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Wednesday, March 03, 2010


There are very few locations in the world where tidal bores can be seen, but one of the most spectacular bores occurs just up the road on the River Severn, which has the second largest tide in the world. Creating a wave up to 2m high, it is by far the largest bore in the UK.

The Severn Bore occurs to some extent throughout the year, but the really big ones happen around the equinox, particularly the spring equinox. They are caused by high tides (hence the connection with the moon) rushing up the estuary causing a tidal wave on the leading edge. A lot of factors come into play, such as the amount of water coming down the river and the wind.

Bores can range between one star, caused by a tidal range of 4.5m (14.8ft) to 4.6m (15ft), and five-star, caused by a tidal range of 5.4m (17.7ft) and above. On 2nd March the river experienced its first five star bore since 2002 and dozens of surfers gathered to ride the wave up to three miles up river (BBC Report and video). Armed with his tide table Crispy assured me that there ought to be a similar spectacle on the 3rd.

And so it was, using up the last of my leave for this financial year I jumped in the Crispmobile and we set off up the banks of the Severn to the appropriately named Severn Bore pub. Our timing was perfect, within a minute of arriving the bore came around the corner, splashing against the banks and upsetting a few horses. As a lone surfer rode the wave I was overwhelmed by the silence of the crowd gathered in the car park. Unforetunately the silence was not awe, but disapointment. This was my first time, I was losing my ‘bore virginity’ and it was, to put it mildly - an anti-climax. I could not work out what all the fuss was about, but looking at everyone else’s face I could see I was not alone. I looked at the crisp, a veritable bore stud, his face a picture of puzzlement. “Well, that was – erm – boring!”

We hastily jumped back in the crispmobile to race the wave to a bridge on the outskirts of Gloucester and tried to analyse what had gone wrong. The tide was the same height, there had been no rain to fill up the river, so the only answer must have been the wind. Yes, that was it, the wind was blowing in the wrong direction.

We arrived in Gloucester and I ran up the path to the bridge, expecting the bore to be just behind us. But with all the meandering and travelling at just 10pmh, it was at least half an hour before it reached us and disappointed a whole new set of bore watchers. I had been hoping the wind had changed direction, the river had narrowed or even that there had been an earthquake, but no, it was just as boring up river. Next time eh.

Part of the package deal for the lift in the crispmobile had been that we then had to, for reasons I will not bother you with now, go and sit in the car park of a trading estate in Solihull for an hour, then go and look around charity shops in Solihull town centre for an hour. Eventually we finished off the day with a pleasant bar meal in the Masons Arms and, whilst you poor citizens of Solihull may feel your town is boring, I can confirm it is not as boring as a Severn Bore with the wind blowing in the wrong direction.

*in fairness, even a mini-bore is a little bit impressive and I will be back again hoping to catch it in all its glory next year

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