The scout had got as far as the former Severn Bridge, where it crossed the Gloucester and Berkeley Canal, in 2022 and determined to go back and ride along the towpath, perhaps the most interesting way of reaching the city and county town.
Once again, he detrained at Cam & Dursley, this time going in search of the former station’s goods shed, which he had missed in 2022.
The scout took the same route to Berkeley Road, where he found the Prince of Wales Hotel, beside the A38, reopened.
Beside the entrance to the former station stands a building whose purpose the scout pondered. It could have been connected with the extensive cattle pens which were once on the other side of the entrance.
The scout avoided Berkeley and turned just beyond the bridge to go via Breadstone, picking up the previous year’s route at Station Road.
The scout went as far as the bank of the Severn, passing the locked up Vale of Berkeley workshops, before heading for the original canal basin to start his ride to Gloucester.
On this occasion, he stopped to look at the memorial which shamefully, in his eagerness to see the bridge remains, he had ignored the year before.
“The school was a passage through which our dreamsbecame reality. Thecamp site was hallowed by the essence of our youth”
Vindicatrixhad an extraordinary life, beginning as the fully rigged Arranmore, built in Glasgow in 1893.
Then the scout descended to the canal.
In 2015, the scout had seen old tubs beached at Lydney to help defend the bank of the estuary. At Purton there is another “graveyard,” the largest in mainland Britain, where all 86 hulks have been identified and recorded.
Soon after resuming his passage along the towpath, the scout came upon the first swing bridge. Not having done any reading and having only the experience of Exeter’s ship canal to draw upon, the scout was surprised to find that the bridge was manned. But this is a ship canal on a grander scale.
The bridgekeeper at Purton Lower was leaning on a railing outside his box and the scout called to him, asking how many times in a day he had to open the bridge for vessels, to which the reply came that it could be twenty or forty. Another bridge, Purton Upper, lay a short distance away, operated remotely by this keeper.
As the scout approached Purton Upper, the warning sequence commenced and the bridge began to open for a narrowboat, whose owner must have radioed the keeper.
A little farther on is Saul Junction, where the Gloucester & Berkeley crosses the earlier Stroudwater. This is the only crossing of two independent canals in the country.
Way back along the path, the scout had spotted a purple bag which looked as if it had been dropped. If he could have been sure that he would be taking it in the right direction, he would have picked it up.
By the time he reached Hempsted Bridge, the one beyond Netheridge, he had forgotten about the bag; that is, until he came upon an older cycling couple. The lady asked if the scout had seen a bag and he was pleased to be able to say that he had, but regretted having to tell her how far back her chap would have to ride to retrieve it. The scout was certain that it would still be beside the path but naturally felt rotten that he had not been able to hand it over.
The scout had in mind a train to Chepstow which would allow him to continue his ride and get back to Temple Meads in the early evening. This did not leave much time for a tour of the city and certainly did not allow an exploration of all the railways which have been obliterated.
The scout had once ridden here from Severn Beach but had not ventured into town. This time he continued across the busy A48 bypass to Beaufort Square.
The scout followed the bridge access road and turned onto Passage Road, which was blocked part way because of flood defence works. The scout did not think to go and look at the nearby old pier, from where, until 1966, a car ferry crossed to Beachley. A photograph from Old Passage would have been a fitting end to his series. Aust had been a crossing point since Roman times.
After a quick detour to look at the village, the scout headed along Severn Road, turning onto Northwick Road and then following a path beside the M4. This took him past the “Welcome to England” sign, which he remembered seeing in 2017.
The path joined New Passage Road and the scout mistakenly went the wrong way. He recognized a grounded van body and about-turned, quickly reaching Severn Beach.
The scout went to the shop to buy a cold drink and then had a nap before departure at 1801.
He caught a four-car H.S.T. stopper from Temple Meads, which was late arriving and was delayed further as the guard turned away five young tribe members with bicycles who wanted to travel to Weston. The train was held at Highbridge as the driver of an Up had reported an obstruction. It was 30 late arriving at St. David’s.
The guard had been on his feet the whole time and kept passengers informed all along. After he was relieved, the scout walked with the guard as far as the bridge and told him that he was doing a fantastic job.
When the scout returned to the utilicon, he had ridden 50 miles. And he still had his shopping to do. Arrival at Christow was 2206.
The E. & T.V.R. scout, having on occasion sent a few photographs to the esteemed elders of the Cornwall Railway Society, in time rather got into the habit after his outings of submitting a short story, often under the general heading of “Route Learning” or “Route Refresher.”. Read more