RSP Home River Severn Tales Chris Witts


Severn Song

In the beginning time. In the Cambrian time

Under the stars - your song is born

On rocky heather-hills where red kites soar,

Sheep tracks below and wild winds storm.

You are young here, tumbling, surging,

Filled with light are the songs that you recite

To the music of the night.

Morning comes, silver-gold across the Marches,

Your new-born song is offered to the dawn

Beside Montgomery's Castle, flowing wider now

Past Offa's dyke, where salmon come to spawn,

It is farewell to Wales that you are singing,

Slowing down to weave a water ribbon.

Round the banks of Shrewsbury town.

Midday river, Midland river - sing through England's heart

Another song was born here, long ago,

A song of iron and industry of wheat and malt and coal,

Of sailing-barge, of frigate and of flat bottomed trow.

Worcester's basin Tewkesbury's weir, Gloucester's dock

Passed by, an afternoon as fleeting as the winking of an eye

And now you sing the Bara song, your famous tidal wave

Bringing its first, faint, salt smell of the sea.

Spring tides - elver tides, lanterns beneath an evening star,

Mallard, Curlew, Heron, Wild Geese flying free,

Perry orchards, apple blossoms, bird - call without end,

One mile wide and widening still around your horseshoe bend.

In swift and deep crescendo, flow on majestically

Your river - god salutes from Forest shore.

Past old red cliffs of Sedbury that guide you to the sea.

Sabrina's river - song is heard no more,

And watching, listening, nets in hand, as mists roll in from Dean

The twilight ghosts of fishermen. The silent ones unseen.

Far, far away, on dark Plynlimon's height

Beneath the stars a song is born to music of the night.

Mary Herbert

Dawlish Warren


On an evening tide in October Nineteen Sixty,

Many vessels were bound for Sharpness.

By Berkeley pill a thick fog descended,

Quietly swirling amongst the darkness.

Two sister tankers Arkendale and Wastdale were amongst the crowd,

Both later to be doomed,

Underneath the fog's chill shroud.

At Sharpness the fog-warning bell rang out far and wide,

Too late for these tankers - They'd passed by on the tide.

Helplessly drifting with fuel fully loaded,

Amongst the dark waters fierce turbulence.

They both hit the bridge and with a flash all exploded,

Against the ensuing fire there was no defence.

There are many today who can remember that night,

The red ball of flame, the sounds, smells and sight.

And families relive their own loved-one's plight.

Now the setting sun over the West Bank nestles,

A skeletal-like sculpture lies entombed in the sands.

All that remains of the two hapless vessels,

Like arthritic fingers on two entwined hands.

So quiet here on the East Side of the river,

No more the sound of a passing train.

Five men lost-along with the rail link,

Memories, Sorrow and peace now remain.

Time to reflect on elements that rule far and wide,

Over many brave men who set forth on the tide.

Angela Moran


Respect for a River

From Plynlimon you start your journey

Slowly, gently meandering south

Passing through so many counties

Finally to reach your mouth

You can adopt a human mantle

Sometimes giving sometimes taking

Endlessly progressing onwards

Tidal rhythms never breaking

On quieter days reflecting, soothing

Almost healing is your flow

Washing away man's pollution

Down the channel it will go

But when you're roused a different story

Brown mad fury, full of wrath

Sailors you have tossed asunder

Lost amongst the swirling froth

You possess fish in abundance

Rows of putchers - a dying art

In the springtime elvers travel

Miles from their Sargasso start

Oh Mighty Severn we may have bridged you

But your power remains untamed

Your wildness and freedom we envy

But your secrets stay unclaimed

Angela Moran



Sabrina, on Plynlimon's heights,

could see a blue and briney bay;

the constant calling Irish Sea seemed not so far away,

She tiptoed past her sister's beds

in fear she might awaken them,

and jealous of their childish ways

determined to forsaken them,

She crept across the peaty hollows,

then burst out brightly as a stream

into the Hafren forest dark,

watched by kite and peregrine,

Through forest trails,

down mighty falls,

first East, then South she followed me,

Through towns and cities,

bridges narrow,

but always onwards to the sea,

At Tewkesbury weir she met the tide

and frolicked in his salty play,

rejoicing that her journey's end

was only one more night away,

She thanked me for my good advice,

my chosen route to sea from source,

renewed in strength she turned to leave

upon her gently ebbing course,

Her disappointment was so great,

she roared back upstream with a curse,

for though we took the safest route

her sisters reached the Ocean first,

Each day she leaves Plynlimon's heights

before the Wye and Rhiedol wake,

but they will use the shorter route,

despite the risks, her prize they'll take,

Sabrina in her misery

at picking up the losers score,

returns home with her jealous hurt

each day upon the Severn Bore

Timothy J Meadows


It's a bore

Twice a day I make the journey,

Coming from the South to Gloucester:

Can't remember when I did not,

Can't conceive of having not to,

Can't control its varied nature.

