Flooding on the River Severn has increased the risk of those looking to take to the water for this week's bore - prompting harbour officials to highlight the dangers of the Severn bore.

The Severn bore is a large surge wave that can be seen in the estuary of the River Severn, which happens around 60 times a year.

One of the most spectacular natural phenomena in the world, the extraordinary sight draws crowds of spectators as well as surfers and canoeists who visit the Severn to witness the river running backwards led by the wave.

This Friday, March 22, a rare 'five star' wave is forecast to run along the river - meaning that the bore wave will reach an estimated height of over nine metres.

However, as the River Severn is on flood alert around the Shrewsbury area harbour officials are warning that there could be an increased risk for those watching, or entering the river, during the bore.

The Oxford Times:

David R Joyce took this amazing photo of these Severn bore riders

Here is the Gloucester Harbour Trustees must-read guide to safe river surfing and the dangers of the Severn bore in brief:

Spectators:

  • People on the bank should be wary of standing too close to the edge of the river as the wave can cause water levels to rise sharply as it passes - the force of which can knock people off their feet
  • River levels can remain high for some time after the wave passes leading to spectators being cut off by rising waters necessitating rescue by the police
  • People should never be tempted to walk out on to exposed sandbanks as the surface is often soft and mud-like - they risk becoming stuck in quicksand as the wave approaches.

The Oxford Times:

This scene captured by Paul Day shows just how treacherous the river and her banks can be to surfers

Power Boat Operators:

  • Power boats should stay at least 200m behind the Bore waves and not exceed the 12 knot speed limit
  • They should also ensure the safety of people in the water and not cause the break-up of waves near popular viewing spots.

Surfers:

  • Do your homework: a thorough knowledge of the area in which it is intended to surf or canoe is essential - visit the area at low water to see where the deeper water lies and where the higher patches of sand and mud are located
  • Beware of whirlpools: the single thing that catches most visiting surfers out is the strength of the currents. Before the bore you will be entering a river with a strong flow down stream, when the bore arrives the incoming water fights the out going current and produces a turmoil of whirlpools, stoppers and powerful confusing currents
  • Check the weather forecast: low pressure and SW winds can increase the size of the wave and speed it up making it arrive earlier - the reverse is true with high pressure and northerly winds
  • Don't trespass: there are very few points which offer easy access or exit from the river, slipway access is privately owned and the consent of the owners should be sought
  • Injuries are common: there are no public slipways, and most access is over the river bank which will be very muddy and often rocky and slippery. Slips and falls are commonplace; and a twist or sprain in this environment, particularly when carrying a board or canoe, could have serious consequences.

The Oxford Times:

Over Bridge near Gloucester is a popular place for spectators to gather and watch the incredible natural phenomena. Photo: Paul Day

Popular places to surf and watch:

  • Newnham on Severn: Park at the car park to the north of the village, the wave here can be good. It is a popular spot so look out for fellow surfers and such unexpected hazards such as quicksand
  • Severn Bore Inn on the A48: Park in the pub car park. The wave breaks around the bend down stream on the opposite bank. It gets very busy so be careful, it is easy to get swept into the bank and caught on trees
  • Over bridge on the A40: As the wave rarely breaks all the way through the complex of three bridges, it’s best to avoid disappointment and danger by getting in well above the bridges. There is a small layby on the road to Maisemore, a path leads down to the rivers edge. With luck it’s possible to ride all the way up to Maisemore weir but surfing near the weir is very difficult and can be dangerous. Good advice is to look out for the weir once the bridge at Maisemore has been passed, pull off the wave and paddle for the bank- the currents here are some of the fastest on the river.
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  • This week's five star Severn bore - Friday March 22, can be seen at Newnham at 7.53am, the Severn Bore Inn at 8.46am, and should reach reach Over Bridge at 9.28am

For more advice visit the Gloucester Harbour Trustees website gloucesterharbourtrustees.org.uk

The Oxford Times:

David R Joyce took this amazing photo of Maisemore weir being flooded by the bore