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Peace and tranquility in the Severn valley
Severn Valley Railway
Member Name: merv
Severn Valley Railway
Date: 09/02/02, updated on 04/12/04 (384 review reads)
Advantages: Beautiful Scenery, Lovely Villages, Excellent Value
Another of my favourite railway journeys is the Severn Valley Railway, which is conveniently placed for most people to visit and travels through the heart of England between Bridgenorth and Kidderminster, crosses the majestic 200ft high single span Victoria railway bridge across the river and takes in some of the loveliest scenery in the midlands with stops at some charming towns and villages in between.
There are few roads in this part of the Severn valley and as the route follows closely the meandering course of the River Severn some of the varied views of largely unspoilt scenery are only visible from the Railway.
We always start our visit at Bridgenorth, which is an hour’s drive from where we live, and the home of the Severn Valley Railway. This really is a beautiful ancient market town, which provides an excellent starting point for a great day out. Its built on a dramatic red stone ridge and unusually, the town is split into two. The low town on the banks of a beautiful stretch of the river Severn is connected to the high town by a winding main road, a cliff railway, hidden walkways and steep flight of steps.
The low town is a lovely place for a walk along the river and the gardens or a drink at one of the waterside pubs and has some interesting and attractive old houses, including ‘Diamond Hall’ which was built in the late 17th Century by Colonel Roger Pope with the winnings of his horse ‘Diamond’. The high town has a foreign feel about it with stepped streets lined by red tiled houses with tall chimneys. It has a castle with a keep that leans three times as much as the leaning tower of Pisa, an Italianate church built by Thomas Telford the famous bridge engineer, loads of specialist shops, a busy market,
a huge old fashioned book shop and a fantastic restaurant called the ‘Green Room’ on the high street which serves the best pot of tea I’ve ever tasted as well as a tremendous variety of home made food including soups and cakes and an extensive vegetarian menu.
Its a great place for a day out even if you’re not going on the train – I’d definitely recommend a trip on 100 year old cliff railway and Bridgenorth station is itself impressive, with refreshment facilities, a licensed bar, a gift shop and the locomotive works.
First stop on the railway after leaving Bridgenorth is the village of Hampton Loade, a picturesque, riverside village with a unique privately operated rope guided, pedestrian ferry across the river. The restored country station is absolutely charming and this is an ideal stop for a walk of about a mile and a half, using the ferry, to the National Trust’s Dudmaston Hall with its extensive landscaped gardens.
The next stop, Country Park Halt, is a ‘request stop’- the train doesn’t normally stop here unless you tell the guard in advance. As the name suggests, its bang in the middle of the Severn Valley Country Park and Nature Reserve. I’ve never stopped here personally, but I understand that there is a picnic area, a model village and the park has some nice walks noted for their wild flowers and the large variety of birds to be seen.
Further down the line is Highley, the station is a perfectly restored stone building housing the Tourist Information shop and selling the re-knowned Highley Slice cake. This stop is also in the country park, and there are pleasant riverside walks back to Hampton Loade or forward to the next stop at Arley, as well as a decent enough pub called the Ship Inn and a very pleasant looking nine-hole golf course.
Arley is straight out of a calendar, incredibly picturesque and an idyllically situated riverside village
bordering the Wyre Forest. No wonder its been chosen as a venue for a number of television series including ‘Goodnight Mr.Tom’ and ‘Oh Dr. Beeching’. There’s a pub called, strangely enough, The Harbour Inn, which is well worth a visit, a nice antidote to all the plastic theme pubs taking over our high streets.
The stop before the journey’s end at Kidderminster is Bewdley, which surely must be one of the most beautiful towns in England. This is the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the Severn Valley Railway. The delightful riverside town derives its name from the French ‘beau lieu’, meaning beautiful place and that’s no exaggeration, the description is well deserved by the town’s attractive setting on the middle reaches of the Severn.
Stately 17th century houses line the immaculately preserved broad quays, which bustled with life when Bewdley was a busy inland port. Things to see apart from the beauty of the town itself are the elegant bridge built by Thomas Telford, a large scenic model railway and the excellent museum, which is not at all stuffy, and houses a very interesting collection portraying Bewdley’s days as a prosperous port. You may have seen Bewdley reported on the television last year, its vulnerable situation made it a victim of the terrible floods which swept the country.
Kidderminster, the end of the line, is famous for being the birthplace of Roland Hill the founder of the Penny Post, in those pre Consignia days, and its reputation as the centre of the country’s carpet industry. Kidderminster is home to a popular Railway Museum run by a separate charitable association, with entry from the steam railway platforms. Definitely worth a visit to see a large display of old fashioned railway bric a brac including locomotive nameplates, old fashioned signals that you can operate by levers, a simple telephone exchange, plus much morel and entry is free. r>
The railway hosts regular events throughout the year, mostly concentrated in the summer months, and include:
· Gala weekends, usually in March, April and September for the enthusiasts among you.
· Thomas the Tank weekends in May and September.
· Nostalgic 1940’s weekends, held last year in June and July.
· The Severn Valley in Bloom weekend in late July, highlighting the beautiful station gardens and floral displays.
· A Classic Vehicle Day in October, when each of the stations on the route have gatherings of all types and descriptions of classic vehicles including cars, motorbikes busses, lorries and vans.
An up to date programme of events and details of prices can be found on the Severn Valley Railway website, www.svr.co.uk as well as information about Sunday lunches, train connections, foot plate experience courses and access and facilities for the disabled and children. I’d also recommend a visit to, www.7valley.org.uk, one of the best unofficial sites/guides about railways I’ve seen – lots of pictures, details and fantastic hand drawn maps – the sort of thing which really gives the web a good name.
The people who run and work on this railway are courteous, enthusiastic and friendly, nothing is too much trouble – perhaps we could persuade them to bid for one or more of the rail franchises, and give Richard Branson and his like a run for their money.
This is a perfect day out whether or not you are interested in steam railways and provides a beautiful journey through 16 miles of glorious countryside. So near to Birmingham and close to where the industrial revolution started yet the peace of this beautiful part of the Severn valley is in my opinion second to none.