Rising in the Cambrian Mountains, the River Severn encompasses the Cotswolds and Severn Vale, the cruising area of the English Holiday Cruises boat MV Edward Elgar.
Boarding at the home port of Gloucester Quays, its temperature taken, repeat of health questionnaire, mask on and sanitise hands, before being greeted with a ‘Welcome Onboard Drink’ by Captain Steve.
Luggage, already in our cabin, has been sanitised before coming onboard. Cabins are air conditioned with 2 single beds in an ‘L’ configuration with a hanging area and shelves and drawers sufficient for the cruises on offer. Hairdryer, soap, sanitiser dispenser, 2 bottles of sanitiser, tissues, shower caps, towels, face masks and bottled water come as standard; the electric socket houses two USB ports and reading lights are above the beds. The bathroom is based on a wet room with two showers, main and hand-held, plus a shower gel/shampoo dispenser. A curtain can be pulled round the shower area to keep the toilet and wash basin dry.
In the saloon, Captain Steve gives the safety briefing assuring everyone that should the boat go down “he would open the bar” – what a relief! Then it’s time for tea: strawberries, freshly-baked scones, jam and clotted cream. But which goes on first?!
We are now cruising the River Severn, sighting our first swans (that ignore us as we pass). The water ahead is so still, it creates 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, in time for a dinner of locally smoked mackerel pâté, braised chicken in white wine sauce, mushrooms, onions, beans followed by sherry trifle and cheese board to finish. With G&T in hand, there’s still time to relax on the open upper deck, bathed in silence and a soft warm breeze.
8.30am and it’s time for a breakfast of orange juice, toast, marmalade, coffee and yes, I succumbed, a full ‘English’. 10.30am and we’re into the first round of the ‘Quoits Championship’ on the upper deck, a game I never could get the hang of, so I content myself with taking in the scenery as we pass fishermen, cottages, holiday homes and other river craft. A little after noon, we arrive at our Worcester mooring. This area of the river is designated a ‘Swan Sanctuary’ – never have I seen so many.
Worcester is home to one of the most beautiful cathedrals, dating back to the 11th century. Tours are included with English Holiday Cruises: a cathedral guide conducts the group, regaling us with the cathedral’s history, pointing out the tomb of King John, wonderful stained-glass windows and the crypt and cloisters. All have a history to tell. Out into the daylight and there’s time to admire the gardens before returning to the boat for a spot of relaxation on the top deck prior to another delightful dinner.
The days pass quickly, gliding along the Severn through narrow locks and under low bridges, passing water fowl, birds, sheep and cows grazing in fields that give us no more than a quick glance, while passengers concentrate on quoits as the competition heats up.
Stops are always at scenic locations. At Stourport on Severn we are met by a local historian who takes us on a guided walking tour of the Stourport Basins.
It’s Bevere for Witley Court and Gardens. Originally a house built in the late 1500s and added to over the centuries but unfortunately devasted by fire in 1937. The gardens are stunning with fountains, large flower beds forming an oasis of colour and walkways through trees and shrubs past streams and the lake.
At Upton-On-Severn we have a Blue Badge guided tour of this lovely small town set on river banks covered in flowers. It was formerly a busy port, having the only river crossing for many miles until the 1940s. At sundown, there are Captains Cocktails on the grass area adjacent to the boat followed by dinner.
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, make it bizarre but great fun. A coach takes us to Tewkesbury for a guided tour of the famous abbey and former Benedictine Monastery. The roof above the main altar is stunning, pillars transform into curved arches leading to a beautiful red, blue and gold design. Following lunch, a trip on the River Avon calls. The small boat is reminiscent of a floating sofa, with sumptuous white upholstery. I sit back, relax and pass under the flower-decorated bridge and river banks, old restored houses and small lock connecting the Avon to the Severn on a fascinating trip in armchair comfort.
The last afternoon passes quickly. We sit down for our last dinner, and being Friday, it’s fish and chips with mushy peas and tartare sauce. Entertainment this evening is from a local duo, Ain’t Misbehaving, performing well-known songs and tunes from jazz and blues.
Who is this cruise for?
The boat appeals to the 50+ traveller who expects good food and service whilst enjoying beautiful scenery. They will not be disappointed! Red or white wine is supplied at lunch and dinner, and for non-wine drinkers there’s a choice of beer or soft drinks. Food is locally sourced, freshly prepared and cooked by Chef Miles.
The company have taken stringent measures to ensure safety. Masks must be worn when in communal parts of the boat, temperatures are taken and recorded every morning at breakfast, tables are for two, separated by perspex screens, and have their own fresh air supply. All table items remain on the same table, the boat is kept spotlessly clean with regular sanitising plus sanitiser units are at all entrances. The staff wear plastic masks when in public areas and will remind you to wear yours. Masks and sanitiser are supplied in your cabin and passenger capacity has been reduced. Every possible precaution has been taken to keep passengers safe.
Alan was a guest of English Holiday Cruises.