn Bridge, all misty in the distance. 


Pillhead Gout

Our destination was Whale Wharf, at the point where Littleton Pill flows into the Severn and Cowhill Warth - this beautiful stretch of saltmarsh that is twice daily covered by the tide - becomes Littleton Warth. 


Whale Wharf is so called because, as Oldbury fisherman Hector Knapp wrote in January 1885, 'thear was a Whal cum ashore at Littleton Pill and bid thear a fortnight. He was sixty eaight feet long. His mouth was twelve feet.  
The queen claim it at last, and sould it for forty pound. Thear supposed to be forty thousen pepeal to se it from all parts of the country and from far and near'.   


I was going to have to make do with pretending that the substantial pieces of driftwood deposited along the high tideline were the skeletal remains of aquatic monsters. There'd be no whales today.

Or so I thought ... 




Can't make it out? It's the Airbus Beluga (A300-600 Super Transporter) en route from Toulouse to Hawarden in Flintshire, and fresh from a fly-past at my hometown of Filton, where its wings are made. 









  
Yeah, I know, crap photos. But if you look very closely, you can see some pissed off oystercatchers, flying about and meeping like mad.


  


Cowhill Rhine


Littleton Pill 


Excitement over and time to turn back. Now, instead of the Severn Bridges, we had the decommissioned Oldbury Nuclear Power Station in our sights. 

Proving a magnificent distraction all the way back were a pair of little egrets, who were acutely aware of Ted's and my presence, flying off whenever we got anywhere close enough to get a half decent photo. 


I was reminded of this lovely poem and painting by Dru Marland




No idea who owned these feathers. An owl, maybe? (There are short-eared owls below the old Severn bridge at Aust.) Anyhow, they have beautiful leaf shapes.


Back at Oldbury Pill ...






... and finally reaching the car, parked in the village.




 

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