Partner Profile – Severn Valley Country Park

An oasis of calm and beauty on the banks of the River Severn, this Green Flag award-winning 51 hectare country park is dedicated to the quiet enjoyment of the countryside by all the family. The park spans both sides of the longest river in the country and its woodlands, ponds and meadows provide a home for many species of plants and animals.

Severn Valley Country park

Severn Valley Country park

This part of the Severn Valley used to be a centre of industry. Sandstone quarried from the area was used to build part of Worcester Cathedral and would have been loaded onto trows (flat-bottom barges) on the river. Coal mining started in Highley in 1878. Production was switched to Alveley in 1936. At its peak the mine employed 1,000 men and produced 300,000 tonnes of coal a year. Mining ceased in 1969 and the area was badly scarred by spoil heaps. Following the closure of the mine, the spoil heaps and land lay derelict until 1986. Shropshire County Council and Bridgnorth District Council embarked on an ambitious project to reclaim the land, installing drainage ditches, re-grading the spoil heap and planting trees. Severn Valley Country Park opened in 1992 and is now managed by Shropshire Council.

Severn Valley Country Park

Severn Valley Country Park

On-site facilities include:

  • Extensive network of footpaths and bridleways
  • Waymarked trails including the Riverside Trail, Woodland Trail and Highley Trail.
  • Easy-access trail designed for all abilities, including a fully accessible bird hide
  • Permanent orienteering course
  • Route 45 cycle trail between Bridgnorth and Bewdley
  • Toilets
  • Picnic areas
  • Parking at Alveley and Highley

 

The park also boasts a fantastic visitor centre with plenty of information about the history and wildlife of the area. There is also a kid’s corner with activities for younger people to enjoy while mum and dad relax with a well-earned cup of tea and a slice of delicious home-made cake! The Visitor Centre and teashop is open every Wednesday to Sunday and Bank Holidays (except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day). It is open 7 days a week during the school holidays. Opening times are April to October: 11am-5pm & November to March: 11am-4pm.

 

The park can offer educational activities for school groups, ranger led birthday parties and also a full year round events programme. In addition, every Tuesday our conservation volunteers meet to help maintain the high standards of the park for our visitors.

Severn Valley Country park

Severn Valley Country park

Highlights of the park include:

 

Spring Pieces Hay Meadow

This is a quieter area of the park. It was not affected by the mining. The hay meadow here is a fantastic place to see wildflowers such as rare adder’s tongue fern, orchids and yellow rattle. Walk through the buttercups and see butterflies and bumblebees lazily flying around in the sunshine. Elfin Pool is a fantastic place to bring a net and go pond-dipping. Look out for green woodpeckers flying around the meadows, feeding on yellow meadow ants.

 

Hall Close Coppice

This is our area of semi-natural ancient woodland. It is managed by coppicing small areas of hazel and alder and allowing them to re-grow. This encourages wildlife like the rare dormouse, a secretive little creature with a fluffy tail that lives in the trees. Take a walk through the shady woodland in May and experience the sight and smell of a bluebell carpet.

 

Station Road Site

This site marks the location of the first mine shaft that was sunk in Highley. There is a pit wheel that was erected by the people of Highley in 1994 as a memorial to the hard-working men who were at the core of this community. An excellent footpath through the site leads down past the picnic area and pond and through the woodland to Highley Station.

 

The River Meadows

The riverside meadows are great places to see invertebrates including the rare club-tailed dragonfly. Wander through the orchard in autumn and sample some of the local provenance apples that grow here. The bridge over the river was rebuilt in 2006. It is an excellent place to see bats hunting as the sun sets over the valley. The original bridge was built to take coal and miners across the river and was the first concrete cantilever bridge of its kind in the world.

 

The Sidings

The paths here were part of the original tramway route taking coal to be washed, graded and loaded onto trains. The ground has been made up into embankments. The woodland is dominated by trees such as silver birch and willow that have seeded. It is a good place to see woodland birds such as nuthatch, tree creeper, blue tit and great tit.

 

Easy Access Nature Trail and Wetland

This trail leads round a beautiful pond with mallards, coots and moorhen bobbing amongst the lily pads. At the end of the trail is a bird hide that overlooks the wetland. The reeds are cut annually to create perfect conditions for wading birds such as water rail.

Severn Valley Country park

Severn Valley Country park

Severn Valley Country Park

 canal event - severn valley 056

 

Description

In this peaceful, scenic valley of the River Severn there awaits a delightful countryside experience. Green Flag award-winning Severn Valley Country Park offers 126 acres of beautiful countryside and wonderful views, spanning both sides of the longest river in the country. The woodlands, ponds and meadows in the park are full of many species of plants and animal, some of them quite rare.

A full events programme is available is available throughout the year. These include guided walks, school holiday activities for children and family events.

The park boasts a fantastic visitor centre and plenty of information about the history and wildlife of the area. The park acts as a gateway to the excellent footpath network through the woodlands and meadows of the Severn Valley, between Bridgnorth and Bewdley. Bring a map, don your boots and discover an ancient sandstone cross, babbling brooks, historical ferries and fantastic geology and wildlife.

History of the Park

Now an oasis of peace and tranquillity, this part of the Severn Valley used to be a centre of industry. Sandstone quarried from this area was used to build part of Worcester Cathedral and would have been loaded onto trows on the river. Coal mining started in Highley in 1878. Production was switched to Alveley in 1936. At its peak the mine employed 1000 men and produced 3000,000 tonnes of coal a year. It shut down in 1969.

Following the closure of the mine, the spoil heaps and land lay derelict until 1986. Shropshire County council and Bridgnorth District Council embarked on an ambitious project to reclaim the land, installing drainage ditches, re-grading the spoil heaps and planting trees. Severn Valley Country Park opened in 1992 and is now managed by Shropshire Council.

