The beds are formed in an ‘L’ shape and there is more than enough drawer and hanging space for the number of days on board. The bathroom is cleverly arranged using it as a ‘wet room’. The shower unit gives a good pressure and the shower head has three settings, jet, shower and spray. Shower gel is provided as is soap and towels.
Time for afternoon tea. There is a constant supply of tea and coffee and Chef Andy supplied a very good cake to go with it. The other passengers, sixteen of them were just arriving back from their excursion and from the conversations had obviously enjoyed it. That evening was ‘Captains Cocktails’ at 6pm so time to return to the cabin, shower and change. Captains Cocktails was an opportunity to meet with Capt. Dave and the boats ‘Mate’ Fran. The cocktail was mixed by Fran and called ‘Forbidden Secret’ as she would not disclose the contents but it certainly went down well. The bar is well-stocked at reasonable prices. Off to dinner to sample the chef’s delights and what a delight they were. Pate to start, followed by Sea Bass and vegetables that I must say were beautifully presented. A desert of Orange Bread and Butter Pudding followed by Cheese Board with Grapes and Celery with coffee or tea to finish. An excellent meal by resident Chef Andy and served by Jade and Jeannie. A table quiz followed which was enjoyed by everyone. Come 10pm most of the passengers had retired to their cabins for the night and I decided to do the same.
Awake early the next morning after a very comfortable night’s sleep had me up in the saloon for that first cuppa of the day. Grabbing a mug of tea I head for the wheelhouse and a chat with Capt. Dave who tells me the boat was built in 1999 specifically for river cruising carrying a maximum of 22 passengers in 11 cabins and has a crew of 5 who work as a team doing various jobs. The view from the windows is breath taking. A mist was covering part of the water and surrounding area, like a fairy wonderland as we quietly made our way along the canal and through the various swing bridges. Time for breakfast which again for a small boat the selection was excellent. Fruit juices, choice of cereals, fresh fruit salad, egg and bacon muffins and fresh coffee in a proper percolator. During breakfast the captain told us that we would be sailing to Purton for a guided tour of the Purton Hulks.
On arrival we meet our guide who explains the story of the hulks. In years gone by the River Seven which runs adjacent to the canal started to wear away the banks that separated the two. To avoid this an idea was developed to tow old barges to the river bank and allow them to form a barrier. The first barges were dumped there in 1909. Further vessels were added over the years and this continued until early in the 1970s. Each of these vessels was taken out of Sharpness Dock when the water was high enough, usually in the Spring and towed by a tug towards the shore. It was then released and allowed to impact with the river bank and imbed itself as far as possible. Holes were then knocked in the hull allowing silt to build up with the constant tides which then became a barrier protecting the river banks. Some of the old barges are now fully submerged with just their tiller arms above the surface whilst others still have their bows above the river line.
Back on board it was time to set sail for Frampton our next destination. Time for lunch, Jacket Potato and salad with a choice of Chilli, Beans or Cheese fillings followed by a desert. Just right. Arriving at Frampton Capt. Dave moored us expertly alongside the towpath. A coach was waiting to take to Berkeley Castle the home of the Berkeley family for nearly 900 years. http://www.berkeley-castle.com/index.php Built as a Norman Fortress it has a fascinating history with lots to see including Drakes Room named after one of its occupants, Sir Francis Drake. The cell where Edward 2nd was kept prior to his being murdered. The castle boasts beautiful collections of furniture, paintings and tapestries. There is much to see but unfortunately not enough time to see everything in detail. I could have spent the day there. Time to board the coach and back to the boat in time for tea and more of the Chef Andy’s excellent cake followed by shower, change and a visit to the bar for that pre dinner Gin and Tonic.
