Day 19

Frampton on Severn to Gloucester 9.8 miles (296.6 total)

I woke up to the sunshine streaming through the curtains. Looking outside, however, there were huge puddles all around, so I must have slept through some heavy overnight rain. Today is a (relatively) short day’s walk, following the canal into the centre of Gloucester. Cooked breakfast was included in my night’s package but wasn’t available until 10am. I don’t feel hungry in the mornings, in fact I don’t feel hungry at any time these days. Long distance walking seems to be the perfect appetite suppressant. Because I know I should eat, I force myself to have a breakfast when it’s included/available. So, not being in a rush, I lingered over a leisurely breakfast and set off just before 11. On a long day I would try and leave for 9, on a normal day a 10am start is ideal.

A short day, a straightforward walk, the sun shining, what could possibly go wrong? You guessed it… a ‘Road Closed’ sign exactly where I intended to cross the canal.

Yet again!

I take these in my stride, now (pun). The workmen who were using welding equipment in the middle of Sandfield Bridge were happy to let me across. Life is so much easier without a car. The walk along the canal was lovely after that. As canals go, the Gloucester & Sharpness is a wide one. For the first time, I am starting to see canal traffic moving up and down with lots of barges berthed along both banks. Because I was making good time I decided to stop for a pint at the Pilot Inn which was almost exactly halfway along.

A pirate barge, apparently

At the crossing for the pub I passed a bench with 3 teddy bears on it. Crazy as it sounds, I have an album of photos from my travels entitled ‘Bears I Have Met’. This was too good an opportunity to miss. I asked the lock keeper about them: the one with the vest on was fished out of the canal, so they dressed him/her and sat him on the bench; sometime later the second bear was left outside the keeper’s hut so they placed them side by side on the bench. Then, one day, they discovered that the huge bear had appeared beside the other two. So, there you have it… all we need is Goldilocks now.

The 3 bears

The canal walk into Gloucester was fascinating. As I reached the outskirts of the town the housing developments were hidden from view on the other side of the canal. There were no buildings on my side, so the canal acted as a natural barrier to modern development. As I got closer to the city centre, it was easy to chart how commerce on the canal developed. From recent edge-of-town units that we see everywhere, through boat and engine repair sheds (the original barges were towed by horses, there were no motors), and finally large industrial buildings and storage yards which stand as testament to how busy and commercial this canal must once have been. Much canal-side redevelopment is going on today, mostly for housing, and I found the city centre a welcoming place.

Gloucester city centre

Gloucester feels more like a town than a city. Sorry to sound like an anorak – you can tell I was a student of Economic History (a long time ago). Canals, of course, today, are places of tourism and leisure. Also, very importantly, they are safe and direct thoroughfares into town and city centres for walkers and cyclists. If the original barges had not been pulled by horses then there would have been no need for towpaths and my walk would have been a lot more difficult.

Gloucester dockland

Back to the Severn Way proper tomorrow, you’ll be pleased to hear.

My walk today was less than 10 miles, one of the shortest days so far. The tenderness on my left sole hasn’t become a blister so the easy walking will hopefully give it sufficient time to repair.