A British bank holiday and rain go together like peas in a pod so four days of dry weather and sunshine across the Easter break was certainly a pleasant surprise. For us conditions couldn’t have been more perfect as we embarked on a mini tour of England, starting off in the Worcestershire town of Kidderminster. Famous for founding the modern carpet industry in 1785 and current manufacturers of solid-fuel rocket motors it also boasts one of the best heritage railways in the country. Now I’ll admit that carpets have proved themselves jolly useful over the last couple of hundred years but for me they just don’t hold the interest like a steam train pulling hard through glorious scenery. Needless to say then that the Severn Valley Railway was to be our home for the day, somewhere I’ve not visited for well over a decade and if our early arrival was any indication that’s been a gap of far too many years. Such keenness did have certain benefits, chief of which was securing a window through which I could poke my head to enjoy the journey north towards Bridgnorth. Travelling in this manner has placed me in hospital previously (soot behind the eyeball really stings!) but there really is no better way to enjoy a trip behind steam power.
Highley station (seen above) gave us two unusual sightings in the shape of Blue Tits nesting in the light fitting visible in the photo and a Marsh Tit making its way through nearby trees while we waited for a train to arrive.
On the return trip we disembarked at Arley to walk four miles or so towards Bewdley along the banks of the River Severn. This immediately met with Emma’s approval who zeroed in on the nearest ice cream seller before we finally got on our way. All day we’d been seeing Orange-tip butterflies and hearing Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs so it wasn’t completely unexpected when a burst of song led us straight to this male Blackcap. Surrounded by blossom and with a punky crest he really was a stunner and the perfect individual to mark my first sighting of the species this year.
Just a couple of meters further brought us to Worrall’s Grove, an historic orchard whose blossomed trees were shining brilliantly under a clear blue sky. Even better though were a couple of Stock Doves nestling in their branches which though slightly distant gave us our best views of these birds and also my first ever photographic opportunity. Unfortunately they proved to be more flighty than I’d expected meaning that this was the best I could manage.
Also making their home in the orchard was a Robin whose young could be heard calling from nearby undergrowth and a drumming Great-spotted Woodpecker. It’s such a shame that this sort of habitat has become much rarer as farming practices have changed but it does at least make you appreciate those that are left that little bit more.
Continuing onwards we passed beneath the famous Victoria bridge (above) to arrive at Trimpley reservoir. Here a couple of Swallows and Tufted Ducks were accompanied by yet more singing Blackcaps before a vibrating wader leapt into the air from along the waters edge. Straight away we knew it was a Common Sandpiper, another spring migrant and another notch in the seasons progress. There was also good evidence of new life here with two Mallard ducklings cheeping noisily as their mother attempted to marshal them into cover near where a Mute Swan was tucked up tight in its nest. Unfortunately this point also marked the last we saw of the river on our walk as somehow we managed to lose our intended route and ended up along a small lane with seemingly no way across to where we were meant to be. Every cloud and all that as at least we got some more great views of the railway before it was time to continue our weekend, this time in the Yorkshire Dales.