First however was the presentation to the Quoits Champion from earlier in the day. It was Maurice with 24 points. How many did I get? Well, err, ok 6 now stop laughing. Dinner that night Tomato and Basil soup followed by one of the best Roast Lamb dinners I have had for a long time. Lots of vegetables and more if you wanted them. Then came Bakewell Tart and Custard followed by the Cheese Board and a choice of tea/coffee. Tonight was live entertainment in the guise of Tony and Diane performing as ‘Ain’t Misbehaving’. http://www.tonyjazz.com/index.htm Tony plays keyboard and trombone whilst Diane sings and plays a variety of instruments. Finally another day gone and time for bed. Again, the dreaded alarm going off and the start of another day. During the night had been torrential rain the sound of which hammering the window had woken me up so I looked out with some trepidation but was delighted to see a clear sky.
Breakfast today apart from the usual choices had Bacon and Mushroom Croissant instead of the Muffin. This morning we were sailing to Saul Junction for a talk from the Cotswolds Canal Trust. With the sun shining I took the opportunity to go up to the top outer deck and admire the scenery. There is something very tranquil about cruising the canal at a steady 5 mph, passing fields of sheep and cows, admiring the tree and shrub lined banks with their leaves displaying those colours that only autumn can bring. The water ahead of us, so still that it acts as a mirror to all around. It makes you realise that life really is wonderful and a great gift. As we sail on Saul Junction comes into view, our final stop on the cruise prior to Gloucester. Here we meet Clive who gives us a most interesting insight into the canal and its history. I for one did not realise the history of the town of Stroud and its cloth making industry. Neither did I realise the various types of felt from that which graces the tops of billiard tables to that which is the outer of a tennis ball. Thank you Clive for a really interesting talk. http://www.cotswoldcanals.com/
Back to the boat for our last meal on board. Today it was Ploughman’s with a selection of three different cheeses, pickle, silver onions, salad and bread rolls. followed by a delicious creamy desert mixed with fresh fruit. Whilst having lunch the crew carried our luggage from cabins to the bar area for disembarkation. Soon the large swing bridge marking the entrance to Gloucester Docks came into view and after a while swung open to allow us passage through. It seemed only minutes later that we were alongside our berth and the peace and tranquillity that we had enjoyed seemed a lifetime away.
This is a small boat but it brings with it an intimacy that is enjoyed by all especially those of mature years. The food served to us by Chef Andy was excellent and far surpassed my expectations. Yes the cabins are small but the way they are arranged makes full use of the available space and at no time did I feel restricted. I spoke with all the passengers on the cruise and without exception everyone had enjoyed themselves. Some had returned for a second year and were talking about returning next year. If you are looking for a UK river cruise that offers value for money, good food, relaxation, small but happy crew for whom nothing is too much trouble and you enjoy the company of a small number of like-minded travellers with a casual dress code then look no further.
The price includes the tours and they even supply umbrellas and suntan lotion. The question now is, did I enjoy the cruise and would I do it again? The answer to both is a resounding yes. From me, thank you Capt. Dave, Mate Fran, Chef Andy, Jade and Jeannie, I had a great time.
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I was about to sample my first canal cruise aboard the Edward Elgar courtesy of English Holiday Cruises. I was joining the boat on the second of its 4 day cruise along the Gloucester Sharpness Canal.
The company’s offices in Gloucester Docks are a replica of a Mississippi Paddle Steamer named Oliver Cromwell. Here I met with Richard Clements and his wife Judith who with son Jay run the company who after introductions took me to the boat, moored that day at Slimbridge. On arrival it was just a short walk along the towpath to the Edward Elgar. First impressions were it looked large compared with the canal boats but not so large as to be out of place.
Boarding was via the short gangway onto the small forward deck from where a door gives entry into the bright, airy and well-appointed saloon. The only people on board were crew as the passengers were on one of the included excursions to the Slimbridge Wildfowl Centre.
Time for a cup of tea and a chance to look around what was to be my home for the next 3 days. Down two short flights of stairs to the accommodation deck and my cabin. The cabins are compact but very functional with great use being made of available space. All cabins have a window and air conditioning so no one will feel claustrophobic.
Alan's video images of the cruise
Alan Fairfax -
is a travel writer for
YOUR HOLIDAY TV
Alan also writes for the
Ashford Advertiser Media Group with regional papers across Kent
The Edward Elgar is operated by English Holiday Cruises, click on the image to go to their website for more information on their cruises