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An evening adventure out

This event caught my eye on Saturday, a gathering to watch the Severn bore, something I'd seen before though not for several years, and something rather different and interesting to occupy my Sunday evening.

Kenny had asked people to congregate by the church at Minsterworth, and after a needless worry about perhaps not being able to park – after all Kenny had planned a sensible early rendezvous – Poppy and I managed to park in a layby all to ourselves (recced via streetview earlier in the day) and found our way to the meeting point. Soon Kenny turned up to say he, Steve and Robbie were already in position on the riverbank nearby. It was an excellent spot on the outside of a bend with views both downstream to watch for the bore and upstream to see the passing turmoil. It was a fine evening, overcast but warm enough to sit on the bank. I took Poppy for a walk along the bank and back, to give her a leg stretch after her long car journey. Steve came too, and told me about the great campsite he had found not far away, cafe included!

The bore was due at 2157hrs. There had been only about three other small parties when I arrived, and by about 2130hrs there weren't that many more people, so none of us needed to be concerned about having our view restricted. It was much quieter than it had been at Elmore when I went one morning in March 2010. Before that, my one visit to the bore had been at Easter 1978, also at Minsterworth, and I had remembered the ground being wet and little muddy, and being a bit underwhelmed by the bore itself. 2010 was more interesting, and now it was a different experience again – quiet, summer, evening, dry underfoot/underbum and in the company of a GOC gang.

2157hrs arrived and there was no sign of the bore. Surely it can't be far away. We all checked our dates and times. Everything seemed to be in order. I wondered if there was a 'follow the bore' website where you could see the bore's actual progress in real time, but it seemed not. Now there's an opportunity for somebody – all you need is a drone and a webcam perhaps. Another ten minutes went by and rumours abounded. Had it been cancelled? Had the times been published as a joke? Had it gone the wrong way? Was it some kind of divine retribution? Eyes were peeled for any sign of a wave or splashing as far as we could see downstream. It was getting darker now, well past dusk, and we strained our eyes and regretted the poor light for photography. At the limit of our view, as far as the next bend in the river it was hard to tell what was what. The dark river merged into the gloomy river banks and the trees lining it cast black shadows. In places the river reflected the last of the late evening light.

We looked at our watches again. It was now 2218hrs. We returned our gaze to the river. In the distance something looked different. I strained my eyes. I wondered out loud 'what's that horizontal line of light? I'm sure that's new.' Perhaps it was just the changing light in the sky. Another spectator focussed and agreed it hadn't been there before. Something strange was happening. Then we noticed the strip of light was getting broader, deeper, moving mysteriously in a seemingly downward direction. The whispers became louder murmurs then a general hubbub. The bore was approaching! The light strip was the surface of the higher river, and the dark patch below it, appearing to be pushed downwards, was the front of the wave in shadow, spookily coming towards us, unstoppable. Cameras were readied – for those with confidence in their exposure power, blankets picked up – this looked big. There was a palpable air of excitement.

Soon we heard the sound of the wave hitting the banks. Spray flew up towards us, and the wave surged past. Behind the wave the river, now higher, resembled the Severn in flood, but now it was racing upstream. Logs and branches littered the surface. The turbulent water was laden with sand and mud, the swirling currents reflected the last of the summer evening light. We watched for several minutes. It didn't abate. The power of the tide was pushing what seemed like container shiploads of water up the Severn, on and on, relentlessly, at a fair rate of knots. Sources say it roars on at about 12 knots. It seemed faster. In any case it was mightily impressive and left us feeling humbled by the power of nature. It was difficult to take our leave, such was the atmosphere.

So what of the photos? I was enjoying the real spectacle too much to even try to capture the bore. It was too dark to try. Even the earlier photos I took looked grainy on my computer later. But it was a thoroughly enjoyable event, unusual and all the better for it, a real adventure. We're already thinking about a December morning return! Thanks Kenny. Tim H

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