Bridging the River
Bewdley Rotary aiming to get a walking and cycle track over the Severn at Dowles
In 1864 the first steam train travelled on the Wyre Forest line from Bewdley to Tenbury. It ran north from Bewdley station for a distance of about a mile on a single line track alongside the Severn Valley Railway before diverging to the west to cross the river Severn at Dowles Bridge and would have stopped at a station in the Wyre Forest before progressing to Cleobury Mortimer.
In 1965 the last train did the same journey and it was in 1966 that the girder bridge was removed just leaving the pillars as a memorial.
The idea of linking the two sides of the River at Dowles by means of a footbridge has been mooted in the past, not only by Bewdley Rotary Club but also, by other bodies in the town, however the feasibility has never been progressed.
At the Club Visioning exercise carried out last March members felt that we needed to identify a major worthwhile local project which would raise the awareness and profile of Rotary in the local area and a few members felt that it was time to think again about the bridge at Dowles.
In a document which Neil Hardwick presented to the Club recently he stated:-
‘Wyre Forest District is home to 100,000 people and is made up of three towns: Kidderminster, Stourport on Severn and Bewdley. To prevent these three towns from merging into one and in an effort to keep their own identity, they try their hardest to insulate themselves against each other. This of course also prevents them from being joined together in any meaningful way.
At present there is no decent pathway to walk or cycle between the towns and what is most ludicrous is the fact that despite having one of the best walking and cycling areas within touching distance of the River Severn, the forest, that our collective towns are named after, can only be accessed by the local community, (excluding a few residents living on its fringe) by motor transport. Families walking or cycling find it impossible to visit the Wyre Forest Visitor Centre, the forest walks and tracks, without having to load up their cars and drive there.
We believe what is needed is to improve the Severn Way which runs through our area, from the village of Arley in the north to Stourport in the south. This is also part of the route 45 national cycleway, which joins with route 49 at Bewdley and gives access to Kidderminster west.
In order to do this, a not insignificant task would need completing, namely to install two footbridges onto their existing stanchions, one crossing the River Severn at Dowles Brook and the second across Dowles Road. This would then give pedestrian and cycle access to the whole of the Wyre Forest and beyond, via the disused railway line, which is quite unlike most of our local roads as it is almost completely on the level.
It would reduce traffic through Bewdley, it would be much safer for cyclists on route 45 and would allow families to ride, walk, use push chairs or wheelchairs to their most valued natural attraction.'
The Club voted to support this project and contact will be made with Sustrans, a charity which works with many partners so that people are able to choose healthier, cleaner and cheaper journeys, with better places and spaces to move through and live in.
An exciting project which, when completed, would certainly raise the profile of Rotary in the local community and further afield.
Update 12th June 2017
The Dowles Footbridge Project has made some progress after a couple of frustrating months without a response from Sustrans - ‘the charity making it easier for people to walk or cycle’.
In their report back they were quite positive whilst recognising that there were many issues to address.
In the lead-in they stated that the project would re-connects the old railway alignment to the north of Bewdley and provides a traffic free connection which would be a spectacular tourist route.
In theory, it should be viable to re-place the missing bridge decks. It’s a challenging project, needing considerable amounts of time and money to be allocated just to get this to a point where it is more than a simple “idea”.
Considerations which need to be addressed are:-
- Land ownership of the railway line and access for construction
- Structural integrity of the existing piers and future maintenance
- Ecological implications of re-opening the old railway corridor – woodland area / bats within the existing stone piers.
- Environment Agency flood channels?
A working team of ten Club members has been set up, and at their first meeting on 8th June it was decided to concentrate on establishing the land ownership of the old railway corridor on each side of the river and if the land owners are willing to allow a new Public Right of Way along the old railway corridor. The full report from Sustrans can be viewed by clicking here.
Update 10th March 2017
Club Rotarians Neil Hardwick and Dave Tyrrell, have started to investigate the feasibility of establishing this major new leisure route to the north of Bewdley.
Contact has been made with ‘Sustrans’ the national sustainable transport organisation, to seek their advice and support on the initiative to reconstruct the bridge over Dowles Brook and the adjacent old railway bridge over the River Severn. By doing this National Cycle Route 45 would be connected with the Wyre Forest enabling leisure users to have access to a circular route into and out of Bewdley.
‘Sustrans’ have told Dave that they had already identified the route as having potential in the future, mainly because of the connection to National Cycle Route 45, and are pleased that the Rotary Club of Bewdley are very keen to facilitate the development of this project.