A weekend away in Bewdley, Worcestershire, gave me the perfect opportunity to spend an entire day on the Severn Valley Railway, a heritage railway running for 16 miles between Kidderminster and Bridgnorth.
We were fortunate enough to be invited to stay the weekend by a good friend of ours who my wife has known since her school days. She lives in a lovely old house with a rambling cottage garden, on the outskirts of Bewdley but only a few minutes walk away from the centre of this quaint Georgian town on the River Severn. So while they were out doing girlie things on the Saturday, I had already planned my own adventures on the railway!
Bewdley Station is a few minutes walk uphill from the bridge across the River Severn. I had already bought a ‘Freedom of the Line’ ticket in advance online for about £20, and worked out my timetable for the day. First train of the morning was the 9:58, a heritage diesel service pulled by a Warship Class 42, D821.
I took this train only as far as the next station northbound at Arley, a journey of about 16 minutes. Sitting on the right hand side of the carriage gives the best views of the River Severn from Bewdley to Arley. Many of the station platforms are shorter than the visiting trains, so I needed to sit in the rear 5 carriages for this trip. Arley is a beautifully tended countryside station, with immaculate flower borders and a fascinating collection of old painted metal adverts along the entire length of the platform fence, advertising long-lost brand name household products and foodstuffs.
A short walk from the station takes you either down the lane to the banks of the River Severn, or up through the village to the Arley Arboretum. But with only 40 minutes until the next steam service northbound, I stayed local and explored the station buildings and platforms in more detail. My next train at 10:55 was pulled by a 4-6-2 West Country Class, 34027 ‘Taw Valley’.
With a whole day ahead of me, I decided to take this train all the way north to the terminus at Bridgnorth, and then work my way slowly back down the line again. The journey time to Bridgnorth from Arley was about 40 minutes, and sitting on the left hand side of the carriage gave me some lovely views of the River Severn for most of the way. Bridgnorth station has a gift shop, and the very popular Railwayman’s Arms pub on the main platform. Bridgnorth town is a short walk from the station, and has the steepest inland funicular cliff railway in England, connecting the high and low towns.
After exploring Bridgnorth, I caught the 12:35 steam service southbound, pulled once again by ‘Taw Valley’. The first station south is Hampton Loade, a quiet countryside station near the banks of the River Severn, and 15 minutes from Bridgnorth. However, I stayed on the train and continued south a further 12 minutes to the next station at Highley, where I needed to sit in the 3rd, 4th or 5th carriages to get off. Here, it’s possible to visit The Engine House, a modern Visitor Centre with a great indoor collection of steam locomotives, a royal carriage used by King George V, and the Royal Mail sorting carriage involved in the actual Great Train Robbery. There’s also a gift shop, and upstairs a restaurant overlooking the Severn Valley. Admission to The Engine House was included in my ‘Freedom of the Line’ ticket.
My visit to Highley took me less time than I had anticipated, so I was able to catch the 2:02 steam service south to Kidderminster, pulled by a GWR 2-8-0 Class 2800, number 2857. I figured out that by standing on the footbridge between platforms, I should be able to get a picture of the train approaching the station, before dashing down the steps to jump aboard!
Kidderminster is the southernmost terminus of the line, immediately adjacent to the mainline railway station, and a journey time of slightly over 40 minutes from Highley. Kidderminster is a busy terminus with plenty to explore – a large restaurant and a gift shop on the station concourse, which is currently being refurbished with 1940s wartime themed exhibits; the ‘King & Castle’ pub; the Kidderminster Railway Museum, and a miniature steam railway to ‘Tutherend’ (of the platform).
I was now ahead of schedule, and a quick glance at the timetable showed that I could still squeeze a few more trips into an already very full day. Half an hour exploring Kidderminster station before catching the 3:30 service back to Bewdley on GWR 2857 once again, a journey of only 15 minutes. I needed to sit in the front 3 carriages for this trip. It’s a surprising stretch of line, passing as it does West Midlands Safari Park and affording an unusual view of elephants from the train!
Then just half an hour wait at Bewdley, before catching yet another steam service back to Kidderminster, the 4:17 pulled by a 4-6-0 GWR Modified Hall Class, No.6960 ‘Raveningham Hall’ on loan from West Somerset Railway.
As well as the unusual sight of elephants, this stretch of line also passes some beautiful fields full of poppies, which were in full bloom at the time of my visit.
‘Raveningham Hall’ arrived into Kidderminster at 4:33, giving me a further half an hour to explore the station before catching it back to Bewdley on the very last northbound service of the day at 5:05.
Total end-to-end journey time on the SVR is approximately 70 minutes each way, and on the day of my visit they were operating ‘Timetable B’. A thoroughly excellent day out, and a series of journeys which have certainly ended with memories for me!