Tag Archives: severn


Sundown over the basin, by suesviews. Image used under Creative Commons, click pic for link.

Sundown over the basin, by suesviews. Image used under Creative Commons, click pic for link.

There are plenty of places around this part of the world that might describe themselves as canal towns (Stourbridge, Wolverhampton, Birmingham), but not even Birmingham (more miles of canal than Venice, don’t you know) can equal Stourport’s complete connection to the canal system. Prior to 1772, when James Brindley completed the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal from Stafford, through Wolverhampton, Stourbridge and Kidderminster to the River Severn, this part of the world was occupied by the small villages of Upper and Lower Mitton, on the banks of the Severn and the Stour. Then the industrial revolution hit them in full and a full-fledged industrial town grew up around the junction of river and canal, henceforward Stourport-on-Severn, one of the great legacies of the canal age. 

These days, not surprisingly, Stourport is not a thriving hub of industry. No longer will you find tanning yards, vinegar works, iron foundries or carpet factories lining the towpaths or the basins. But you’ll find plenty of evidence for these enterprises – the vinegar works are now converted, the huge canal basins are now home to hordes of holidaying boatpeople (the town is the hub of the Stourport Ring, a hugely popular route taking in some of the country’s finest industrial heritage), and the streets and paths are lined with classic Worcestershire red-brick houses from the time of the town’s initial growth, with huge machinery and converted warehouses and factories.

The town is located just a short distance from Kidderminster, so if you’re like me and a geek for this sort of thing, you can walk quite easily along the towpath, or indeed along the Severn Way from Bewdley. The most obvious reference point in the town is the bridge over the Severn – it’s hard to miss, not just because it’s the only bridge for miles but because of a noisy, light-flashing permanent funfair next to it. Actually, there’s plenty of space for kids to get over-excited here, as there’s a huge playground and park opposite – beware if you’re visiting in monsoon season though – you’ll find it pretty much underwater (though not quite as bad as some). Walking up into town you’ll pass several pubs (a large ‘spoons is a preferred stop-off here) and fish’n’chip shops, and pass Engine Lane – here’s a cut through to the marina complex, as it is now, replete with moorings, chandlery and plenty of boats to gawp at. Stourport is the furthest point an oceangoing boat can trek inland on the Severn, so there’ll be a variety of gaily-painted narrowboats, large cabin cruisers, and everything in between. Continuing up Bridge Street brings you to a mini-roundabout, the start of the High Street proper, and the first of our charity shops. On your right is a slightly esoteric non-charity-specific shop (so far as I can tell), which ranges from vintage cameras and hardbacks, to some randomly stacked stuff – there’s not really another word for it. Another charity shop with a distinctive odour this; perhaps it’s to do with the propensity of the proprietor to wander round in bare feet.

Opposite is a more normal (comparatively) charity shop, Shaw Trust (although my notes say “shaw trust mental”, my memory fails me as to why). Passing up the street, you’ll notice a distinct change in the type of shops. Lower down, by the river, the day-trip market is well catered-for, with the funfair, the park, the chippies, the souvenir shops selling inland equivalents of a kiss-me-quick hat. Above the junction with York Street you’ll find game butchers, florists, outdoor shops for the nearby Abberley hills, and the like. That’s not to say Stourport is elegant and sophisticated exactly: it exudes a sort of chippy charm throughout, certainly more than the slightly bleak-looking Streetview suggests. The charity shops on this stretch are a pretty good bunch, all quite sizable and worth a poke at. There’s a St Richard’s Hospice, Oxfam and British Red Cross up here.

Continue up Lombard Street for the remaining charity shops. Small RSPCA and Hospital League of Friends are found before you get to the large Coop supermarket; across the road is SOS Animal (another slightly creepy, slightly aromatic place. I advise you not to look too interested in any particular thing, if you’re the sort that doesn’t like getting into sales chats with the staff); around the corner are two Kemp Hospice shops, one of which is a furniture and electricals shop, although it seems like you have to view the products through the window, then go and ask in the other shop to have a look.

That’s a pretty good haul. We’ve returned with numerous bargains from Stourport, and it’s definitely a town worth visiting as well as shopping in. I’d mark it down for the awkwardness in getting to without a car; but I’ll mark it back up because you can get there via narrowboat, which is always a winner. Absolutely worth a stop off and explore.

Find: Stourport-on-Severn@ Google Maps
Get there: if you don’t have a boat, then it’ll need to be a bus – you can get these from all around Worcestershire, and there are limited-stop routes from Redditch, Worcester and Kiddy.
Consume with: The Olde Crown Inn (Wetherspoons) is a nice pub, but there’s plenty of caffs, takeaways and spots to eat your chips by the river.
Visit: if you’ve exhausted all the opportunities for looking at canals and rivers, how about Worcestershire County Museum – it’s not far down the road in Hartlebury Castle.
Overall rating: five world maps



Filed under 5/5, Worcestershire


Brrrrrr-bewdley, under Creative Commons by Michael C Clark. Click pic for link.

