Every walker will know that not all routes go exactly as planned, we have encountered missing footbridges, totally impassable paths, path closures for safety reasons following landslip or storms and of course the field of lively cattle. It all becomes part of being out and about, but when someone tells me walking is stress free I wonder where they have been walking. This might be a bit of a spoiler for what is to follow.
Over the last few years some of my walks have taken in sections of the Monarch’s Way, this 625-mile long route traces the journey that Charles II took after suffering defeat to Cromwell’s Army at the Battle of Worcester. It winds its way from Worcester to the south coast at Lyme Regis and then heads east through Dorset, South Wiltshire and Hampshire before crossing the South Downs and finishing in Shoreham.
As we are staying close to the site of the Battle of Worcester it seems a shame not to take the opportunity to walk the first few miles of the Monarch’s Way. We head to Worcester and park in a small car park in Grandstand Road and then head north besides the road to reach a footbridge spanning the river.
From the footbridge we get a view of the racecourse. When I was working I visited Worcester on a number of occasions, but normally did not venture far from the City centre. I had not appreciated that the racecourse was so central.
From the bridge there is a fine view down the river.
On the far side of the river we turn left and head in a southerly direction besides the river and pass a plaque explaining the 12th century legend of an illicit love affair which ended in tragedy when a young nymph named Sabrina drowned in the river. The river was therefore called the Severn after her.
This is a good story but I prefer that it was given the name Sabrina by the Romans. Wales borders much of the river and the Welsh for Sabrina is Hafren which means boundary.
We pass the impressive Worcester Bridge, this was first built in 1781, but by the early 20th century it was clear it needed to be improved for increased traffic, so it was fully reconstructed and widened in 1931.
We stay with the river to our left and continue to walk along the bank through a pleasant wooded area besides playing fields. We pass a weir and further across out of our sight is a lock which we should pass on the way back.
Soon after the weir we reach four iron statues, they commemorate Sir Charles Hastings (1794 – 1866) a medical surgeon and founder of the British Medical Association who used his money to improve housing in Worcester; Ernest Powell (1884 -1961) who won a gold medal in track cycling in the 1908 Olympic Games in London and was known as ‘The Worcester Wonder’; and a Royalist and a Parliamentarian to commemorate the Battle of Worcester.
We stay besides the river following a footpath which enters fields. The map shows this as the site of the Battle of Worcester, fought on 3rd September 1651. The Royalists under the command of Charles II totalled 16,000 men, they were heavily outnumbered by 28,000 Parliamentarians led by Oliver Cromwell. There are reports of fierce fighting on theses meadows around Powick Bridge on the land between the River Severn and the River Teme.
I know it was nearly 400 years ago, but it does feel strange having a pleasant walk in the countryside over land where so many men were slain.
We are obviously on the route of the Monarch’s Way and the familiar way markers guide us towards Powick Bridge.
We pass an information board indicating that the building away to our left is St Cuthbert’s Barn dating back to 1165. For two hundred years it was used as a chapel for worship and then became a barn for local farmers, in the 18th century it was used as a workhouse for the poor and then a prison following an outbreak of Prison Fever at Worcester Old Castle Jail. Between 1850 and 1922 it was used for hop drying, since then it has been used as a cattle store and stables.
As we continue besides the River Teme towards Powick Bridge we can see the chimney of Powick Mill, this former water mill was reportedly converted in 1894 to become the world’s first combined steam/hydroelectric power station. It continued to supply electricity to houses in Worcester until the 1950s.
The footpath follows the bank of the meandering River Teme and then goes under a cast iron road bridge built in 1837.
After the bridge we go through a field and then join a minor road where we turn left to cross the historic Powick Bridge, this bridge was built before 1447 and then partially rebuilt in the 16th century.
It was at this bridge that the first skirmishes of the English Civil War took place on 23rd September 1642. It was also around this bridge that the final battle of Worcester took place at the end of the civil war.
Apparently after the final battle the radical preacher Hugh Peters gave a sermon in which he proclaimed that Worcester was where England’s sorrows began and where they ended, Sadly like so many religious sermons Peters’ proved to be incorrect.
Powick Bridge is the official start of the Monarchs Way and it is a fine place to start a long distance walk. Unfortunately for us it is the start of a walking disappointment. I had mapped a route from here that would follow footpaths and then join the A4440 to cross the River Severn and then we would turn left to walk along the east bank of the Severn. However, my best laid plans failed to take into account major roadworks and the temporary closure of paths. Therefore, we set off across fields and then walk beside the A4044 before realising there is no way to cross the river and so we need to retrace our steps to Powick Bridge.
We now have the option of retracing our steps besides the river or walking through Lower Wick beside the road and then taking a footpath which will lead us back to the river beside the iron statues. We go for the latter. At the statues we cross the Diglis footbridge over the Severn and then turn left and soon reach Diglis Lock besides Diglis Island.
Completed in 1844, Diglis Island is a man-made island in the River Severn. It was once heavily used for carpentry and blacksmithing, and apparently the workshops still remain.
According to the Canal and River Trust Diglis Lock is the largest and deepest on England’s inland waterways.
We stay by the river and soon reach the Diglis Dock, built in 1893. Between 1926 and 1968 it was the location of a Shell Oil depot. Apparently in 1979 a stolen Aston Marin DB6 was recovered from the lock.
Very close to the dock is the start of the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. As the name suggests this 29-mile canal connects Worcester with Birmingham. Its construction began in 1792 and it fully opened in 1815.
We now leave the path besides the river and walk besides the canal to reach Diglis Basin which opened on the completion of the canal. There are reports of a fire here in 1836 which destroyed the warehouse of Messrs Pickford and Co.
In 1877 Thomas Henry Wilmott an employee of the canal company discovered the body of an unidentified man drowned in the basin; and then in 1901 Thomas Henry Wilmott (the same chap) heard shouts and discovered seven year old William Gradson had fallen into the basin. Wilmott jumped in and rescued the boy.
We follow the canal away from the basin and walk besides converted warehouses. These days the canal is busy with leisure craft, but when fully operating in would have been a commercial carriage. Apparently a major user of the canal was the Cadbury Chocolate factories at Bournville and Blackpole.
On reaching a bridge we leave the canal and join Mill Street and turn left to follow this street back to the river where we turn right and head along the riverside path to return to our starting point.
Our walk has covered just over eight-miles, of which a couple were on the footpath where we could get no access to cross the river, so we would have been better to off just doing a six mile circuit to Powick Bridge to take in the historic sight of the battle of Worcester which is shown on the route below.
To follow our walk you will need Ordnance Survey Outdoor Explorer – 204 – Worcester & Droitwich Spa
4th July 2021
© Two Dogs and an Awning (2021)
All information on this site is provided free of charge and in good faith and no liability is accepted in respect of damage, loss or injury which might result from it. To the best of my knowledge the routes are entirely on public rights of way or within areas that are open for public access.
Walking can be hazardous and is done entirely at your own risk. It is your responsibility to check your route and navigate using a map and compass.