Bristol Harbour Festival 2016

Dateline: Sunday 17th July 2016


The view towards and over Perot’s Bridge

I had mixed feelings about visiting this event in the centre of Bristol. Local television news had been carrying stories about local people actually complaining about this free event, moaning about the amount of alcohol being consumed, and the potential for rowdy behaviour. Nearby shops and supermarkets were being exhorted to limit the amount of alcohol they were selling to any one individual over the weekend. It seems to me that there is something quite dark and brooding about contemporary British culture – seemingly to have a good time, out with one’s friends, automatically requires the carrying of a large case of cheap beer or cider acquired from a supermarket all-to-happy to sell the stuff as a loss leader, being pretty much pickled by 9am in the morning, and making lots of rather anti-social noise. Quite how any average British socialite can enjoy anything in such an inebriated state is quite beyond me. But there we go…



Towards Redcliffe Quay. The spire of St Mary Redcliffe Church dominates the skyline here. Gorgeous narrow boats moored at the jetty there…

For me, the attraction was to photograph the rich colour and spectacle of this waterfront event, one of two colourful, and free, events in Bristol over the summer. The other is the Bristol Balloon Fiesta in August; last year, it was so successful that the gates had to be closed to new admissions to ensure safety for those already inside. Wow! Yes, the Bristol Harbourside last Sunday was very busy, with visitors being herded around the quays and streets in a one-way system – give them due credit, the organisers were doing all they could to relieve bottlenecks and avoid criticism about overcrowding. But all-in-all, it was a really lovely atmosphere, come the finish, in the sunshine and fresh air. People seem to respond to sunshine somehow, their mood altogether lighter. I have no idea how things developed later in the evening – I’m not the sort who wants to hang around like a war correspondent if there is the slightest possibility of things getting at all ugly. But what I found in the mid-afternoon was a great opportunity for a family day out, perfectly safe, and hugely enjoyable. Well done, indeed, to the organisers.


How on earth do I describe this??

There were tall ships, narrow boats, sail boats, ex-industrial steam tugs, a Royal Navy vessel, a working 35-ton steam crane, trips along the Bristol Harbour Railway, fairground attractions, artisans and food vendors all doing a roaring trade. Good to see! And we even had chaps out in the middle of the harbour on hover board contraptions powered by water jets doing all manner of aerial stunts. It all looked like great fun, albeit only for pros, but I certainly wouldn’t have enjoyed the bellies full of harbour water that these performers must surely have been consuming. Ugh! Heaven alone knows how many immunisation shots these chaps would need to keep out the harbour’s resident germs…!


…or this??

So, enough blabber from me… I leave you with a simple gallery of images of the afternoon. Here’s to an equally successful event in 2017 🙂


Tall Ship Kathleen and May


Harbour Tug John King


35-ton steam crane, in steam, and open for visitors


Steam train rides from the M-Shed museum towards the SS Great Britain


Something for the kiddies?


A nice spot of afternoon jazz. They did try to book Canadian superstar act Willy Ward’s Revenge for later in the evening, but Willy was, sadly, unavailable…


Recent Railway Happenings…

The last few days of my recent “FOSS”, or Freedom of the Severn & Solent rail rover ticket… Great value for those who wish to wander widely in Wessex and the Westcountry.


No hurry at Yeovil Pen Mill today – The down token instrument at Maiden Newton is apparently jammed, and there’s a queue of trains waiting to head south over the single track section.

So, latest happenings over the past week: The token machine at Maiden Newton, south of Yeovil Pen Mill on the Castle Cary to Dorchester line, decided to act more like a petulant child than a well-oiled piece of railway infrastructure Saturday before last, leading to half-hour-plus delays for services over that single track section.


Thomas, the Pen Mill station rodent operative, arrives in his Public Relations capacity to calm the nerves of anxious delayed travellers…

My unit down from Westbury was held for a good 25 minutes at Yeovil, plenty of time for a brew from the station cafe (I’m always happy to support independently-run station cafes), as well as affectionate attention from the resident station cat, who I now know to be named Thomas, aged about thirteen-and-three-quarters!


West Coast Railways ran their Last Days of Southern Steam tour from London Victoria to Weymouth via Bournemouth –


Jubilee class 45699 Galatea arriving at Weymouth with WCR’s “Last Days of Southern Steam” tour

ironically producing an appearance of an LMS kettle, in the shape of Jubilee class 45699 Galatea. Shame they couldn’t conjure up a turn from a Westcountry Light Pacific such as Tangmere or something. But for the diesel bashers, there was a treat in the form of 33207 Jim Martin bringing up the rear.