Geology and Landscape

Highley and Alveley form part of the Wyre Forest Coalfield, an area covering 50 square kms.  Since medieval times the various rock types making up the coalfield have been mined and extracted contributing both to the economy and character of the area.

Highley Colliery was established in 1878/9 by the Highley Mining Company, HMCo, and stayed open until 1969. The coal seam being mined lay at a depth of 300yds and was 4ft thick. Initially it would have been worked by hand under the light of the candle, production relying solely on the strength and skill of the miners. By the 1930s HMCo had deployed the use of mechanical cutters and a mechanised underground haulage system.

Coal comes in a variety of grades, the quality being dependant on the environment and conditions under which it formed. Highley Colliery coal was of a high grade so was sold for household use.

The Formation of Coal

Cyclothem diagram

Cyclothem diagram

Coal is a sedimentary rock formed from the remains of trees and vegetation and requires specific conditions for its formation:-

  • There must be plenty of vegetation living (and dying) nearby
  • The dead plant material must accumulate in a swampy environment lacking in oxygen (this is to prevent the breakdown of the dead vegetation into soil).
  • The accumulated vegetation must be sealed in by sediment above, such as sand or clay
  • The vegetation has to be deeply buried. It is the heat and compression imposed by deep burial that brings about the formation of coal

Coal typically forms in a delta environment. This dynamic environment produces the sequence of rock types associated with coal formation, known as a  Cyclothem.

Carboniferous sandstone exposed along a footpath (former tramway) in SVCP

Carboniferous sandstone exposed along a footpath (former tramway) in SVCP

It was 345 million years ago, during the period of time known geologically as the Carboniferous that such conditions existed here in Britain.  During the Carboniferous, the area now known as Highly was sitting astride the equator experiencing a warm and humid climate.  Lush vegetation grew in the resultant swampy conditions.

Coal was not the only Carnoniferous rock from this area that has been extracted for commercial gain over the ages. Sandstone too has been quarried and used as building stone and tiles. The sandstone formed around 300 million years ago from sand particles that travelled from the south in rivers before being deposited in the delta.  As the river entered into this larger mass of water its energy decreased forcing it to deposit the sand particles it was carrying.  Over time great quantities of sand accumulated. This sand was then buried turning loose material into hard rock.

The River Severn

The River Severn running through the Country Park. In geological terms the river is a very recent addition having carved out its course over the last 12,000 years

The River Severn running through the Country Park. In geological terms the river is a very recent addition having carved out its course over the last 12,000 years

It comes as a surprise to discover that a feature as large and important as the River Severn is so recent an addition to the Parks landscape. Before the final phase of the Ice Age the upper Severn flowed roughly north-east from its Mid-Wales source on Plynlimon to the sea near the present Dee estuary. The last glacial period, the Devensian, started around 30,000 years ago. An ice sheet travelled from the north and west across the Cheshire Plain and north Shropshire coming to rest against the higher ground of the south Shropshire hills. From the front of the ice sheet poured melt-water carrying silts, sands, gravels and pebbles which spread down the shallow valley (actually the headwaters of a tributary of the River Stour) to the south. Beneath the glacier large quantities of summer melt-water, laced with pebbles, scoured networks of channels into the underlying solid rock.

By 12,000 years ago the ice sheet had receded. The majority of the scoured channels became filled with sands and gravels. One in particular did not though and served as a main conduit for the large amounts of water flowing from the receding ice sheet in the area, cutting itself deeper and deeper. This channel became the world heritage site of Ironbridge Gorge, which lies 14 miles north of the Park. With the receding icesheet now blocking its old northerly course towards the Dee, the River Severn established a meandering easterly course through Shrewsbury and to the Ironbridge Gorge before turning south into the head-water valley of the the River Stour.

The lower terraces of the Severn are glacial valley train terraces. The power of the torrents which deposited the terrace gravels is illustrated by the size of some of the rock fragments carried. These can be boulders of more than one tonne in weight.

Explore the Geology and Landscape of Severn Valley Country Park

  • Section 2 of the Geopark Way also available as an App. The app has a map of the section overlain on an interactive geology map. Using GPS you get your position and a feed of data about the geology and other information as you walk. Other information’ includes photos of the walk with directional guidance, 3D cross-sections, and interpretations of past environments.Created by BrooksDesigns
  • Severn Valley trail:  Bridgnorth to Highley The formation of the Severn Valley between Bridgnorth and Highley

Explore the bedrock and superficial geology of the Severn Valley Country Park area on the British Geological Surveys ‘Geology of Britain Viewer’ – click here to be directed to their webpage

Facilities

There’s lots on offer at the park, so you’re sure to find something to suit you and your family or group:

  • Extensive network of footpaths and bridleways
  • Waymarked trails, including the Geopark Way – Britains long distance geology themed walking trail
  • Easy-access trail designed for all abilities, including a fully accessible bird hide
  • Permanent orienteering course
  • Route 45 cycle trail between Bridgnorth and Bewdley
  • Visitor centre and toilets
  • Tea shop offering a range of tasty seasonal products, both hot and cold
  • Picnic areas
  • Parking at Alveley and Highley

Opening Times

Park open from dusk till dawn

Visitor Centre and Tea Shop Opening Times:

April – October: Wednesday to Sunday, 11am – 5pm

November – March: Saturday & Sunday, 11am – 4pm

School holidays and bank holidays: Open every day during school holidays and bank holidays (except for Christmas Day and Boxing Day)

Severn Valley Country Park Photo Gallery

Contact Details