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River Severn: Cruising upon the ‘Edward Elgar’

By David Powell

Upon boarding the charming Edward Elgar, its all vintage cream and maroon trimmed interior feels like walking into an Agatha Christie novel. There are no Art Deco interiors or chandeliers, but it has a quirky English atmosphere and its multi-talented crew of five couldn’t be more friendly.

At just 88ft, with only 11 double cabins, the 3 deck Edward Elgar was purpose-built for English Holiday Cruises to sail the River Severn and Gloucester Sharpness Canal and has been certified a four-star hotel boat by Visit England.

There’s a cosy bar, a lounge that doubles as a dining room and an open deck for taking in the views as you glide serenely through green and pleasant areas of Gloucestershire and Worcestershire. It’s a lovely place to call home for a few days.

Comfort is a priority on board with quality seating, mattresses, and furnishings. Tea and coffee is always available and there’s home-made cake each afternoon as well as unlimited house wine, beer, spirits, and soft drinks.

Every day there’s a free excursion to enjoy and at night the crew will entertain you with quizzes and singalongs; which runs alongside free WIFI connections. An advanced battery system means there is no need to run generators at night ensuring the boat is perfectly quiet at her mooring.

The cabins have twin beds and en-suite shower rooms, with reduced rates for single occupancy on every cruise. Although they are small in size, they are beautifully kitted out and are equipped to suit most needs for customers.

Guests joined at The Boathouse near Gloucester’s superbly restored historic docks; the destination also being the canal-side HQ of English Holiday Cruises. The Georgian warehouses are now home to bars and restaurants, with museums and cathedral a short walk away.

English Holiday Cruises offer a secure parking facility at the boathouse and after a welcome lunch and drinks, we were off on our adventures. The cruise first sailed to Frampton on Severn for a guided tour of Berkeley Castle in the Cotswolds. This is a 12th-century Norman keep with fabulous medieval kitchen and glorious gardens.

Back on the boat guests enjoyed a delicious home-cooked dinner on the way to Purton along the world’s first shipping canal, mooring for the night within sight of the River Severn where it widens before flowing into the sea.

Up bright and early I took a pre-breakfast walk to see Purton Hulks Barge Graveyard on the river, which proved to be a surreal collection of old boats and barges that were deliberately sunk to prevent the river’s banks breaking. It was fascinating to see how nature has colonised these old wooden and even concrete vessels.

I was definitely ready for breakfast after my walk and tucked into a full English, although there were lighter offerings such as French toast with cinnamon. The dining room had a number of picture windows that allowed us to watch the world go by, even whilst eating.

During breakfast we sailed the canal towards the direction of Slimbridge Wetland Centre for an pre-included tour; which permitted us to see the hundreds of swans, ducks, geese and even flamingos on our visit.

Taxis were available to take guests to and from the centre, although it was an easy walk from the boat. Wildfowl was present and there was also the Scott House Museum, which is named after World Wildlife Fund founder Sir Peter Scott as he lived there when setting up the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust.

The artist / TV broadcaster is also a friend of conservation pioneer Sir David Attenborough and son of Antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott; whose wildlife paintings are on display in the house and visitor centre.

Back onboard the boat sailed for historic Gloucester Docks and a visit that most guests were eagerly looking forward to; which was the late afternoon Gloucester Brewery tour with gin tasting included!

On the next day guests calmly sailed along the river to Upton-upon-Severn in Worcestershire, arriving after lunch to be taken by coach to Croome Court. Now looked after by the National Trust, the estate has a fascinating history. The parkland was Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown’s first major landscape gardening project and helped make his name.

Started in 1750 it includes a lake with a Chinese bridge and a grotto once lined with semi-precious stones. Part of the 18th-century neo-Palladian house have been designed by Brown with superb interiors by architect Robert Adam and is now open after restoration,

But our favourite part was the RAF Defford Museum, which included quirky displays in old RAF buildings to reveal how the place was used for radar testing during the Second World War and Cold War operations.

That night guests were moored in Upton and we had the chance to explore the town’s pretty streets of half-timbered and Georgian buildings. Most famous of which is entitled the “Pepper Pot”; a site that is the remains of a former church tower and is central to several music festivals each year.

After dinner we sloped off to Ye Olde Anchor Inn; a ‘black and white’ half-timbered pub with leaded windows, low ceilings, and beams. And this paved the way for a trip to Worcester the very next day, including the cathedral.

This site is one of the finest in the country and once so important that Richard the Lionheart’s brother King John is buried here. And this concluded a fantastic trip that reflectively included a friendly atmosphere, new friends made and the excellent food and service

I thought maybe I would try the full 6-night cruise next time! English Holiday Cruises runs two, three, five and six-night trips in the Severn Vale, with its six-night Classic Severn Cruise available May to September.

All are round-trips from Gloucester with the longer itineraries a mix of stops along the River Severn and Gloucester Sharpness Canal. In comparison the three and two-night cruises are confined to the canal and run only in April and October. And for those who want to extend their stay in this gorgeous region there are hotel packages available.

Readers can find out further information by calling 01452 410411 or by visiting the website of: www.englishholidaycruises.co.uk.

PICTURED: Globe travel writer David Powell’s views of the Edward Elgar as he enjoyed a trip cruising upon the River Severn from Gloucester.