Day 43, Bewdley to Worcester, 20 miles. 'Sun and Swift Water'.
Updated: Nov 19, 2019
I can't remember the last time I had enjoyed 2 consecutive days of hiking, maybe somewhere up in Scotland, or just south of the border, but since then the days have varied from one extreme to another - how nice then to find the Severn Way playing by the rules as it served up another fantastic day of walking.
I left Bewdley in the early morning sun and, slowed a little by yesterday's fairly rapid 24 miles, ambled a little slower, knowing that 20 miles on this terrain was easily achievable. I met a group of men hiking the Severn Way as I left the town and they all seemed suitably impressed by the length of my walk. As I may have mentioned before, due to the sheer size of my challenge, whenever I would stop and chat with other fellow walkers this gave me a kind of prestige. Some say size doesn't matter, but clearly some haven't traipsed 1200 miles in one masochistic sitting before.
Yet again the Severn proved to be a superb walking companion and walking with the flow of the river felt somehow, ineffably, 'correct'. The first few miles out of Bewdley were a real treat as the picturesque scenery continued, though this was to be partially ruined a few miles later by a rather odd invasion. I'm talking, of course, about the British penchant for the static caravan. Now I've never really understood caravans, but I will concede they do offer the unique ability of being both a house (sort of), whilst being easily transportable (sort of), and that is unarguably something that you just don't get with a 3-bed maisonette farmhouse conversion. But what on earth is the point of a static caravan? Given the space required to build the things you could easily have put up something nicer, like flats, chalets, a campsite, a steaming pile of human excrement, really anything else at all. Unfortunately these mute eyesores littered my route every few miles - walking alongside them was no problem, and often preferable to the actual path as the caravan park sections were always meticulously well trimmed, but I found something deeply offensive about the very idea of such a thing existing en-masse. Maybe I just didn't see the appeal, but if anyone can explain to me why static caravan parks are so popular that would be great.
I soon reached the town of Stourport-on-Severn which had that faded-English-seaside-town feeling you only get from places like Scarborough or 'Great' Yarmouth. There were dusty amusement rides, sorry looking concession stands and several information boards attesting to the glorious past of this waterside settlement that had clearly seen better days. I quite liked it, but then I've always enjoyed these idle monuments to a simpler, maybe sunnier, time - they make you feel better about your own hometown (sorry if you're actually from Yarmouth). There was an excellent looking cafe just by the water, so I ducked inside, pleased to be out of the midday sun, only to find they had no running water and therefore couldn't serve any food (thanks health and safety). Dismayed, but not overly so, I sipped at a cold can of Lilt, saw the next town over, Holt, had a decent pub, and marched onward.
Fortunately, Stourport to Holt was only a few miles, and the static caravan parks finally fled leaving me with a nicely forested section of walking and a number of well-kept locks to cross before reaching Holt Bridge. There wasn't much of anything in Holt itself, just a gorgeous old Victorian bridge and the superb pub, 'Holt Fleet'. I sat outside and tucked into a very generously portioned fish finger sandwich, contemplated which side of the river I needed to be on (obviously the other side), and sank a couple of well earned beers.
I crossed back over the bridge, had to duck very low under the arches, and was soon back on my way to Worcester. The path was a little busier as I approached the city, with dog walkers and pram pushers in abundance. I was pleased to see the other side of the river, which I had considered using, was very overgrown and so the final miles of the day were spent in smug contentment. I was getting a little worried about sunburn as even with generous applications of factor 30 my nose skin was flaking off faster than my body could repair it, but as things go this was only a minor issue. The path to Worcester snaked alongside the Severn, sometimes going right to the banks where little stony bays were caressed ceaselessly by the flowing waters, sometimes higher up the banks to peer out over the river from a vantage point obscured by thick foliage. Approaching Worcester from the north I was taken right around the racecourse and could see the famed cathedral in the distance.
I had always wanted to see Worcester. I had written 2 essays on the importance of the town during the Anglo-Saxon period whilst at university (mind-numbingly interesting, I know), and had since held a quiet fascination with the place. What a nice surprise then that Worcester turned out to be lovely. As an actual city there was a little more going on than in some of the sleepier towns I had been through, but due to its relatively small size it still retained a definite sense of character, a certifiable identity. My airbnb was excellent, if a mile or so from the town centre, but after showering I made my pilgrimage to the cathedral (lovely, but an awful lot of tents pitched up in the grounds with questionable music emanating from them), and sought out some truly excellent pubs. The Plough in particular was great, a proper old boozer where the food menu is limited to one option per night, everyone knows everyone else, and the beer is kept to £3 a pint, lovely stuff.
I slept like a log and looked forward to surely yet another cracking day on the Severn tomorrow.