Friday, 3 April 2015

Location, location, location

One of the five canal basins at Stourport and the fine clock warehouse
Yes, Stourport-on-Severn really is three locations in one. Slightly down at heel country town, magnificent Georgian canal port, unmatched in scale and quality and brash, gaudy seaside resort with its Treasure Island funfair, amusement arcades and crazy golf course.
The old Tontine hotel building now restored as apartments
All seem to lead separate lives: the townsfolk get on with their shopping and simply nod the canal a polite good day, the Wolverhampton day trippers have their funfair rides, their hot dogs, a round of crazy golf and some chips before heading home and the canal basins stand in glorious splendour, surrounded by handsome old buildings and admired by visitors.
And all the fun of the fair at Treasure Island
Somehow, though, for all their spectacular layout and scale, they are a bit of a static exhibit, almost entirely filled by marina-moored craft and with virtually no space for visitors to stop. Even more so at the moment since the fierce flowing Severn is still shut to boat traffic. But let's not gripe: the whole basin area has been thoroughly regenerated, new uses found for the old buildings and even a once built over basin re-excavated. Shame, though, that it only has a few – unused – residential moorings.
The restored Lichfield Basin is centre of this development. But why no boats?
Having exhausted all the delights of Stourport (apart from the waltzer and big wheel), toured the dozen or so charity shops and visited the towpath-side Lidl, we decided to exhaust ourselves with a four miles each way walk along the Severn footpath to Bewdley.
Bewdley's fine riverfront has been a frequent victim of Severn floods
Bewdley is a peach of a place. A major Severnside port before the canals but then supplanted by Stourport, it's a contendedly comfortable little Georgian town with an appealling waterfront and an assortment of shops up its steep main street that climbs away from the water. A sturdy Thomas Telford river bridge has stood the test of the Severn's powerful waters for Bewdley has been a regular victim of flooding over the years and now has some very substantial defences in place.
Telford's handsome bridge leads across it
On our way to Bewdley we spotted a large number of mysterious blue metal pipes sticking out of a field, each with its top padlocked off. We came up with plenty of ideas but only one fact – a Land Rover with the company logo 'GIP'. That and Mr Google solved it: it is ground testing the site for a massive £255 million scheme by Severn Trent Water to pump water from the river and send it to Birmingham via a five feet diameter underground pipeline.
The 'Birmingham Resilience Project' will provide a back-up water supply to the city so that the old Victorian pipeline from the Elan Valley Reservoir in Wales can be taken out of service in winters for badly needed maintenance without leaving Brum short of tap water.
Tomorrow the river is set to re-open, weather permitting, so the increasing queue of boats waiting here will finally get a chance to move off.


  1. The new apartments improve upon what Stourport had become....but it still seems a long way from the Picture Postcard town with the Tontine the jewel before its and the towns decline.

  2. The new apartments improve upon what Stourport had become.. Really? souless tat in reality surely. I have often wondered about the lack of boats in the new development too. Possible something to do with a condition of the the planning consent perhaps. I envy you your thrash down the Seven.

  3. The lack of boats is a crying shame considering the basin was built as part of the Stourport Basins regeneration. I've been told they are private moorings for the properties though someone else says the residents don't want boats there which would be ruddy typical.