Tag Archives: st richard’s hospice

Stourport-on-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

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Filed under 5/5, Worcestershire

Upton on Severn

P1000116, by Iain Cuthbertson. Image used under Creative Commons, click on pic for link.

P1000116, by Iain Cuthbertson. Image used under Creative Commons, click on pic for link.

We recently visited Upton for a second (maybe third time), just after Christmas, after parting ways with our visitors in its near neighbour Pershore. It was a damp day, after many such damp days and even when the East of the country takes the worst of the rainfall, the Severn plain around is always badly affected. Worcester floods on a regular basis, but you don’t have to trawl your memories too far back to recall the disastrous floods at Tewkesbury in 2007. Come December 2012, and the rain has been falling, and when we approached Upton, just upstream, it was as though we were entering the Louisiana swamps – to say the river had burst its banks does an injustice to the water stretching as far as the eye can see. Whilst not as destructive as in 2007, that’s one of the defining characteristics of living in this area: you’re somewhat dominated by Britain’s biggest river. Mind you, Upton probably wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the Severn. The small town of about 3,000 is located at one of the few bridges over the river Severn, the only crossing between Tewkesbury and Worcester; and combined with the meeting of the main roads between Gloucester and Worcester, and Ledbury and Evesham it seemed a good place to build a little harbour – and so a market town sprung up. This was boosted when the Severn Towing Company situated a crossing and toll office here, and the town gradually became what we see today, all little streets and coaching inns, large marina and fantastic bridge; and low-lying pastures usually filled up with Severn water.

Although you’re advised to pack some wellies if it’s been raining, Upton’s a lovely little stop-off. You can’t ask for much more than a sunny day by the river in the shadow of the Malvern Hills, and there’s plenty of attractive pubs and restaurants to accommodate that sort of lounging. There’s free car park at the far end of town, opposite the church: if you visit in  the summer, look over onto the rugby pitch and imagine that when we last saw it, it was full up like a swimming pool, at a level disconcertingly higher than where we were standing. As you walk towards the shops you’ll pass by all kinds of curious, low buildings bowing out onto the street, filled with curio shops, a very pleasant secondhand book shop and little galleries. The town centre is really focused on the junction of the High Street and New Street, and this is where you’ll find the two formal charity shops. RSPCA is small and poky, but with a few interesting odds and ends. St Richards Hospice is larger and contains a better range of stock – there’s usually some nice clothes here, along with the usual trinkets and books. Note the distinctive aroma about the place though – not worked out what it is yet. These are both on the main drag, with plenty of other useful or cutesie shops, plus (best of all!) a Map Shop.

I’ve defined these as the two “formal” charity shops, but the actual thrifty highlight of Upton is a charity shop only in the loosest sense of the term. It’s not immediately clear what the charity is for a start, and to get there you have to follow the handwritten signs up the side street of London Lane. Once you’re there – and if it’s open, which it may or may not be depending on the day, the time of year, maybe the condition of the pet dog – you’ll see a sort of garage door, maybe some sprawling tables outside. Definitely go in. This is part junk shop, part garage sale, part charity shop, and it’s great fun. You might find everything from vintage tobacco tins, to candlewick bedspreads and old-fashioned eiderdowns; all sorts of crockery, kitchen implements, old magazines, books in piles around the place, lamps and electricals, bits of furniture, and clothes a-plenty. My guess is that this is seasonal, as it wasn’t open for our December visit, but has been on our two previous visits. It’s definitely the highlight.

For such a small town, Upton is always on our radar if we’re down that direction anyway, perhaps visiting Malvern or Tewkesbury. It’s not only a bit lovely, but can be good for a quick trawl, with free parking and a lovely riverside spot. Plus, if you’re feeling fit you can walk here from Bristol or mid-Wales on the Severn Way. It is only small, don’t forget, but a great stop-off.

Find: Upton upon Severn Google Maps
Get there: no trains here, so bus or drive – or even better arrive in style by boat to the Marina.
Consume with: we’ve not stopped for food here, but if we did, I’d be tempted to follow the lead of Alec Guinness, Brian Blessed and Kathy Burke by stopping into the White Lion Hotel, dating back to 1510 and offering accommodation as well. It’s one of several olde coaching inns.
Visit: handily for this coming weekend, how about the Wassailing and Frost Fair? Sounds like fun in a Wicker Man and Morris dancing kind of way.
Overall rating: three tobacco tins

EDIT: I’ve been very kindly informed that the charity shop in London Lane is Worcester Cancer Aid. Thanks Jackie!

