Driving Goliath

Last year ’round about this time, Tewkesbury was holding what it calls “The Big Weekend” although last year it was probably more like “The Overcast Big Weekend”. What does happen is that quite a lot of activity centres around the bank of the Avon by the Tewkesbury Lock. It doesn’t really interest me though because it is really geared towards kids and families, and of course there are boats of all shapes and sizes. I am a ship enthusiast as opposed to a boat enthusiast, but I always have en eye open for something of interest. Last year my eye was drawn towards what looked like a telephone booth on a hull, but was actually a small tug that was berthed alongside and I did get pics but they really turned out poor because of the weather. This year it was a whole new ballgame because the weather was excellent.

The “vessel” in question was alongside again, her bow firmly shoved into the rear end of a barge/landing craft. 

I decided that when I got back from Evesham I would pop in and see whether I could get pics of her moving. 

Wind forward to 12H30 and I was back in town and headed down to the locks. By now things had woken up and the usual tables and rides had been set up. They did not interest me because I was after that tug. Unfortunately she was not where I had seen her that morning so I went and asked somebody at the Avon Navigation Trust (aka ANT) . She took me to a friendly fellow who said he would be happy to show me the tug and we could even go for a ride.

The tug was berthed on the opposite side of the bank and her barge from the morning was berthed nearby. And here she is:-

She is what is known as a  “Bantam Tug” and she is a pusher tug as opposed to one that tows. They were used extensively on inland waterways moving barges and small craft around. This particular vessel carries the name “City” on it and a bit of digging reveals that she was built in 1951 for the  Docks & Inland Waterways Executive in Watford and used on on the Thames at one point. Her builders were E C Jones & Son (Brentford) Ltd and she was number 17 out of 89 (number 13 and 15 did not exist). She was acquired by ANT in 1963. Her skipper proudly showed me her new engine which sits underneath the raised hatch area.

Apparently she was built with a 2 cylinder Lister engine and was not very manoeuvrable and took ages to go astern. She was rated at 30 BHP when built. The current engine is produced for IVECO and is a major improvement. 

Further looking would reveal her builders plate in the “wheelhouse”, and that ties into the information I did manage to pick up while researching her. 

Wheelhouse? its more like a telephone booth and was crowded with 2 of us in it, its actually crowded with 1 person in it. What I found interesting is that her helm drives the rudder through a chain system. No fancy hydraulics here I am afraid. If anything she is very minimalist and functional

And then we were letting go from alongside and the skipper took us out, handing her over to me. I will be honest, I did badly at making her go in a straight line because she steers very differently to a car and I was not too sure of how many spokes to give her to achieve a desired direction. And of course I wanted pics! I also learnt a bit more about this particular stretch of waterway that I did not understand before and really need to make a few changes in my pages to reflect what I now know. 

Here we are sailing up the River Severn toward the Mythe Bridge. The gin palace ahead of us crossed our bows as we were coming out of the Avon into the Severn and she threw up a large wake that made our little vessel rock ‘n roll. I think I prefer the tug to the gin palace. I really wanted to film this part of the trip but my camera steadfastly refused to work in video mode. The skipper also showed me what she was capable of speedwise when he opened the throttle and it was literally one of those thrown back into your seat moments.  ANT seems to be very satisfied with the performance of her new engine.

I am afraid that she does not have space for anything else down there except engine, no wardroom table, or heads or even a galley. She is literally a hull with an engine. 

And then we were coming alongside again, my short trip completed, and a smile on my dial.

There is a lot that can be done to “give her character” but these were not built for the tourist trade or leisure activities, they are purely working vessels, and function over form is the watchword. I asked what her name was and was told it was “Goliath” but I do not see a name board reflecting that name, maybe it is more of a description? At any rate her original name is still displayed on the wheelhouse.

I was chuffed and gave a donation and continued on my my rounds, satisfied that I could add her to my list of ships that I have experienced. 

On the Sunday I was down at the event again, to see if she was moving at all, and to my satisfaction she was. Apparently the reason the barge looks like a landing craft is because it was a landing craft and belonged to the Royal Marines who donated it. I believe that one of her sisters is at the Gloucester Inland Waterways Museum so I may go look her up if I get there again. I certainly do not recall seeing one when I visited originally 

And that concludes my short look at one the peculiarities that live in the water. I believe she lives at Wyre Piddle near to Pershore. I wonder what else they have there of interest? I have seen a dredger before. She goes by the name of Canopus.

And that was my day. What a score it was too. My special thanks to the gent who took me for a spin, and for ANT who look after the waterways. They are always looking for volunteers so if you are interested drop them a line via their webpage

Photographed in November 2019

Update: 16/11/2019

Another Bantam? I spotted another small craft berthed at this mooring in 2019, carrying the name “Eric” I could not find any confirmed info on her. 

