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The Severn Bore Ride

This was a drive ride event to take in the Severn Bore as it made its way up the estuary to Gloucester. Six intrepid riders accepted the invitation on Spond and the 60-mile route started from Stroud at 07:30 on Wednesday 28th April.

Stroud is set on the western escarpment of the Cotswold Hills at the meeting point of the Five Valleys. That should give you a little clue about the ridge you need to get over before you reach the river. The first climb was Whites Hill at just half a mile out and went up 648 feet in 2.3 miles. That’s twice as high as Streetly hill for those that know it. The stopping point to view the Severn Bore was at Epney, about 10 miles from Stroud. The Bore timing is not precise and can vary by plus or minus 30 minutes depending on conditions. To allow for mechanicals we ended up getting there early and waited nearly 55 minutes for the Bore to pass. It is incredible to see the tidal surge, not just the wave, but the speed and force of the rising water level behind it. It is a mini Tsunami.

The River Severn has the third highest tidal range in the world (15m). This tidal surge forcing its way up the funnel shaped estuary causes the incoming tide to create a Bore (wave). The front of the oncoming surge of water creates a visible wave varying in height depending on the tidal range. A high tide at Sharpness docks over 9m will generally produce a visible bore somewhere along its course. Although the bigger tides around the 10m mark attract more attention. Often the spring and autumn tides are the biggest (around the equinox) but generally most month’s high tides will bring a bore up the Severn through Gloucestershire. The bores are categorised by numbers from 1 to 5 and linked to tidal height. The one we saw was a category 3 with a 9.9m tidal range. There are no Category 4 or 5 Bores this year (2021) and only one other Category 3 which is in November, and in the evening.

After witnessing the Bore, we followed the line of the estuary and rode down to Berkeley where we stopped for a cuppa at the Berkeley Tea Rooms. After the first hill this part of the ride was flat by comparison with nothing going above 90 feet in the next 30 miles. Fortunately, it stayed dry up to the café stop, but whilst there, light rain started to fall. When we got back on our bikes, we had a small window of 30 minutes where it stopped, but that was to lull us into a false sense of security. After that it became heavier and persistent as we changed direction and headed back into the oncoming rain towards Stroud. Who said we were fair weather cyclists? There were two more ‘mountains’ to get over before the finish. The first was the climb back into the Cotswolds at Wotton-under-Edge with the aptly named Coombe Hill with 725 feet of climbing. The second was the 453 feet Scar Hill at Forest Green which peaked at 18%. Although wet it was still a good day out and one to tick off the bucket list. I think I would still like to see a Category 5 wave so let’s see what next year brings.


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