First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
‘Att rising of the sunne,’ said antiquary John Leland, regarding Bewdley at dawn nearly 500 years ago, ‘frome the este the hole towne glittereth, being all of nuy buyldings, as it were of gold.’
Those ‘nuy buyldings’ are venerable now, half-timbered and crooked, leaning along the River Severn like familiar neighbours. There are few signs of old Bewdley, the rough and prosperous river port whose bargemen were so famous for their strength and skill on the water that Nelson’s press gangs frequently invaded the town to march them away for the Navy.
A swan with four cygnets in tow sailed down the bronze-brown Severn and under Bewdley’s graceful old bridge. Cherry blossom was out along the banks as we walked upriver; violets and wood anemones under the trees as we followed rutted woodland paths through the Wyre Forest.
Beside the chuckling thread of Dowles Brook stood long-redundant Knowles Mill, its iron and wooden milling machinery still in situ. A lonely site for a corn mill, but a beautiful one today, with chiffchaffs singing up the spring in the oak tops, and the pink buds of bilberry coming into blossom in the heathery banks of the wood.
I stopped and stared to see a rare duck swimming in the brook – a mandarin, all in ginger and scarlet and white. What was he doing here? Ah – out from the banks swam his steel-blue mate, both birds bobbing their heads as they hunted for a nesting site.
We passed Lodge Hill Farm and headed south among old orchards in blossom, then through woodland cut and coppiced by the Wyre Community Land Trust. The Trust is intent on restoring 300 acres of neglected forest to their former richness of wildlife and of timber production, essential work that goes largely unsung.
At Ribbesford Church the ancient tympanum over the north door showed a huntsman discharging his bow at a ravening mythic beast of the forest. Inside, a bristle-backed boar in medieval stained glass wrinkled his long snout in swinish mirth. We stopped to admire him; then walked the Severn path back to Bewdley, with mergansers pairing off under the river banks, and anemones starring the grasses along the way.
Start: Dog Lane car park, Bewdley, Worcs DY12 2EF (OS ref: SO 785755)
Getting there: Severn Valley Railway (svr.co.uk) from Bridgnorth or Kidderminster
Bus service 2 (Kidderminster)
Road – Bewdley is on A456 (Kidderminster – Tenbury Wells).
Walk (9 miles, easy underfoot, OS Explorer 218.): Left upriver along riverbank footpath. In ½ mile, at bridge abutments (780764), left on path to B4194. Right through former bridge, immediately left (‘Geopark Way’) on path beside old railway. At road (772764) right on minor road for ¾ mile to Knowles Mill (762766).
Left across footbridge (fingerpost/FP). Path goes between mill and cottage, then bend right round end of mill. Don’t cross stile on left, but keep ahead up path above Dowles Brook (yellow arrows/YAs). In 500m, opposite nesting box no. 18 and Lodge Hill Farm, right (760766), down through kissing gate/KG. Bear left up to cross drive (KGs, YA), then old railway. On along path across tussocky ground, then KG (YA) to grassy track (758764). Bear left; over track crossing, keeping pond on left.
In 350m cross forest road (757760); on through trees (YA post). Pass corner of St George’s Farm grounds (756759). In 400m, left at T-junction (755755) past old FP (YAs) and on, soon guided by fence on left. Follow YAs for ¾ mile to pass succession of houses and reach A456 (757742).
Left for 100m (take care!); right (FP) down driveway past water tower. Through gate; bear right along hedge. Stile (YA). In 2nd field, don’t cross stile on right (757738), but continue downhill with hedge on right, over stile, down hedge to enter wood. At far side of wood with house on right (759735, waymark post), turn left; in 40m, fork right (YA) inside edge of wood. In 200m at gate (761735, ‘Keep Out’ notice), bear left (blue arrow/BA) and follow BAs. In 500m, at golf club notice (764739), right (BA). In ¼ mile, at corner of playing field at Park End, left along road (768736, YA).
At Horse Hill Farm (777736), follow road to left; in 300m, fork right off road (780738, YA) and follow waymarked Worcestershire Way/WW for ½ mile to Ribbesford. At lower gate of churchyard, right (787740, BA, ‘Ribbesford Circular Walk’). Left at road (789739); at next corner, right (FP) to river bank; left to Bewdley.
Lunch/Accommodation: Mug House Inn, Severn Side, Bewdley DY12 2EE (01299-402543, mughousebewdley.co.uk) – right on the river
Wyre Community Land Trust: www.wyreclt.org.uk