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Rising in the Cambrian Mountains and flowing to the Bristol Channel, 220 miles long, meandering through some of England’s best-known towns, cities and picturesque countryside is the River Severn, cruise area of English Holiday Cruises boat MV Edward Elgar. Carrying a maximum of 22 passengers in comfort this is the way to explore the Cotswolds and Severn Vale.

 

Boarding at the home port of Gloucester Quays it's temperature taken, repeat of health questionnaire. mask on, sanitise hands and up the gangway to be greeted with a ‘Welcome Onboard Drink’ by Captain Steve, a man with a wonderful sense of humour.

 

Luggage, already in our cabin, has been sanitised before being brought onboard. Time to unpack. Cabins comprise 2 single beds in an ‘L’ configuration, hanging area, 3 shelves and 4 drawers, certainly enough space for the cruises on offer. Hairdryer is supplied together with soap, sanitiser dispenser, 2 bottles of sanitiser, tissues, shower caps, towels, face masks, bottled water, the electric socket houses two USB ports, no need to bring chargers for phone, tablet or laptop and reading lights above the beds. Cabins are fully air-conditioned and wi-fi is free. Bathroom is based on a wet room, two showers, main and hand held, both delivering powerful jets with shower gel/shampoo dispenser on the wall. A curtain can be pulled round the shower area to keep toilet and wash basin dry.

 

Unpacking completed, time for tea at our allocated table or ‘Bubble’ as it became known. Captain Steve gives the safety briefing assuring everyone that should the ship go down “He would ensure the bar remained open”, that’s a relief, time for tea, strawberry’s, freshly baked scones, jam and clotted cream but which goes on first!!

 

Through the Gloucester Quays lock we commence our journey along the River Severn sighting our first swans that give no more than a casual glance as we quietly pass, the water ahead, so still, creating glass like reflections of trees and wildlife as the sun begins to sink into a clear western sky. It’s dusk as we berth on our overnight mooring at Tewkesbury and again it’s time to eat, dinner time. Locally smoked mackerel pâté, braised chicken in white wine sauce, mushrooms, onions, beans followed by sherry trifle and cheese board to finish, all washed down by a delightful white wine. The end of day one and, oh dear, the diets blown already and time to order tomorrows breakfast, decisions, decisions. With G&T in hand, time to relax on the open upper deck where bathed in silence the soft warm breeze creates a therapeutically relaxing atmosphere

 

A sunny morning, 8.30 breakfast, orange juice, toast, marmalade, coffee and yes, I succumbed, a full ‘English’. Casting off we head out into the main river heading towards Worcester. 10.30, time for the first round of the “Quoits Championship” on the upper deck, a game I never could get the hang of so content myself with lazing in the sunshine, taking in the scenery as we glide past fishermen sitting patiently waiting for their line to twitch, cottages, holiday homes and other river craft where occupants give us a cheery wave. A little before 12.30 we arrive at our Worcester mooring by the cathedral. This area of the river is designated ‘Swan Sanctuary’ where at 12.30 every day its swan feeding time, never have I seen so many. Time for lunch, a ploughman’s with pickles, chocolate pot to follow and more white wine.

 

Worcester, home to one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the country dating back to the 11th century. As tours are included with English Heritage Cruises a cathedral guide conducts the group regaling the cathedrals history, pointing out the tomb of King John, wonderful stained glass windows and the stories they portray, the crypt and cloisters all have a history to tell. Out into the daylight, time to admire the gardens before returning to the boat for a spot of relaxation on the top deck before embarking on another delightful dinner.

 

The days pass quickly as we glide along the Severn, passing species of water fowl, birds, sheep and cows grazing in fields who give us no more than a quick glance, fishermen sitting patiently waiting for a bite and campers making the most of the late summer sunshine.  Passing through narrow locks and under low bridges we are assured by Captain Steve that we will fit. Morning quoits has become a favourite fixture as the competition heats up.

 

Overnight stops, always at scenic locations, Stourport on Severn, being met by a local historian who takes us on a guided walking tour of the Stourport Basins, an area surrounded by historic buildings, a once thriving inland port from a bygone age but now home to canal boats and other river craft.

