Thursday 22 September 2011

The Severn Bore

courtesy GRAHAMUK via wikipedia
The Severn Estuary leading into the Bristol Channel

Severn Bore which comes from the Scandinavian (bara) meaning wave, swell or billow
Far below the Cotswold hills lies the River Severn. The longest river in Great Britain and the greatest river in terms of water flow in England and Wales. At its mouth the Severn estuary has the second largest tidal range in the world exceeded only by the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia.
The local Tourist Office keep timetables giving the best dates during the year to watch the bore. These are classified from 3* to 5* depending on the time of day or night, and whether there is a high tide around the spring or autumn equinox. In some respects the night time bores are best, especially if a full moon is expected.  There are far fewer people around, and no boats or surfers riding the waves. You can hear the progress of the bore as it surges its way along the river, through the meadows, throwing up cascades of spray where the river bends and turns. The two best bores for this year are due next week. These are evening ones and are classified as 4*. The rise in tide is predicted to be over 10 meters.
courtesy Rodhullandemu via wikipedia
Riding the waves

courtesy Tess via wikipedia

courtesy Jim Nicholls via wikipedia
courtesy Ruth Sharville via wikipedia
When I watch this curiosity of the natural world, I wonder what man from earlier milennia would have made of it. Imagine being a stranger, walking along the river bank on a quiet evening; perhaps coming back alone from hunting or fishing, and unexpectedly this rushing, ferocious, noisy wave after wave of water surges in like a great monster. Without explanation, the river that was many feet below the bank is suddenly flooding over the top. They would have had little understanding of the forces behind such an event, and it would possibly have fed into their folklore and superstitions.
courtesy wikipedia
15th century French medieval manuscript showing the seasons


  1. Hello Rosemary:
    Although we lived so close for many years, we have never seen the Severn Bore. It is, as you say, such a curious feat of Nature that, without a scientific explanation, it must have seemed to have been a supernatural event to onlookers of earlier centuries.

    We do find the link between the Moon and tides fascinating and, we were in Brighton this year when low tide was at an all time low due, we understand, to the full Moon being particularly close to the Earth. To see the water so far out and a Moon so bright and almost filling the sky, one did feel that somethings are beyond one's understanding but are nevertheless wonders to be marvelled at.

  2. Dear Jane & Lance - I wonder if they did link the tides to the lunar cycle? The standing stones linked to the sun bear witness to their attempts to understand.

  3. always interesting to read your posts. here in Norway thats what i love the most. the rivers. love to take a bath in the ice cold waters. pretending i `m a greek nymph ; )

  4. That gives me the shivers Demie, thinking of you in the cold Norwegian rivers. However, if the rivers were in Greece, that would be a completely different matter!!

  5. Hi, Rosemary - I have never heard of this phenomenon! I imagine it would be very exciting to time its arrival, await the show, and expeience the wonder. I'd be tempted to plan an event with friends around it!

  6. Hello Mark - The morning ones are normally at around 8.00am; people travel many miles to see it, and sit around the edge of the river eating their breakfast. You always have to allow half and hour either side of the predicted time because it is never prompt, but that just adds to the excitement.

  7. Hi Rosemary, left a comment yesterday but I must have pottered off before it was properly embedded. I was saying that I've never seen the bore, I'd love to . And it also brought to mind the 1607 tsunami in the same area. You inspired a whole blog post as I pottered off to remind myself of the facts of the matter and found the most astounding woodcut of the tsunami...thank you. You always spark enquiry.

  8. Dear Kate - pleased you enjoyed the post. If you wish to see the bore next year, you can look on the internet and find the dates for the best ones. It is interesting that you mentioned the tsunami, as I think that it is a little known fact. I have found the woodcut too - thanks, it is lovely. I like all the animal heads sticking out of the water and the baby floating in its wooden cradle.


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