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Filed under 3/5, Worcestershire

Pershore

Pershore Abbey, under Creative Commons. Photo by Timothy Rose, click pic for link.

Pershore Abbey, under Creative Commons. Photo by Timothy Rose, click pic for link.

Surprising (to me) as it may seem, I’ve yet to sit down and plan trips out on the basis of one road. At some point, however, I’d like to be able to write down my experiences of the A44 – an otherwise undistinguished route between Oxford and Aberystwyth, this ploughs through a great deal of what I love about the English countryside and its accompanying towns, then takes a nice hike through the mountains of mid-Wales to its final destination in the Irish Sea. For future reference, expect detailed accounts of the A449 from Stafford to Newport, the A458 stretching from home turf into deepest Snowdonia, and when I feel really brave, the A38.

Oxford is a destination that we’ve achieved once, and have been thwarted by breakdowns, newborns and all sorts in our attempts to revisit. It remains a future write-up, as do the Cotswold towns of Chipping Norton and Moreton-in-Marsh, which are to come much more quickly. After Evesham, Pershore is the next decent-sized (read, CST-relevant) town along the road. After that would come Worcester, Bromyard, Leominster (recently scoped out), Llanrindod Wells, Rhayader, and finally Aberystwyth – our hopefully-soon-to-be-purchased caravan might help add some of these names to our visited list.

Situated on the river Avon on its way to meet the Severn at Tewkesbury (also coming soon), Pershore is at the heart of one of the most fertile fruit-growing regions of the country (as evidenced by the annual Plum Festival, which will undoubtedly *cough* be on our list of to-do’s in 2012). Entering via a bridge over said Avon, the most notable sight is the restored Benedictine Pershore Abbey on the Western side of the town centre. You could park along the road here, or as we did around the corner at Asda, from whence a profitable and pleasant charity shopping trip. If you park in Asda, you’ll have the added convenience of being dead close to two large St Richard’s Hospice shops – one for clothes, another for small furniture and a vast array of crockery, kitchenalia and assorted bric a brac. Be warned – there’s some nice things here, but they may not be high up the bargain scale.

On the main drag, there’s a significant-sized Oxfam and an equally well-sized Blue Cross shop. Just off the high street on Broad Street is a poky but well-filled Cats Protection League – I found a pair of Levis here for £4 (a miracle because of my odd proportions), which was excellent until we got home and saw just how green they were. They’ll need consideration; possibly dying.

The pick of the bunch is Acorn Hospice. This is a huge shop with a couple of side rooms for various things. It’s not so much that they stock anything unusual, just a large quantity of it. This is particularly evident right at the back, where books are piled wall-to-ceiling and weigh down a large table as well. Six is not a bad haul for a town as little as Pershore, so it punches above its weight. It has a great location for us, as it could easily be combined into a big old day out by hitting up Worcester, Upton and Malvern as well, even Tewkesbury for the adventurous (I wouldn’t bother with Evesham). And it’s nice! A polite, charming little town with some things to see and do. Good work.

Find: Pershore Google Maps
Get there: Pershore station is on the Worcester to London line, so stops in all sorts of helpful spots.
Consume with: the standard cheese baked potato, in Sugar and Spice, was fairly basic but went down well. Don’t ask for something off menu though, you’ll enter a world of pain.
Visit: the abbey or Bredon Hill would make good trips.
Overall rating: four Peter Gabriel LPs

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Filed under 4/5, Worcestershire

Droitwich Spa

Droitwich floods 2007 (2) by Ruth Flickr is used under Creative Commons. Click pic for link.

Droitwich floods 2007 (2) by Ruth Flickr is used under Creative Commons. Click pic for link.

In theory, there’s no reason why Droitwich Spa shouldn’t be a perfectly pleasant little town. Though home to a significant swathe of commuter development from the sixties onwards, Droitwich is its own community with its own salt-working industrial heritage stretching back to Roman times, when the town was called Salinae. The natural water of the town is ten times saltier than the Dead Sea, no less, and that led to DS becoming a Victorian spa town known for the restorative properties of a dip in its waters. Situated on the River Salwarpe and the Droitwich Canal, directly between the edges of urban Birmingham and the medieval splendour of Worcester, I repeat: there’s no reason why this shouldn’t be a lovely little town.