Brrrrrr-bewdley, under Creative Commons by Michael C Clark. Click pic for link.

If you’ve heard of Bewdley in the last 12 months it will have been for one of two reasons. Firstly, it might have been Becky Hill, the wild-eyed, somewhat excitable Worcestershire lass who made it to the semi-final of The Voice by virtue of a massive voice and the, erm, career help of letterbox-faced, Cleopatra-styled wigger extraordinaire, Jessie J. The other reason we figured out on our most recent day out in Bewdley. Working on our general laziness, we walked from the tiny village of Arley along the wonderfully scenic Severn valley towards this Georgian town – a highly recommended hike filled mostly with speculation about which house we’d buy given the chance (I think, on the way there, we settled on one of the wood-surrounded chalets on Northwood Lane). The return journey, on the western bank, was altogether harder work thanks to muddy and precipitous paths, blown-down trees and the like, but yielded some even more desirable properties. Anyone who knows me in person would tell you that gregariousness is not my defining feature, and the house outside of town, at the foot of a wooded hill overlooking a meadow and the river, would be just perfect. The house has recently become available, but on a less cheerful note, it was the scene of the murder of its most recent inhabitant, Betty Yates. That is entirely typical of my constant companion and I.

You’d have to admit that the setting is wonderful, and Bewdley has all mod cons you’d want out of a small town. Excepting perhaps a train station (the Severn Valley Railway is hardly ideal for commuting, and Kidderminster is only 3 miles away) Bewdley is a cute yet bustling Severnside town, more serene than Bridgnorth, more refined than Stourport. Served by an array of local food and drink shops, pubs, delis, cafes and boutiques on the main shopping drag of Load Street, I don’t suppose residents are particularly regretful that (aside from a Co-op) there’s no major supermarket in town. That’s one in the book for Bewdley really, and the very close Kidderminster has a bizarrely massive range of large-scale shopping experiences.

Charity-shop-wise, Bewdley also fairs pretty well, and is a relaxed and pretty place to wile away your time. At the top of the hill, near the church in the middle of the road, is Kemp Hospice. It’s a large shop with an extensive back room full of books, so obviously I’m in trouble. Recently renovated, over the road you’ll find the Richard House Hospice shop, which now also has a pile of books in a nice clean, new-looking shop. Still a little hard to navigate the various cases and shelves, however. On the same side is a small-ish but reasonable Sue Ryder Care. Finally, there’s a more ad hoc sort of affair through the back of the hardware shop. It sounds odd, and is, and using all my Google-fu I can’t remember what it’s name is.

When first thinking of moving to the Midlands, I drove through Bewdley (and Kinver, Bridgnorth and the surrounding countryside) and it was what sold me on the area. North Worcestershire is hardly a buzzing tourist hotspot, but with the Severn valley, the Clee Hills, Wyre Forest and plenty more right there, it’s a lovely part of the world. I’d cheerfully recommend Bewdley on a CST-style day out.

Find: Bewdley Google Maps
Get there: No rail link (except for the Severn Valley Railway, which is even pricier than the main line), but plenty of buses serving Kiddy, Bridgnorth and Stourbridge.
Consume with: Piccolo’s is well worth a coffee stop, or Merchants on the riverside for a chip lunch.
Visit: Bewdley Museum is set in the old butchers’ shambles, or if more active is your thing, the Worcestershire Way, North Worcestershire Path, Severn Way and National Cycle Network Route 45 all converge on Bewdley.
Overall rating: four ceramic egg cups.


Filed under 4/5, Worcestershire


Signs, used under creative commons licence, by R~P~M. Click for pic.

Signs, used under creative commons licence, by R~P~M. Click for pic.

CST’s first foray into the wilds of England’s largest inland county is a somewhat tentative one, but is definitely not the last. Going West from our new home we leave the West Midlands via a little Worcestershire and a little Staffordshire, but as the altitude rises towards the Welsh Marches we hit South Shropshire. Whereas the North of the county sweeps through from the Cheshire plains to the industrial heartland of Shrewsbury-Telford-Ironbridge, the South of the county is dramatic, rugged and massively rural. Bridgnorth is about the biggest settlement in the area, with huge gaps between civilization. To go any further West the intrepid charity shopper must set out over Wenlock Edge, Longmynd, the Clee Hills and more, looking on towards the mountains of Wales. Ideal for the fully experienced rambling hiker.