Sometimes, not a hint of trouble,

Slipping by serene and tranquil,

It is over, barely noticed.

Other times, for other reasons,

All is angst and fraught frustration;

Caused they say by lunar madness,

Causing me to rage in anger,

Causing me to foam and splutter.

Unconstrained in the beginning,

All is well, and driven onwards,

One can roll along quite freely.

As however volume builds up,

As the way constricts and narrows,

So one hits the snarl of rush hour.

Cloistered by the coast at Cardiff,

Sandwiched by the strands of Weston,

We have reached the Bristol Channel.

Pushed beneath two Severn crossings,

Past the concrete slab of Oldbury,

Past the lorry lea (the M5),

Past the bunkered block of Berkeley,

Squeezed between the shores at Sharpness.

Eager now we journey onwards,

By the virgin grounds of Slimbridge,

O'er the mazy sands of Frampton,

Round the horseshoe bend at Newnham,

Via Framilode and Longney,

On to Minsterworth we travel.

Minsterworth is where I gather

Strength to wrestle with the surfers,

Strength to drench unwary watchers,

Strength to get me through to Gloucester,

So that finally it's Over.

Twice a day I'll make the journey,

Underneath the gaze of May Hill,

Through the countryside of Harvey,

Filled with memories of Gurney,

And the strains of Howells and Finzi,

To the tower and shrine of Gloucester,

Until finally it's over.

Roger Bacon

Nisco © September 2001


Of the English stones there is a story told

of Roman soldiers from the days of old

There is a legend that on these stones

lye the remains of many roman bones

The ships the come the ships they go all along Severnside

and with each rise and fall of the the fast flowing tide

we hear the cries and murmurs of the once desperate band

echoing across the river and the desolate land

A ghost ship sails the river with a skipper at the wheel taking his trick

her lofty masts and rigging gone she is the`Vindicatrix`

history sings her a watery song

as she sails to the breakers.......good old`Vindi`so long

In my mind as the tide falls swiftly through the`Shoots`

a tug and barge her siren hoots,

making good time for the Avon`s mouth

past Charlie Hills`Bristol City`heading south

Of sailor, salmon and elver our book reads well

as the folk along Severnside will often tell

for in the bar their smile grows wider and wider

as they sup a pint of Gloucestershire cider

They talk of history and times long past

of wooden ships and iron men that sailed before the mast

Beneath the tides the Severn keeps her story

and when the sun sets in the west the river only then reveals her glory

The sailing Barque,Brig,Schooner and Trow have gone

along with the men and tugs that towed the barges along

full of cargoes from Gloucester and Sharpness docks

they plied the Severn down to Avonmouth locks

The Severn is a book of watery pages

telling a story of a thousand ages

of a running tide and racing bore

and the lives of people along the Severn shore

by Ian P.Dye of Bristol, based on childhood memories


Across the shimmering bay of Kilkenny

between Portishead and the isle of Denny

freighters steamed the racing river

A silver sea,a taker and a giver

The coaster`Iberian Coast` went by

dwarfed by the lumberboat`Saga Sky`

sailboats tacked on the rising river

A silver sea,a taker and a giver

Brown waters washed the shores of all they contain

leaving only the seaweed there to remain

by house and shoreline and the fisherman on the river

A silver sea,a taker and a giver

The`Saga Sky`steamed out beyond the pier

through a silver sea like a diamond chandelier

a silhouette high out upon the river

A silver sea,a taker and a giver

On the shoreline we watched the sun go down

as the channel waters slowly changed to brown

another day was over on the swiftly rising river

A silver sea,a taker and a giver

Ian P.Dye Bristol


On a clear channel day in the month of June

the hills of Wales were a bright green hue

over the daisies I tripped my way

it was June 15th fathers day

Down the glade to the Battery light

to find a seat at a reasonable height

upon a rock as old as time

I viewed the waters and listened to the Severn rhyme

Inward bound the`Arklow Castle`passed by

followed by`Danfeeder`long before the tide was high

The`Oldenburg`came from by Clevedon way

full of passengers enjoying the sunny June day

In her wake steamed the`Paulina B`

bow cutting through the deep brown sea

On a fast passage to Sharpness docks

her wash rolling ashore cooling the sun baked rocks

Her shipshape appearance caught my eye

as the sun peered through an opening in the sky

in Prussian Blue and gleaming White

her coat of paint was a pleasing site

She rode on the tide her engines aft

making a course through a dozen sailing craft

all ready about and ready to tack

with sails of purple orange and black

`Paulina B` was in the coasting game

and on her stern a former name

it seemed to me she was Holland made

as she steamed up the Severn for the Sharpness trade

Ian P.Dye Bristol

Photomarine . Sharpness Shipping . Links . Gloucester Shipyard