The River Severn & the River Avon
The River Severn is Britain's longest river, rising in mid Wales and flowing for 220 miles to the Bristol Channel. However the navigable section starts at Bewdley a few miles above Stourport and runs about 45 miles to Gloucester. Below Gloucester the river runs large tides. The Warwickshire River Avon is also navigable for 45 miles, from Tewkesbury to above Stratford on Avon. Each can be cruised in about three days.
The journey down the wide Severn from the interesting old canal port of Stourport on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal is through pleasant gently rolling countryside although the high banks, necessary to restrain the floodwaters which can surge out of Wales, mean the view is frequently restricted to tree lined banks. There are some interesting pubs selling evil-looking but delicious "scrumpy" cider. You can moor at the foot of Worcester Cathedral steps. Gloucester Docks has some magnificent old seven storey grain warehouses. The Docks were the centre for the import of corn in the nineteenth century but are no longer used by much commercial traffic.
They now house interesting antique warehouses, shops, offices and museums including the Gloucester Waterways Museum and the Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum. The city is a short walk away. It is normally possible to find moorings in the dock basins.
The Gloucester and Sharpness Ship Canal was built to bypass a notoriously dangerous stretch of the Severn. The cruise down to Sharpness Docks through the frequent manned swing bridges with their classical keepers cottages is well worthwhile.
It is possible to enter the tidal Severn estuary at Sharpness and navigate down to Bristol docks, where the Kennet and Avon Navigation can be joined. This is a serious undertaking because of the nature of the river and the large and fast tides. Most boaters employ the services of a river pilot and travel in convoy in case of engine breakdowns.
The River Avon meanders much more than the Severn, through beautiful watermeadows above Tewkesbury, famous for it's abbey and fine buildings, and winds on amidst willow trees through the Vale of Evesham to Stratford upon Avon.
Pershore and Evesham should be visited and you can moor opposite the Royal Shakespeare Theatre at Stratford on Avon. The River Avon was divided at Evesham, the Upper Avon becoming disused in the last century and the Lower Avon rarely used and only open to Pershore. The Lower Avon was restored by a Trust in the 1960's but restoration of the Upper Avon was considerably more difficult and there was opposition from many landowners along the River. It was eventually reopened in 1974. Many locks and weirs had to be rebuilt and there is a wide variety of lock shapes, sizes and gear.
The large locks on the Severn are electrically operated by lock-keepers, those on the Avon you have to operate yourself and some can be a little awkward at first but the scenery is beautiful! The lift and swing bridges on the Gloucester & Sharpness are all usually manned.