SIMON WHALEY

Steamy Severn-side Saunter

Step inside the Spring 2019 issue of Country Walking magazine and you’ll find my steamy Severn-side saunter route description. Don’t let the steamy label make you think it’s a walk that will get you out of puff – instead, watch the puffing steam trains go by as the path runs parallel to the Severn Valley Railway.

The best place to park is the Severn Valley Country Park car par near Highley (where’s there’s some toilets too, for that pre-walk bladder-emptying-opportunity that saves a bop behind the stinging nettles later 🤣).

And it’s not long to reach the railway line, where I’d timed it just right to see Engine number 43106 arrive and collect a volunteer.

Steam Engine 43106 pulls into Highley Station on the Severn valley Railway Line, Shropshire

The route crosses the footbridge near the station, offering a wonderful viewpoint of the building, as it could have looked over seventy years ago …

Highley Station on the Severn Valley Railway Line, near Bridgnorth, Shropshire

And this isn’t the only bridge encountered en route. In fact, you could call this a walk for bridge enthusiasts, as you’ll soon see. When this route meets the river, it’s necessary to walk upstream for a while to reach a bridge that takes the route across to the eastern bank of the River Severn.

Footbridge across the River Severn near the Severn Valley Country Park, near Highley, Bridgnborth, Shropshire

One aspect of walking that I enjoy is the opportunity to see relics from the past. As the route follows the River Severn on its journey southwards, it passes what looks like a field full of abandoned blocks of stone. And these are big blocks. I’m not talking about lego bricks here!

Abandon stone blocks from Hexton’s Quarry on the Worcestershire banks of the River Severn, near Highley, Shropshire

It turns out they originate from Hexton’s Quarry, a short distance from the path. Stone from the quarry was mined, then brought to this point beside the river where there was once a quay, where it was loaded onto barges and taken off down to Bristol. When the river level is low you can still see some of the remains of the quay.

When you reach Upper Arley, if you fancy an arboreal apparition then head off to Arley Arboretum

Alternatively, if you want to give your feet a rest (for you’re just over halfway at this point) then pop into the Arley Riverside Tearooms, or sit outside if the sun is shining, before crossing footbridge to regain the western bank. (And if you were looking for something a little alcoholic, you’ll be pleased to know the Harbour Inn will be happy to oblige.)

The route back upstream follows the railway line again, but also involves crossing a tributary of the Severn: Borle Brook. There’s a fascinating iron bridge, cast in Coalbrookdale, just like the World’s First iron bridge at Ironbridge Gorge, in 1828, and still carrying walkers today!

Cast iron bridge scross the Borle Brook, near Highley, Shropshire
Cast iron bridge scross the Borle Brook, near Highley, Shropshire
Cast iron bridge scross the Borle Brook, near Highley, Shropshire

It even has kissing gates on either end, just to keep us dancing on our toes after nearly seven miles of wandering.

Finally, the route returns close to the Severn Valley Railway line, and the Engine Shed (well worth a visit – entry fee applies). Alternatively, you could just stand and watch the trains go by …

Steam Engine 2857 approaching Highley, along the Severn Valley Railway Line, Shropshire

So, as steamy Severn-side saunters go, this route is definitely one to get all puffed up about!

This is a 7-mile walk, graded easy because it’s a relatively flat walk along the river banks. And, yes, it’s one that works best on a warm, sunny day. Enjoy!

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