History of the Canal

The Gloucester and Sharpness Canal was built to by-pass the treacherous tidal stretch of the River Severn below Gloucester. At a higher level than the River, the canal is entered via the sea lock at Sharpness or by locking up from the Severn at Gloucester. It is still a commercial waterway but it is now mainly used by pleasure boats and can accommodate vessels up to 240 ft in length and 30 ft beam. An excellent website detailing the Gloucester and Sharpness Docks and the canal can be found here.

The sea lock at Sharpness – entrance from the sea into the Sharpness Canal. At the time of its completion in 1827 it was the largest and deepest Ship canal in the world. Part of the canal at Netheridge was re-aligned along a new excavated channel in 2006.

King ArthurA familiar site in Gloucester Docks and on the Sharpness canal is the excursion boat the ‘King Arthur’. There are several other cruise and excursion boats working the canal.

The wide ship canal is some 14 nautical miles long and is punctuated by many swing and one bascule bridge.  The bridges are manned, or operated by cctv, and are controlled by traffic lights on the bank; there are plans to make some bridges user operated.

The canal traverses remote and pleasant countryside and offers views of the Severn Estuary , the Cotswolds and the distant hills of Wales.  A number of canal side pubs are easily accessible.

Junction (Saul) bridge marks the crossing of the disused Stroudwater (Cotswold) canal that once linked the Severn and the Thames. There are plans to re open this link.

The wildlife center at Slimbridge is only a short walk from the bridge at Patch.

Several vantage points to view the Severn Bore are within walking distance from the Sharpness Canal.

Find out more about the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal by visiting the excellent Canal Trust website.