The best source of information on the tugs was by Jim Shead

The list of Bantam tugs is available at the Canal Museum Website

DRW © 2018 – 2020. Created 21/05/2018, updated 16/11/2019

The Mythe Bridge

It is true; I am a bridge fan, and I have probably mentioned that bit of useless information on a number of occasions. My newest bridge to admire is known as the Mythe Bridge,  and it spans the Severn River very close to Tewkesbury. I had been looking for the bridge since arriving here, but have always headed off on a tangent without doing any serious homework. A chance remark by a co-worker led me to place where the bridge was, and this morning, while I had a few hours off work I headed off to confirm the theory.  I had originally thought that the trestle bridge in this image was what I was looking for, it spans the marina but is not really accessible to gawkers like me as you need to have the requisite permit to get into the marina. 
My bridge was a bit further up the road, and surprisingly is not signposted all that well. The road that crosses the bridge is the A438, but I have no idea where it finally ends up.  It wasn’t too long a slog to get to either, and when I did arrive could not really see the bridge, just the road over it. I would need to access the river bank somehow.
On the approach to the bridge is the old toll house, with a plaque proclaiming it’s age.
Thomas Telford:  yet another of those famous engineers who left their mark on Britain. His legacy has remained with us, and this particular one was opened in April 1826.  I love reading about these bold engineers, they seem to see any obstacle as a mere challenge to overcome, and they do it with style and beauty. 
My attempt at photography could only be done from the other side of the bridge as waterfront access was almost impossible due to private property on either side. I crossed the bridge, noting how the pillars were looking somewhat weather worn. 
And then I found a public footpath leading down to the river bank. There were cowpats galore and trees and mud, and the view was lousy because the sun was in the wrong place. I abandoned that spot and headed for the other side of the road.where the view technically would be better. 
And I was right.
Unfortunately the bridge is slightly wider than the camera could handle comfortably (I was using my phone and not my camera).  But I fired off shots as quick as I could because I am still not sure whether I was allowed in this area. (Some of these images have now been replaced with some that I took on 27 September). 
Six cast iron ribs span the the river without interfering with the water borne traffic, and while the river was empty on this morning, you can bet that 150 years ago it was a totally different story altogether. These rivers were the way freight was moved and a network of canals fed into them. Thomas Telford even building a few along the way.


Unfortunately the bridge does have a sign that reads “Weak Bridge”, and that really has to do more with the heavier traffic that it carries now compared to when it was built. Trucks vs horses and carts? fortunately the traffic is controlled by traffic lights that allow cars to use the single lane that the bridge has, everybody gets a turn, and there are no minibus taxi’s pushing in.

The bridge is sagging in the middle though, and that is probably as a result of the increased traffic and weight. You can see  the sag in the image below.


With hindsight I probably could have done a better job with this pic, but then I was not on a full blown photography trip, just a quick jaunt to find the bridge while I had time. I will come back with a camera one day, the other fork in the road looks very interesting, and I believe there is a railway tunnel close by.
(Update 27/09. The railway tunnel is blocked off and fenced off too, so I could not get close to it. However, the other side I may still go hunt down. The results of that hunt may be found at Tewkesbury’s Railway Remnants
I returned to the road and recrossed again, pausing at the toll booth. If buildings could talk, what would this one tell us about the impact that this structure had on the people of the city?
And then it was time to head off to work. 
DRW © 2015-2020 Images migrated 17/09/2015

Mariner’s Chapel, Gloucester

One of the many churches I have seen in my travels is the Mariner’s Chapel in Gloucester. The connection between Mariner’s and Gloucester does seem tenuous, however, Gloucester used to have a thriving harbour, although now it is more about floating gin palaces and narrow boats.   

The chapel is a very uncomplicated building and is seemingly lost amongst the former warehouses that surround it. Admittedly there is much less traffic around now, but that could also mean that much of the former congregation is also gone. 

The building inside is almost spartan compared to some of the churches I have visited, but it is this simpleness that makes it special.

The history of the church is told on their website, and it is still an active parish church and on both occasions when I was there the door was wide open. 

The building was designed John Jaques and it has a nave and a bell tower with the chancel  at the west end instead of the normal east. It was built by a local builder; William Wingate and work began in 1848 and was completed a year later. The opening ceremony occurring on the 11th of February 1849 and Rev James Hollins was appointed the first chaplain.


It is a grade II listed building and in a very good condition, even the pulpit has a nautical theme!

There is a small War Memorial, but I have not looked into the context of the names on it yet. obviously there is a connection to Gloucester, but what is the connection to the chapel? 

Technically the church is what is known as a “proprietary chapel”, ie. a chapel that originally belonged to a private person. 

The High Altar is very simple, and if you did not know otherwise you would think it was a writing desk. There are three stained glass windows above it.

And that is the church in a nutshell. It is worth looking in if ever you are in the area, it is not a cathedral but I am sure the congregation from the docks were more welcome here than they would have been at Gloucester Cathedral.

DRW © 2017-2019, Retrospectively created 04/11/2017. Replaced missing images 11/09/2019