 

Bevere, we moor by the lock river bank transferring to the waiting coach for Witley Court and Gardens. Originally a house built in the late 1500’s but added to over the centuries until finally becoming a large mansion with wings and out buildings unfortunately devasted by fire in 1937. The remains however give an indication of how beautiful Witley Court once was. Stunning gardens, fountains perform with water plumes cascading into the air, large flower beds form an oasis of colour, walkways through trees and shrubs past streams and the lake. A delightful venue to pass the hours.

 

It’s then cruising to Upton-On-Severn for a Blue Badge guided tour of this lovely small town on river banks covered in flowers transforming it into a feast of colour. In days gone by this was a busy port having the only river crossing for many miles until the 1940’s. As the sun starts to set it Captains Cocktails on the grass area adjacent to the boat followed by another sumptuous dinner, a personal favourite, loin of pork on a bed of red cabbage with fondant potato in a cider cream sauce.

 

Cruising back to Tewkesbury it’s the final of the “Quoits Championship”. Three rings each whilst standing on one leg, eyes closed and tongue out, bizarre but great fun before arriving at our final berth of call. A coach takes us to Tewkesbury for a guided tour of the famous abbey, dating back to the 12th century and a former Benedictine Monastery. The roof above the main altar is stunning as pillars transform into curved arches leading to a beautiful red, blue and gold design. Wander the grounds of this former monastery as did the monks in a bygone age, visit the tea room before wandering past the old buildings sporting their flags representing the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471 as part of the War of the Roses. Following lunch on the boat it’s time for a trip on the River Avon that shares the town with the Severn. The small boat is reminiscent of a floating sofa, large white sumptuous upholstery, sit back, relax, as we pass through the marina, under the flower decorated bridge and river banks. Past old houses that have been restored to their former glory and the small lock that connects the Avon to the Severn, a fascinating trip in armchair comfort.

 

The last afternoon passes quickly, too quickly and soon we sit down for our last dinner on the MV Edward Elgar. Being a Friday, it has to be fish and chips with mushy peas and tartare sauce washed down with white wine. Entertainment that evening is from a local duo, Ain’t Misbehaving. Performing the well known songs and tunes from jazz and blues Tony plays keyboards, trombone and sings whilst Lee plays saxophone and clarinet. A memorable way to finish the cruise

 

Next morning having packed its time to reflect on the last 6 days.

 

This boat appeals to the 50 plus generation, who want to get away from the rigours of daily life and relax as they meander along the River Severn or Gloucester Sharpness Canal enjoying good food served by attentive, efficient and happy crew members. Red or white wine is supplied at lunch and dinner the staff ensuring the glass never drops below half full, for non-wine drinkers there is a choice of beer or soft drinks. All food is locally sourced, freshly prepared and cooked by Chef Miles. Following each meal, you complete a form giving your selection for the next.

 

A special mention has to be made regarding the measures taken by the company to keep passengers safe from Covid-19. Masks have to be worn when in the communal parts of the boat, temperature taken and recorded every morning at breakfast, all tables are for two, separated from others by clear perspex screens and have their own fresh air supply. The condiments, milk and hot water containers are marked with the table number and remain with that table as does the hand sanitiser, water jug, box of tea, coffee and sugar sachets and hand sanitiser. The boat is kept spotlessly clean, communal areas, hand rails, door handles are regularly sanitised plus there are sanitiser units at all entrances. The staff wear plastic masks when in public areas and will remind you to wear yours should you forget. Masks are supplied in your cabin as is sanitiser and passenger capacity has been reduced to a maximum of 18. Every possible precaution has been taken to keep the passengers safe.

 

Finally, a huge thank you to Captain Steve, Louis, Miles, Dan and Jack for making this a most enjoyable experience and one I look forward to repeating. Alan was a guest of English Country Cruises.

 

 

Further details at: https://river.englishholidaycruises.co.uk

 

 

CRUISING ON EDWARD ELGAR

Alan Fairfax -

for

YOUR HOLIDAY TV

 

Alan also writes for

Atlantic Print Media with regional papers across Kent with high circulations and regular holiday & travel sections

in all editions

 

and is Assistant Editor for

 Your Holiday & Cruise Magazine

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Published September 2020

Sharpness Canal