The Great River Adventure begins

Well OK, perhaps not the greatest river adventure man has undertaken but it’s Firecrests first outing onto a river instead of a ‘nice safe canal’.  So to us, it’s another new adventure.

In our first month cruising we’ve realised that the best laid plans don’t always materialise, which is why we stopped in Stourport for a week instead of moving onto the Severn as we’d intended.

But during that week, we spent time with friends, John and Tina, we read the maps, checked on the weather forecast, got advice (widely differing) about moorings, and finally prepped the boat. We removed the cratch sides at the bow and laid out the anchor for easy access just in case. Tied a rope onto the ring, just in case, donned our life jackets, just in case.

And off we set, saying goodbye to a beautiful old basin and some modern entertainment and entered the River Severn.

Of course having just had summer, or rather a weeks heatwave and virtually no rain, the river was as calm as a mill pond and very tame.

It took us about half an hour to walk to the first lock last week, it felt like 10 minutes by boat. Quite a novelty to be cruising twice as fast as we walked, around 4mph instead of 2. (We could easily go at 6mph but chose not to.)

To accommodate the fall of the river, islands and channels have been created to include a lock, while the main flow of water goes over a weir. The weirs are barricaded off by huge orange barrels which spoil the aesthetics but make navigation safe. I was impressed by how substantial they are. River locks are big. They’re usually automated and manned by CART. The lock keeper has the advantage of CCTV to know a boat’s approaching and they prepare the lock and open gates. So as we rounded the bend we were greeted by a green traffic light and open gates.

To steady the boat in such a large lock there are holding pillars to wrap our ropes around.

All the work is done at the flick of a switch, none of the huffing and puffing that I go through on the narrow canal locks. And before we knew it we’d dropped 7’4“ down in Lincomb lock.

Looking back we could see the weir on the left, the island on the right (and the lock out of view further on the right.)

It was now past lunch time but on a river you have to stop at a proper mooring (unless you really know what you’re doing -or daft or brave). Luckily for us, the Hampstall Inn has a pontoon, which for the price of a pint or two we were able to moor up at.
Although we are going downstream, you always moor pointing upstream on a river. That means going past the mooring, turning the boat around and cruising upstream to moor. And instead of me leaping out to pull in with a rope I have to lasso a bollard from the bow. I’m glad we had plenty of space, Eric was going a bit fast and I needed two attempts. But it’s all part of the learning curve and we did it without falling in or making fools of ourselves.

These are floating pontoons designed to move up and down to accommodate the rise and fall of the water when it rains and floods. Again perhaps not aesthetically pleasing but knowing that you’ve got strong steel girders deeply embedded is reassuring. I’m not sure the flood measure showing a rise of 19 foot is quite so reassuring. I can’t get my head around how a river so wide can rise that much, but we’ve seen several markers showing historic flood levels so it can and does happen.

However, although cloudy, today was dry and the river was calm, and far from intimidating. Within 5 minutes we saw a heron chase a woodpecker away from the waters edge, only to be replaced by a kingfisher. We’ve been told that there are otters in these waters and the fisherman sitting nearby caught a 15lb pike yesterday.

We decided to stay moored here for the night and just enjoy the tranquility.