The Purton Hulks


The Gloucester and Sharpness canal reaches the river Severn near the tiny hamlet of Purton in Gloucestershire, but it continues in parallel with the riverbank for another mile and a half before feeding into the river via the locks at Sharpness. In 1908/1909, engineers noticed that the river was cutting a  new channel, which was eroding the bank and in danger of breaching the canal bank. Given the canal is 30 feet (10 metres) above the river at that point, something had to be done. That something was to beach a number of redundant timber vessels and allow them to fill up with silt to form barriers around which more silt would accumulate, stabilising the river bank. This worked very well, and the exercise was repeated over the years, ending in the 1970s, when some altogether more robust, but not very pretty, steel and concrete barges were used.

Today they make a great walk and are great subjects for photography. This is Abbey, a wooden barge built in 1900 and beached in 1956. The Friends of Purton have done some fantastic detective work on these vessels, putting down naming plaques where each vessel has been identified.