Class 800 at Bristol Parkway

Meanwhile, a couple of days later, something caught my eye on – a working from North Pole Junction near Paddington to Stoke Gifford; my curiosity was rewarded at Bristol Parkway, with my first photo opportunity with the upcoming Class 800 IEP (Intercity Express Programme). This particular 800 had already splatted its first seagull on the front, so for the sake of keeping my site of a family nature, I contented myself with photting it from the rear. The colour of the afternoon was completed with the appearance of a “Red Shed” on the Moreton-on-Lugg to Elstow Redland Siding.


Moreton-on-Lugg – Elstow Redland Siding crosses Stoke Gifford Junction

Elstow_Redland passing 2C20 GCR-WSB

Through Bristol Parkway…

The Widcombe Lock Flight

The City of Bath…

IMG_9426Here the River Avon flows placidly through the Georgian splendour that now surrounds this Roman spa town, under the Pultney Bridge and over the weir, onward towards Bristol.

Quietly, from the East, almost unnoticed, the restored Kennet & Avon canal joins the river through the Widcombe Bottom Lock, at the end of a flight of six locks, bringing this once vital trading link down some 60m from the pound at Sydney. Back in the 1970s, extensive road reconstruction across the canal whilst it was in a sorry and derelict state meant that two of the locks had to be merged during the restoration of the waterway into one deep lock, and the Bath Deep Lock is now the second deepest lock in normal narrow boat use in England…some 19ft 5in of rise and fall.

IMG_9444The Widcombe Lock Flight and the walk up to the Sydney Marina provides a lovely half hour or so of diversion, and ample opportunity for photography, rich in colour and contrast. no more babble from me about this – I merely present a small collection of photos I shot on my short ramble up the flight today…






Fidelis Civitas


The classic view of Worcester Cathedral, across the River Severn from the A44 road bridge

My developing interest in the waterways of Great Britain are taking me further into the heartland of Middle England in search of inspiration, and perhaps, eventually, a boat of my own to live on. I carry the name “Severn” – my cousin in British Columbia and I are the last of our line of the Family; all the descendants in this part of the clan are female – so the river also bearing our name, and flowing through my destination today, Worcester, is always of special interest.


Diglis Basin Marina, a riot of colour, even under cloudy skies.

The Severn rises in the Cambrian Mountains of mid-Wales, thence flowing southwards through Worcestershire and Gloucestershire, to the sea in the Bristol Channel. The Severn Estuary has the second highest tidal range (if I am not mistaken) in the world after the Bay of Fundi in Canada, and as the water rushes in to the funnel-shaped estuary, it creates the phenomenon of the Severn Boar, a tidal wave spectacle which draws onlookers from far and wide – and many thrill-seekers who love to ride it on their surf boards and small boats.

Today, in summer, the Severn through Worcester is peaceful and picturesque, though England is famous for its rainfall, and the now placid river is very prone to flood in this area. Worcester Cathedral commands the view over the river in the city; English composer Sir Edward Elgar was born not far outside Worcester. Worcester is a place steeped in history and culture, notable not only for Elgar’s music, but as the location of some of the most significant battles in the English Civil War of the 17th century. Worcester was originally sympathetic to the Parliamentary cause, but spent most of the war under Royalist occupation, and the astute politicians of the day seemed to want favour from the new king, Charles II, after the war, in the hope of securing compensation. It lead to the invention of the epithet Fidelis Civitas, or “faithful city”, and this motto still forms part of the city’s coat of arms today, Civitas in Bello et Pace Fidelis (City, faithful in war and peace).


Entering Diglis Basin at the start of the Worcester and Birmingham canal

For me, though, on this summer’s day early in the 21st century, I was looking for the colour of the riverbank and the cathedral, and also of the canal which begins its link from the Severn to the city of Birmingham not much more than a quarter of a mile downstream from the church’s dominant position. The Worcester and Birmingham Canal is some 29 miles long with 58 locks, which begins its course at Diglis Basin, then wending its way north-eastwards towards Birmingham at Gas Street Basin. Construction started in 1792, with the route fully open and complete by 1815. Of course, this waterway no longer carries commercial freight, but it is still a delight for narrowboaters with more leisurely pursuits in mind.


London Midland Class 172 DMU arrives at Worcester Shrub Hill from Foregate Street, past the impressive GWR bracket signal at the north end of the station

I strolled pleasantly along the towpath back towards the city, before leaving the canal near to Shrub Hill Station, ready to join the eventual scourge of the canals – the railway – for my onward journey that afternoon. Shrub Hill station remains a riot of colour, and in many ways untouched since the Victorians built the line, still employing a wonderful array of Great Western Railway mechanical signalling to control the traffic. This sort of technology is dying off fast as electronic and digital methods in railway technology sweep this venerable old equipment away – so it was well worth pausing here awhile to photograph it. My onward journey took me down past Gloucester onto the welsh side of the Severn Estuary via Lydney, one of the best stretches of coastal railway in England, but that, methinks, is a subject for another day.