Bridgnorth itself is a bustling little burgh, an old and historic country town. There’s antiquated civic buildings on legs, city gates and the like. The most notable feature is the town’s split level – the high town and the low town. Approaching this as though you’d be making a day trip to Bridgnorth, the following is the recommendation. From Kidderminster (coming soon) take the Severn Valley Steam Railway through Bewdley and the Wyre Forest, terminating overlooking the Severn in Bridgnorth. Have a wander along the riverbank until you reach the large old bridge, and the low town spans either side of this. While there’s no charity shop action, there’s plenty of room to sit and have an ice cream, watching the Brummies on vacation that tend to throng the town on sunny days – bikers too. From there a pound will buy you a return ticket on the funicular railway, the steepest of its type in the country, no less.

The little railway drops you around the back of the town, next to the castle (which, trivia fans, leans at four times the angle of the leaning tower of Pisa), from where it’s just a short walk round the corner into the high street. There are four charity shops along here. They’re unremarkable, to be honest, and if you go on a Saturday they are sure to be heaving. For a start, the Saturday market butts right up against the pavement, causing all manner of crush for pedestrians. (Make sure you have a full explore of the market though, right around the back to near the supermarket, as there’s all sorts of fun tat to be found. The Old Curiosity Shop is worth a rummage through for army surplus and various randomness, and follow the road round for a lovely, sprawling antiques centre.)

Along the High Street you’ll find Oxfam, Hope House Hospice and British Red Cross, and at the end of the road, Cancer Research. The best of these is probably the Red Cross shop, which sported a nice looking accordion last time we were in.There’s nothing which sets Bridgnorth out as a charity shop Destination, really, but that’s only half the point isn’t it? On the tourism front it’s great fun, especially if you can time your visit to arrive on a 1940s recreation day when the town is swarmed by vintage uniforms…

Find: Bridgnorth Google Maps
Get there: if you can find the fare, go on the steam train!
Consume with: plenty of choice in terms of pubs, cafes and chippies along the high street.
Visit: the leaning castle would be worth a look around.
Overall rating: three RAF uniforms.


Filed under 3/5, Shropshire


Worcester, under Creative Commons, from OliverN5's photostream. Click pic for link.

Worcester, under Creative Commons, from OliverN5's photostream. Click pic for link.

I grew up in (or just outside of) a small but bustling cathedral town, one with numerous cookshops, antiques markets and cobbled, pedestrianised streets; a well-to-do locale, near enough to the big city to be a commuter rail hotspot, far enough to be out in the country and command high high property prices; a city beginning with a W, noted for its scenic river and medieval architecture and civil war history. It wasn’t Worcester, but it was very similar.

So I felt right at home in Worcester, browsing the charity shops on a morning off from the Big Chill, just up the road in the Malvern Hills. It’s a bustling market town, the biggest in these westernmost counties of England. Worcestershire was home to Tolkien and Elgar, and there’s a very rarified English air, particularly in the surrounding countryside. But this is also the biggest town between Birmingham and Bristol, and as such is pretty much buzzing with a comfortable-to-high level of shoppers.

Including us, of course. I’m not convinced we even saw some of the charity shops in the town centre, let alone any of the rest of Worcester (I think there’s at least on in St Johns). But then the streets are a maze of arcades and cut-throughs, shopping centres and shops with two entrances. The big daddy here is Age UK, a vast charity emporium rather than shop – furniture, nick-nackery and the like all feature in abundance. There’s also a gaggle along Mealcheapen Street: Oxfam, British Heart Foundation, St Richard’s Hospice and Acorn Children’s Hospice sit side by side with the biggest cookshops and homeware dispensaries you could imagine on such a narrow street. There’s a separate Oxfam bookshop (which is always a worry for the wallet), not to mention a British Red Cross on The Tything, heading out of the city centre and a Cancer Research as well. Also look out for GR Batley: not a charity shop, but apparently something of an institution and handy for whenever you need rugs or crockery or mounted animal heads.

There’s a fair abundance here, and what’s even nicer is that there’s plenty of nice things to look at other than charity shops (if you’re of that persuasion): it’s a beautiful city, nestled along the river Severn and overlooked by a glorious cathedral, and it’s right by some lovely spots. It’s pretty much lovely.

Find: Worcester at Google Maps
Transport: Worcester Fore Street or Shrub Hill rail; or you’re right on the M5
Consume with: plenty of coffee to be had, plenty of pub grub too.
Visit: the cathedral, the Commandery, many choices. Maybe Sixways, hallowed home of the Warriors.
Overall rating: four handy/useless kitchen utensils


Filed under 4/5, Worcestershire