The Severn Bore - an astounding natural spectacle

Natural Wonder

The Severn Bore - an astounding natural spectacle

The Severn bore is a rare tidal phenomeon that provides a remarkable regular demonstration of natural water power along a 21-mile stretch of the river from Awre near Stroud to Maisemore Weir, just beyond Gloucester. It occurs when the leading edge of the incoming tide forms a wave that travels against the direction of the River's current.

Such natural phenomena occur in the lower reaches of only a few rivers with large tidal ranges throughout the world. including the River Severn, which has a tidal range of about 13 metres, one of the largest to be found. The Severn Estuary, which empties into the Bristol Channel, narrows at Awre, the surging water reaches from there as far as Gloucester and beyond.

There are about 260 bores in each year - the event occurring twice a day on 130 days, when the conditions are right. Bores are associated with the phases of the moon, and so one surge occurs between 7am and noon, and the other between 7pm and midnight on the relevant dates. The largest bores occur around the times of the spring and autumn equinoxes. Timetables for the bore and predictions of bore heights are published each year.

Historically, the bore had been a disruption to shipping visiting the docks at Gloucester, but this was alleviated by the construction of an alternative route avoiding the river, the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal, which opened in 1827.

There are a number of viewpoints from which the bore can be seen particularly well, including at Minsterworth, Lower Parting, Manor Ditch, Maisemore Bridge and Over Bridge.

River surfing enthusiasts often attempt to surf along on the wave. The river was first surfed in 1955 by World War II veteran Jack Churchill, a Military Cross recipient. 50 years later, in September 2005, several hundred surfers gathered in Newnham on Severn to celebrate the anniversary of the first recorded attempt at surfing the bore.

Further reading

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