It was the year’s only five-star Severn Bore today, a remarkable natural phenomenon that’s ideally visited by bike. So I did, all in the name of route research.
The bore is a tsunami-like wave caused by particularly high incoming tides being funnelled up the narrows just south of Gloucester. Like a 168 bus overtaking you too close north of the Elephant and Castle, it roars in without warning out of nowhere. It raises the river level in seconds (the two images above were taken about 20 seconds apart) and reverses its flow.
If you’re standing on the riverbank you may well be soaked in water as the bore splashes past, like a 133 bus overtaking you too close south of Kennington Station by that enormous puddle that always collects after rain.
Four- and five-star Severn Bores (the ones big enough to be worth seeing) are a quirky and infrequent curiosity, rather like a lunar eclipse, or a driver actually waving thanks when you stop to let them go past.
There’s a sense of occasion and friendly banter among the crowds of spectators, a mix of ex-military, retired-to-the-country couples, outdoorsy types, chatty locals, and cyclists – probably the only people not wearing wellies.
Four- and five- star bores can be predicted to the date and within a few minutes months in advance (see the website severn-bore.co.uk). Two good viewing places are best visited by bike (no car parking, congested narrow roads, no public transport).
Stonebench (below) is three miles or 15 minutes southwest from central Gloucester, almost all traffic-free, along the towpath of the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal (above right, National Cycle Route 41/45). That’s where I cycled for my bore experience.
Another cyclable place is Over Bridge (below), a disused crossing built by Telford, one mile or 10 minutes northwest of central Gloucester along a cycle path alongside a dual carriageway (National Cycle Route X).
Some locals berated me for going to Stonebench, and reckoned it was a lousy place to see the bore (though it seemed fine to me). They said I should have gone to the Anchor at Epney, or Upper Framilode. Perhaps if I had gone to the Anchor, they could have advised me what beer I should have ordered instead of whatever I did.
You can explore Gloucester (Cathedral below, or the medieval galleried New Inn) and surroundings by bike and encounter things you don’t here in London: deserted night-time town centres, or strangers chatting to you without asking for spare change, for instance.