Shropshire’s largest river is the Severn, one of the most impressive and longest in the UK. We usually walk its banks in our county town of Shrewsbury, for being strongly averse to towns and cities we need the riverside walk as an antidote. But today we decided to go a few miles southwards and find it as it meanders through the beautiful south Shropshire countryside. We parked up near Alveley and ambled our way down towards the river and the woodland on the lower slopes of its valley. The area is a country park jointly maintained by the National Trust and Shropshire Council so there is good parking and a small visitor centre with cafe. But walk a hundred metres or so from the centre and you are right out in the countryside away from signs of civilisation, except for the occasional sound of the steam engines running through the valley on the Severn Valley Railway, the chugging sounds of the engine working hard to get up slopes and the regular hooting as it crosses level crossings.
The walk down to the river is a gentle sloping pathway through young woodland interrupted by occasional areas of old industrial landscape which is being reclaimed by mother Nature. Unusual small plants are colonising and tree seedlings only a few inches tall are making inroads into man’s mess. Here a Pied Wagtail deviated from its tail wagging zig zag amble to catch an insect above a clump of tough grass. A true surprise met our eyes – a Black Redstart a bird I had not seen for decades and one Jude had never seen before. They inhabit areas of rubble and human disturbance so this is just perfect hangout for them.
The footbridge over the river is an impressive curving structure, but not as impressive as the views up and down river. The Severn here is wide, tree-lined, deep and slow-moving and home to a family of Mute Swan with six cygnets. We did not spot the keenly anticipated Kingfishers, but that was the only disappointment of the day.
Once over the bridge we entered woodland, good native hardwood woodland. Here the only sound was our footsteps and bird song and calls. The unpleasant mechanical rasp of Pheasants permeated the trees, but we concentrated on the tuneful songs of Robin, Thrush, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Garden Warbler.
On the slopes Jays in their smart plumage of pinks, greys and highlights of blue, fed voraciously on acorns and beech mast. They were over-confident and took little notice of our intrusion into their territory as groups of seven or so foraged on the leaf littered slope.
At one time this valley was the centre of industry and clues still appear now and again as the woods are explored. Surprising man-made artefacts appeared as contradictions to the gentle beauty of the art of Mother Nature.
We took advantage of the sunshine in the clearing with its conveniently placed bench. We listened to bird song and watched Blackcaps as they flitted amongst the tree tops. They stopped and perched occasionally to give us a short performance of their enjoyable song. The cerise-breasted Bullfinch caught our eye as he hovered alongside the clock seedhead of a Dandelion, until he grasped a seed in his beak took it to a low branch of a Hawthorn. He enjoyed it, unaware that two people were watching him.
As we followed our path back down to the riverside we noticed a change in wildflower species. Here Comfrey dominated and filled the open ground between the willows and alders and our track took us through lush grassed areas. Kestrels and Sparrowhawks hunted along the riverside slopes causing consternation to the nesting Blackbirds, Thrushes and Warblers.
In the wooded edge of the picnic site back near the car park we found these amazing wood carvings representing the wildlife of the area.
The carvings emphasised what a special place we had just explored. We enjoyed the changing light as we moved in and out of the woods, the variety of flowers and birds and the joy of walking alongside our local river