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Waverley On the Bristol Channel

Photographs © John H. Luxton 2004

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Clevedon Pier and WAVERLEY a timeless scene. Low water - looking down on WAVERLEY.WAVERLEY's finely restored bar.

Holm Islands Cruise

June 2, 2004

It's a few years since I last sailed from Clevedon. May 1996 to be precise. When I last sailed, the restoration of the Pier Head had still to be completed.

I had made a point of trying to get to Clevedon before WAVERLEY had arrived from Penarth. Unfortunately despite a swift drive up from Dartmoor where I had been staying, I drove on to Clevedon's attractive promenade just in time to see WAVERLEY berthing. Quickly finding a parking space I wandered across the road to the pier.

Several Turner's Coaches were drawing up outside the Pier Entrance to convey a large number of passengers to Weston Super Mare who had crossed from Penarth for a day at the popular north Somerset resort. Unfortunately, Waverley is only able to berth at Weston Super Mare at high water, therefore low water landings have to be at Clevedon with onward connection via coach,

I paid my £1.00 Pier Toll at the attractive Pier Head toll house and walked along to the pier head. The last time I had boarded WAVERLEY or BALMORAL at Clevedon, the pier head had yet to be completed and the fine iron shelters and pagoda tea room reinstated.

Cleveland Pier is indisputably Britain's finest seaside pier. It's unique design and lack of gaudy amusements give it an air of quality and respectability which matches the gentile atmosphere of the town of Clevedon and sets it apart from the mass-market resorts.

Clevedon Pier's significant height - 68 feet above the seabed at the pier head enable it to cope with the second highest tidal range in the world which prevails on the Bristol Channel.

I am also fairly certain that the planks on the pier are spaced further apart than on other piers I have walked along. It is  wise to make sure one doesn't have small items in your pocked which could fall out and roll between the gaps!

As one walks along you're attention is drawn to the hundreds of small brass plaques which records the sponsorship of each individual plank during the pier's lengthy restoration.

This uniquely designed Victorian Pier has been completely restored to its former glory with an attractive pagoda surmounting the stair case leading down to the various levels of the berthing head, as well as two cast iron shelters one on each side of the pagoda.

The pagoda has an upper floor which houses a tea room. Seats located on the surrounding balcony level provide an excellent vantage point and sun trap on a suitable day.

By 12.00 a queue had formed at the top of the departure gates leading down to the berthing head on the seaward side of the pagoda. 

A few minutes later the gates were opened and passengers allowed to descend to one of the lower levels as the tide was out. In my recollection of trips in the 1990s the berthing head steps always felt as though they were somewhat rickety. However, the staircase has been fully restored.

WAVERLEY let go at 12:32 with 256 passengers and 23 crew under the command of Captain Colledge.

She set off in a westerly direction for Steep Holm, the highest of the two Holm Islands .

Interestingly I noted that it was almost eight years to the day I had undertaken a landing trip to Steep Holm on board WAVERLEY , I remember that day quite clearly as I had been attacked by a black backed gull when walking on the island and it had managed to draw blood!

Steep Holm is an unusually shaped island. When viewed from a distance it looks somewhat akin to a Christmas Pudding with its steep sides.

WAVERLEY was off Steep Holm Landing Beach 13:27. The shell of the former inn could be seen on the track up to the top of the island. According to the commentary this may one day become a residential hostelry once again as the Kenneth Alsop trust work to restore the building.

Running along the south side of the island the former Barracks building can be seen. This now houses a visitor centre, refreshment facilities and provides accommodation for the warden and visiting groups. The barracks forms just one of a number of items of military archaeology to be found on Steep Holm. Other features include Victorian artillery emplacements complete with muzzle loading artillery as we well as searchlight and gun emplacements dating from the Second World War.

The Island is also well known for its abandoned 2ft gauge  railway system which included an incline from the landing beach.

Around 13:32 WAVERLEY had rounded the distinctive perforated western tip of Steep Holm - Rudder Rock

WAVERLEY passed up the north side of the island in a north-easterly direction bound for Flat Holm.

Flat Holm is much lower lying. Unlike Steep Holm which is in England Flat Holm is in Wales . It is dominated by its lighthouse.

Other buildings on the island include a barracks building of similar design to that on Steep Holm, a farm house, now a hostel and field studies centre, the fog signalling station at the east end and close to the farm the now ruinous Cholera Hospital, abandoned in 1930. Though the hospital was pressed into service by the Military in W.W.II for additional barracks accommodation.

After rounding Flat Holm WAVERLEY headed off in a north westerly direction towards the Welsh coast.

The entrance to Barry Harbour was passed at 14.15. Barry Beach, populated by quite a large number of holiday makers slipped by 5 minutes later.

WAVERLEY continued westwards until off Aberthaw Power Station where she turned at 14:42 .

With the wind behind and riding on the flood tide WAVERLEY sped eastwards.

She was off Barry Beach at 14:59 and the entrance to Barry Docks at 15:02 .

WAVERLEY rounded to and swung into the tide of Cardiff . The dredger UKD DOLPHIN could be seen at work off the Cardiff Bay barrage.

Ropes were on Penarth Pier at 15:29 and WAVERLEY was secured at 15:32 .

Since my last call at Penarth some eight years ago it was interesting to note that the ugly multi-storey car park at the east end of the beach had been demolished, in fact all trace of it had gone!  

After disembarking passengers who had been on board since the morning, new passengers boarded for the late afternoon / early evening cruise to Clevedon and Weston-Super-Mare .

Departure from Penarth was at 15:42 with 277 passengers. A quick trip across the Bristol Channel followed and WAVERLEY was alongside Clevedon Pier at 16:36 .

I disembarked at Clevedon as did around 80% of the passengers. WAVERLEY departed on schedule at 16:45 bound for Weston-Super-Mare where she was due to pick up those passengers conveyed to the resort by coach earlier in the day.

Thus ended my first trip on the Bristol Channel in eight years. Having done many trips on that stretch of water between 1992 an 1996 I will ensure it is not another eight years before I sail in  this area again.



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Steep Holm Island

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Flat Holm

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Flat Holm Lighthouse

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Off The Welsh Coast

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Turning of Aberthaw

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Heading back up channel.

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Penarth Pier

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Penarth Pier Berthing Head

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Arrival back at Clevedon.

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Clevedon Pier pagoda. Café upstairs. Lower level covers the staircase.

L1080486.jpg (73741 bytes)L1080488.jpg (75707 bytes)<< WAVERLEY departs for Weston-Super-Mare.


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