The problem with Droitwich is hard to pin down. Despite its Roman, medieval, Victorian and Edwardian heritage, the town centre is drab and lifeless. A sunny Saturday afternoon should bring the best out of a town, but this oddly warm October day saw a very few disinterested shoppers poking at a collection of pound shops and budget-end retail chains. The rail station is somewhat out of town, leaving some buses for the intrepid few. But why go to the effort of going into Droitwich when you have the full gamut of shopping facilities just a few miles down the road in Bromsgrove, Worcester or Birmingham?

Droitwich has it’s share of charity shops. On St Andrews Road there’s a mid-sized Salvation Army and a Blue Cross, next to a fairly massive, crowded secondhand furniture shop which is worth mentally tucking away. In the St Andrew’s Square shopping development, which seems to be what life there is to the town, there’s also a very standard Cancer Research shop. The rest of the shopping stretches down High Street – there’s one or two secondhandy shops, some quiet looking delis, that sort of thing, alongside Acorn Hospice and St Richard’s Hospice, which is hidden down a little side road towards the big Waitrose.

We didn’t come away with any purchases of note on that unseasonably hot Saturday afternoon, and in no way feel tempted to give DS a second chance, if only for the intense difficulty of finding something nice to eat for a late lunch. The town has potential in all its history, but needs some serious work to make it a viable destination for anything.

Find: Droitwich Spa Google Maps
Get there: the trainline is a little bit out of town, buses are occasional and walking is hard. Sigh.
Consume with: good question! You find me the answer and I’ll let you know.
Visit: the classy amongst you might enjoy the famous Droitwich Spa Lido.
Overall rating: two (just!) damaged headphones.

 

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Filed under 2/5, Worcestershire

Worcester

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

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Filed under 4/5, Worcestershire

Great Malvern

Grazing on the Malvern Hills, by Oliver Mallich, under Creative Commons. Click pic for olivern5's photostream..

Grazing on the Malvern Hills, by Oliver Mallich, under Creative Commons. Click pic for olivern5's photostream..

The town of Great Malvern has more than its fair share of outdoor shops, selling camping gear, waterproofs and the like, and well it might: it’s bang in the middle of the Malvern Hills, home of walking and mineral water. You might need them to tackle the high street, however. This is a serious hill. Thankfully, it’s certainly worth it – in central Great Malvern, but also scattered around, there’s a whole heap of charidee to be found. We were here for the Big Chill, but made the most of the time we had.

So, by altitude. At the top of the hill and nearly opposite the old-style department store Brays is Sue Ryder. A common enough charity shop with the distinction of being manned staffed by a full-strength transvestite whose label said ‘Josie’: not for long was the underlying implication. Descending Church Street via back views of the priory is Shaw Trust, St Michael’s Hospice and a nice Oxfam with book section I was led swiftly away from, for the wallet’s sake. That’s central Great Malvern in terms of charity shops, though there’s plenty of nice enough shops and distractions to wile away your time if you’re visiting.

Take a stroll down the hill and past the station (and our B&B) to the local retail enclave of Barnard’s Green, and there’s three more: Acorn Children’s Hospice on the main drag, and another two which, shamefully, I forget the names of. Don’t forget to wander down the track to the side of the butchers, as there’s one tucked away down there – that had a sealed bid auction going for a shopmobility scooter, so would be worth keeping an eye on.

Just when you think you’re done and you’re on your way out, back towards Worcester, you’ll happen across the suburb of Malvern Link. A funny place this, with not a lot going for it except a train station, but do visit St Richard’s Hospice or, even better, Harper’s Bazaar – nothing to do with the glossy rag, it’s an army surplus of the old school, replete with trenchcoats, periscope and helmets.

I’d recommend a trip to Malvern for the scenery, if nothing else. There’s few towns where natural features dominate the topography and views of the town itself like Great Malvern: the juxtaposition of urban and mountainous reminded me of Cape Town. The Hills seem to rear out of the ground from a distance, and loom at you up close. It’s also good for the shops, but it’s nice to be in the shadow of creation every now and then, to make a change from consumerism – even the eco-friendly secondhand kind.

Find: Great Malvern @ Google Maps
Consume with: lunch at the Unicorn, all in very good order.
Visit:
the hills, of course. Try listening out for Edward Elgar whistling.
Overall rating: four WW1 helmets

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Filed under 4/5, Worcestershire