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Visit to the Purton Hulks
25th September 2016

On a clear, sunny but blustery September morning, a group of 25 of us gathered at Purton car park for a visit to the hulks, the largest ships' graveyard in maritime Britain The visit was conducted by Paul Barnett, who set up 'The Friends of Purton' organisation and is an expert on the subject.


We set off to the hulks on the towpath and along the way Paul gave us some interesting information about the area, the history of the canal and pointed out some objects of interest.

There are over 80 hulks that have been beached at Purton over the years, starting with a small fleet of semi-redundant timber lighters in the winter of 1909, to strengthen the nearby eroding canal bank of the Gloucester to Sharpness canal.




We were shown around quite a few of these, mostly those that still have some structure existing above the ground. Paul pointed out the history of them and showed us features that helped to identify the hulks.

When we came to the hulk of 'Ada', a Bristol built boat, Liz Carter, one of our members, was able to fill in a bit more about the history of the ship as it had been owned by her Grandfather, Joseph Herbert.




Towards the end of the tour, we got a really good view of the wrecks of the Arkendale H and Wastdale H. These were the two barges that had collided with the Severn & Wye railway bridge in October 1960, causing 2 piers to collapse and a huge fire. Paul also commented that he had never seen the river level so low as we could clearly see some of the remaining stumps of the bridge piers.





We finished the tour looking at 'Harriett' a barge that worked on the Kennet & Avon canal - you can still see the name on the stern. Paul pointed out that she is the only hulk from the site to be scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979  as it is deemed to be of national importance. All the other hulks are not protected in any way and Paul said that acts of vandalism to the hulks are unfortunately quite common.



It was good to know that the fee for the tour will be used by the Friends to continue the work of researching, documenting & recording the hulks at this site.

After getting back to the car park and cleaning the mud off our boots, we made our way to the Mariners Arms in Berkeley for Sunday Lunch.

We were all looking forward to a good meal, but unfortunately there had been a problem earlier in the kitchen, so we had to wait just that bit longer before we got our meals. However when they eventually came out two by two, everyone tucked in and seemed to enjoy the food – despite the delay





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