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Acclaimed actor spotted on paddle steamer

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If you’re travelling on the Waverley – be sure to book up months in advance, a friend once said to me, writes Rich Kelsey.

Departing Clevedon Pier at 1.30pm, then sailing out via Portishead Dock and then cruising up the estuary under the Severn Bridges, and returning via Penarth Dock, with lots of folks getting on and off at the named ports depending on what cruise package they booked on for the day.

We met the famous actor Timothy West CBE, who likes sailing aboard the Waverley, and with permission I took Rob Stopford’s photo with him, also his wife Prunella Scales and assistants were with them on the voyage.

Waverley Severn Bridge cruise sat 1 6 24 35 | Acclaimed actor spotted on paddle steamer

Our sailing point, Clevedon Pier, is now a Grade One listed building from 2001.The pier was built during the 1860s to attract tourists and provide a ferry port for rail passengers to South Wales. The pier is 1,024 ft long and consists of eight spans supported by steel rails covered by wooden decking, with a pavilion on the pier head.

The pier opened in 1869 and served as an embarkation point for paddle steamer excursions for almost 100 years. Two of the spans collapsed during stress testing in 1970 and demolition was proposed, but local fundraising, and heritage grants allowed the pier to be dismantled for restoration and reassembled.

It reopened in 1989, and ten years later the Trust was awarded the Pier of the Year from the National Piers Society, and a Civic Trust Award. The pier now offers a landing stage for steamers and is a popular attraction for tourists and anglers, with a café and restaurant, it is well worth a visit.

Waverley Severn Bridge cruise sat 1 6 24 38 | Acclaimed actor spotted on paddle steamer
Rich Kelsey

Back to the Waverley – the ship is based on the Clyde near Glasgow and every year makes its way around the UK doing a large variety of excursions. The Paddle Steamer (PS) Waverley is the last seagoing passenger-carrying paddle steamer in the world. Built in 1946, she sailed from Craigendoran on the Firth of Clyde to Arrochar on Loch Long until 1973. After this she was bought by the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society (PSPS) for £1… yes that’s correct, she has since been restored to her 1947 appearance.

The ship is powered by a three-crank diagonal triple-expansion marine steam engine built by Rankin & Blackmore, Engineers, Eagle Foundry, Greenock, Scotland. It is rated at 2,100 IHP and achieved a trial speed of 18.37 knots (21.14 mph) at 57.8 rpm. Passengers can watch this engine (connecting rods etc in motion) from accessible passageways on either side of the engine room.

The main crank is solidly attached to both paddle wheels so they cannot turn independently. The Waverley therefore has a much larger turning circle than modern ferries. The appearance of the Waverley today is in LNER 1947 livery of red, white and black (raked back) funnels, traditional, brown-grained superstructure and black paddle-wheel boxes, decorated with gold lettering on each side.

Since 2003, Waverley has been listed in the National Historic Fleet by National Historic Ships UK as ‘a vessel of pre-eminent national importance’. So, after spending a good six to seven hours aboard the Waverley that has two cafes/restaurant and a couple of bars aboard, keeping us well supplied with food ale and tea all day, it was time to disembark back at Clevedon Pier somewhat lower down the jetty than when we departed, as the tied was in full outward flow by the evening.

On leaving the Waverley we thanked the mainly Scottish crew (that work and live aboard the ship for its summer excursion season) for a great afternoon and evening out. Our thanks also go to the Clevedon Pier trust staff and volunteers, and all the folks involved with the Waverley.

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