There were a few things that sold me on a move to the Midlands, and accidentally driving through Kinver, looking for the way back to Halesowen, was certainly one of them. As soon as burst out of Stourbridge into the Staffordshire countryside you’re already in some lovely territory, and crossing the Stour at the Stewponey Junction you can really feel like you’re out of the big, bad city. Kinver is the very southernmost tip of the county, a large but secluded village nestled in between the River Stour and the Staffordshire & Worcestershire canal (which run parallel on the East of the village) and the promontory of Kinver Edge. It’s these features that defined the village historically. First the Stour, then the Staffs & Worcs brought water-borne trade through the village resulting in several lock-side pubs, watermills and cloth making. Later on some of the country’s earliest slitting mills split bars of iron ready to be made into nails in nearby Lye or Bromsgrove. After that, Kinver became a bit of a proto-tourist destination with the installation of an electric light railway from Stourbridge, and although that’s closed, it’s still a popular spot amongst locals for a wander round and a sit in the sun by the river.
Most curious are the Holy Austin Rock Houses. Built into the caves of Kinver Edge (now a National Trust-owned high heathland and forest), these troglodytic caves were continuously occupied right up to the 1950s, and some have been restored to their Victorian glory, replete with windows, ranges and furnishings. Evidence of prior occupation is found higher up the hill with its Iron Age earthworks, and get right to the top for impressive views over Worcestershire, Staffordshire and Shropshire, belying the Edge’s actual fairly low altitude.
Be aware: Kinver is just a village. It’s got a good stock of little shops, reminiscent of Alresford in some ways, with some boutiques and tea rooms, and a couple of excellent pubs: I recommend The Vine (whenever it reopens) on the canal. There’s just the two charity shops. Compton Hospice is a fairly standard little shop – it seems like there’s rarely enough room for everybody that wants to be there. There’s occasionally a treat though – finances sadly dictated that we say no to a whole boxful of antique medicine bottles that had been donated. The better shop is (as often) Mary Stevens Hospice. This is a big, two-level shop with a good selection of clothes and shoes, some small furniture (we got a little bedside here) and a stack of knitting supplies, which I’m told is very modern.
And that’s it. You don’t come to Kinver for a full-on retail experience, but for the tranquil village-ness, the frankly lovely surroundings, and a quiet potter in the little shops. It makes an excellent stop on the towpath walk, or a stopping point on the way to Bridgnorth and the hills.
Find: Kinver @ Google Maps
Get there: Kinver has no rail or anything, but there’s buses from Stourbridge. The nicest way is to walk, which you can do in a couple of hours from Kidderminster along the canal, for instance.
Consume with: plenty of tea rooms vie for your attention. Try a hot pork sandwich from the Dunsley Hall tea rooms.
Visit: the Rock Houses and Kinver Edge, for sure.
Overall rating: four stitch savers.