We followed the road leading down from the lower Purton swing bridge, along a footpath past the Berkley Arms which is only open in the evenings, to the banks of the River Severn. The tide was on it’s way out as we walked along the banks to see the ships that were beached there in order to save the bank from being eroded by the tidal waters.
There are about 80 of them making this the largest ships graveyard in Britain. Unfortunately some of them have been completely buried below the mud banks. It is amazing that such large Ferro Concrete Barges were able to float at all as they were extremely heavy even before they were loaded. The tiller on this concrete one was unbelievably, still moveable although it had been there since the 1960’s.
This is Harriett of Bristol, built in Honey Street by Robbins, Lane and Pinnegar in 1905, 72’ long, 14’ wide, 5’ 19” d, gross tonnage c60 tons, and beached here in 1964. She is the last known example of a Kennet built barge and is probably the easiest one to photograph as she lies alongside the footpath. Another interesting wooden barge is he Severn Collier which was a towed screw barge used for carrying coal from the Forest of Dean to Cadbury Bros Severnside Factory.
It is amazing how the large individually forged blacksmiths nails that were driven into the oak framework have survived without rusting away. Each boat has it’s own information plaque placed there by the Friends of Purton who have done a marvellous job in preserving the ships and making the area a Site of Special Scientific Interest and Historic Interest for us all to learn about and enjoy. We emerged through a tiny gap in the hedge up onto the towpath. On the opposite bank there is an inlet of water where the old timber ponds were. These were used to store large floating timbers so that they didn’t dry out.
Today we have been washing and polishing one side of the boat, when we have turned for the return journey we will do the other side. Rain tomorrow, perhaps that will cool things down a bit.