SEvery year, mostly in spring, the conditions are just right for the outgoing stream of a river in an estuary to meet the incoming tide and collide to form a wave front, called a bore.  The Severn Bore is the one I know about, and witnessed when I was at University.  Like the eclipse, I’ve never forgotten the sight.

We started at dawn on an early March day, possibly Saturday, since we wouldn’t have been back in time for lectures.  We huddled on a misty shoreline at the side of the Severn Estuary, possibly a mile wide at that point, and someone called out “Look! There it is!”

Frankly, we weren’t impressed.  A ripple on the surface of a calm sea, that’s all.  Then we went further upstream, to a point where the road was conveniently near the river, and waited.  Shortly before the bore was due to arrive, a small ship, a fishing trawler or similar, came up the river.  I think the captain must have been well aware of the time, since he manoeuvred the boat around in front of us to head downstream.  No sooner had he finished, than a wave, about three feet high, swept round the corner, crashing along the banks as the river level jumped up behind it.   The boat rode the wave ok, and once the secondary waves had passed, he turned again and continued on his way.

He also had to wait for the kayakers, of whom more than a dozen were surfing the first or second wave.  It looked like fun!  These days surfers do it too, and it looks like it gets pretty crowded.

So, yeah, a three foot wave, moving really fast – it was… impressive, I suppose.  OK, not that impressive, but cool.

We got back on our bus and headed for Gloucester, where the River Severn divides into two – or rather a tributary joins it.  We stood on the headland between these two rivers and waited for the Bore to come around the corner.

Wow!  A six foot wave at least came rushing towards us, really like an express train, and dashed itself against the bank where we stood – splitting up and going up the two rivers, but petering out as it lost energy.  That was amazing!

It’s over 30 years since I saw that, and I haven’t any photos, more’s the pity.  But the wall of water rushing towards me sticks in my memory.

Apparently this year’s bore has been good, and there are lots of pics of surfers enjoying the lower reaches; I’ve searched in vain for the few from my promontory as it rushes towards me, but no luck so far. These ones are from tudorfarmhouse.wordpress.com, realsurf.com and SWNS.

If you get a chance to see a bore, do!

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Severn Bore
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13 thoughts on “Severn Bore

    • 22 April, 2015 at 5:11 pm
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      Thanks for visiting, Anne. I don’t think any of the major rivers in Australia get a bore – perhaps I’ll look it up!

  • 22 April, 2015 at 1:44 pm
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    That was really awesome to hear about! Aren’t you glad you took the time to witness it? I love these quirks of nature that are built into our world. I wonder what (besides for the enjoyment of kayakers and surfers) purpose they also serve in nature. There must be something they change or promote. Now I have to go look these up. Interesting! Thanks!
    Donna
    AtoZ Challenge
    Mainely Write

    • 22 April, 2015 at 5:15 pm
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      These don’t serve a purpose, I don’t think; they really are instances of the unstoppable overcoming all obstacles, in this case two nearly equal and opposite forces. They are too ephemeral for any ecosystems to be affected too – just the intertidal range goes from empty to full in a matter of seconds instead of hours. But yes, I’m really glad I saw it – partly because I’d never heard of it before I lived in Bristol, and haven’t been down to see it since.

      I think there’s one on the Rance in Brittany, and probably one in the Bay of Fundy – which you may know about?

  • 22 April, 2015 at 2:18 pm
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    Woo! I’ve never seen that, or really understood what it was before.

    • 22 April, 2015 at 5:16 pm
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      There’s always time, Anabel. One of those sites I mentioned has the timetable for them 🙂

  • 22 April, 2015 at 2:51 pm
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    Just glad the Severn Bore isn’t that guy in the cottage down by the river who never stops talking about his dahlias. 😉

    • 22 April, 2015 at 5:16 pm
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      lol oh, there are those ones too!

    • 23 April, 2015 at 1:36 pm
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      It is, Patricia!

  • 23 April, 2015 at 12:39 am
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    As you know, I wrote about the bore in the Bay of Fundy but you have way neater pictures, including the surfers! Would love to try that, but not standing up on the board!

  • 23 April, 2015 at 1:36 pm
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    I thought you did – I should have checked again!

  • 17 May, 2015 at 12:38 pm
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    Hi Jemima – I remember seeing one on the River Nith, Solway Firth when I was a kid … and see the Chinese one a few years ago – I realised the sheer force of the water and the tidal range. We’ve got 8 tidal bores here in the UK … and the Severn is quite impressive when see on tv – sadly all I’ve seen. But brilliant you were able to have so many sightings that day …

    Fascinating .. cheers Hilary (and yes the Bay of Fundy does have bores!)

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