Gloucester docks is interesting for completely contrasting reasons but mostly, in my opinion for the seagulls. The many imposing warehouses have been tastefully preserved and turned into apartments with bars and restaurants overlooking the water and on a warm summer’s evening it’s a pleasant place to eat and drink or just to stroll around enjoying the atmosphere. It’s popular amongst young and old alike but it’s most popular amongst the many varieties of squawking, squabbling gulls that have made it their playground. I have been told that there is a landfill site nearby and after a good rummage around amongst the garbage the birds seem to like nothing more than to use the main basin that we were moored in as a kind of communal bathing facility. It’s fun to watch them having a good old scrub up, dipping and diving repeatedly to wash away the dust and grime of a hard day’s scavenging. Unfortunately, whilst they may be fastidious about their cleanliness they are a little less fussy about their toileting habits and the entire dock area is liberally splattered on a daily basis. Combine this behaviour with fastidious boat owners, alfresco diners and summer evening strollers and you get a wonderful people watching opportunity that is endlessly entertaining and really quite exciting.
We spent a rare balmy evening sat on the back of the boat drinking wine with Gill’s two sisters and like the diners outside the adjacent Greek restaurant, we were nervous. At one point a couple vacated their table and a beady eyed herring gull was quick to spot that they hadn’t completely cleared their plates. With a loud shout of the seagull equivalent of “grubs up” the entire colony rose as one to investigate the opportunity of a spot of calamari and maybe a chip or two. The other diners soon revealed their priorities as some took cover under paper napkins, or hastily covered their plates whilst the remainder focussed on protecting precious wine or beer lest it should become diluted. To his credit a waiter was swiftly on the scene to clear the table and disaster was averted. It might have been more entertaining though had the restaurant been short staffed.
The narrow boat moored next to us was owned by a particularly proud skipper who spent most of the two days we were there, painting, cleaning and polishing his precious home. He had obviously been to Gloucester before because he had devised a cunning method of deterring the gulls from landing on the roof of his boat. Or so he thought. An elaborate arrangement of strings ran the length of his roof which would, in theory, make it tricky for the birds to alight. What he didn’t know was that while he and his partner were off somewhere enjoying an evening in town, the local gulls were having great fun playing French skipping, limbo dancing and learning to tight rope walk. I looked around the marina and his was the only boat with seagulls on the roof and when he returned he looked completely perplexed by the tangled disarray of string and generous calling cards the birds had left behind. I didn’t have the heart to tell him what we had witnessed and watched him patiently rearranging his macramé deterrent and reaching for his bucket and mop once more while all around him sea birds sniggered and laughed. I’m sure if he had stayed another day they would have set up a zip line.
We enjoyed our stay in Gloucester and it was lovely to catch up with family and friends. Admittedly the gulls were noisy and washing the boat so much was a real pain but for sheer entertainment they took some beating. Next stop Sharpness to see if big ships and racing tides can compete.