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Thornbury Sailing Club - Oldbury on Severn

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General details:

You're unlikely to want to make a special trip to Oldbury, but if you happen to be in the area, and know a club member who'll let you in, & don't want to go down to Weston, and the tide's in, & the wind's blowing SW or NE, & you don't mind vast quantities of mud, then this is the place for you!

Sailing at Oldbury is done from Thornbury sailing club; the approach to which is immediately opposite the highly recommended Anchor pub.

I have seen Thornbury described in the past as the UK's version of the Gorge. I personally think this is taking things a bit far. I have never sailed at either the Gorge or Thornbury, however I have seen plenty of Gorge based videos and have studied the launching point at Thornbury on numerous occasions. I have thus far failed to make the connection. On the bright side, I am probably missing the point - the Severn estuary has very strong currents and a prevailing South Westerly wind, so on a falling tide you can sail constantly downwind and let the tide take you upwind at the same time - hence the Gorge connection.

The launch point at Thornbury can at best be described as muddy, however you will have the advantage of the sailing club's facilities to clean up once you come off the water.

As I mentioned previously, I haven't ever sailed at Thornbury, however I would imagine you launch from the slipway at the sailing club and wobble out to the stronger winder in the estuary itself.

Due to the nature of the launch spot, Thornbury is one of the locations where you launch, go out, sail until finished and then return, you are unlikely to want to return back to the launching spot for breathers during your sail.

Update from Martin Farrimond:

I've sailed a few of times at Oldbury - they have a regatta each year with windsurfers being able to take part. Also, the UKWA (formerly UKBSA) Wessex region as was, used to have an annual event here for a period.

The sailing can be excellent, and there are a few diehards who sail here regularly. With wind against tide, there are a number of standing waves out in the estuary which can be good fun.

As previously mentioned - several times already - the predominant feature is mud. Lots of it. Don't be under any illusions about not getting caked in the stuff.

The most common launch is indeed off the concrete/timber slipway: At less than full tide, this can be slightly unnerving as - being submerged underneath chocolate soup coloured water - it's difficult to see that the slipway comes to a sudden end. When you see this at low tide, you'll notice that there's a 4m drop off the end of the slipway, into the mud below. At HW, however, it's fine for launching from. As Ian suggests, you then wobble out from the pill (local term meaning "extremely muddy little stream or river joining the Severn") into the main estuary.

Normally, launching/recovery from the slipway is possible for about 1 1/2 hours either side of HW. I have it on good (or possibly very bad) authority, that you can sail here for longer if you're prepared to slog through the mud directly into the estaury. The distance isn't great. The depth of mud is.

Because it's a private sailing club, the gate across the lane leading down to the club is locked. The only way you'll get in is by arrangement with a member, or else on a regatta day (which they don't really publicise very well).

The final clincher, is that there's a Magnox reactor nuclear power station about 1 mile upstream of the sailing club.

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Directions to the right place:

Leave the A38 at Thornbury, follow signs to Oldbury On Severn (don't follow signs for Oldbury power station). As you drive into the village, look out for the Anchor pub. Just before, and opposite the pub (and next to the pub car park) is a single track lane that leads down to the sailing club. The gate across the lane is, of course, locked.

Make sure you leave time after your sailing session to pop into the pub.

Click here for a location map

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How the winds work:

South Westerly, on a falling tide.

For the same reasons, I would imagine North Easterly on a rising tide would also work, where you would sail for an hour or so before high tide.

W-N can be really good too if the wind's blowing well

There really needs to be a good solid blow here to make it worthwhile sailing, and to overcome the currents which are very strong.

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Tidal conditions:

HW springs tend to occur between 08:30 & 09:30. HW neaps between 14:00 & 16:30. Tidal range is huge. Max ~12m.

The Severn Estuary has very strong tides - do not sail at this location on your own, particularly as you would normally want to sail here on the outgoing (falling) tide. I would imagine you could sail here from flat water at high tide until a couple of hours after half tide - like Weston, it would depend on how much mud you are prepared to tolerate on your return to the beach.

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Strong tides / currents. The remoteness of the sailing location means that passers by are unlikely to notice if you get into trouble while you are out sailing.


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Sailing club has changing facilities, showers, bar. Hose for hosing your kit down (you'll need to join a lengthy queue for this!).

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B&B's / campsites

There are numerous B&B's in the area. One of the more interesting ones being the White Hart at Littleton on Severn. Try a web search, or S Gloucestershire Tourist Info for more details.

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Pubs and eateries

The Anchor Inn in Olbury on Severn is highly recommended, for both food and beer. It is a genuine free house though they always have the same beers (Draught Bass, Theakston's bitter, Butcombe bitter & Wickwar B.O.B. It can be found in the center of the village, almost immediately opposite the gate to the sailing club.

Unusually for such a tiny village, it actually has two pubs - the other one being The Ship (Ushers). Also does food. More of a local's pub.

Failing that, an excellent alternative is the White Hart, a couple of miles away in Littleton Upon Severn. Again, follow road signs to the village and you can't miss the pub.

Nearest chippies are in Thornbury: One on the High Street (very good) and a chinese hidden down a small street near Safeway.

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Note: All comments and opinions mentioned in this section of the site are the personal opinions of the various contributors. Inevitably, one person's favourite may be another person's least favourite.

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