Canal & River Trust
The Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal is a bit of a mouthful, so it’s often shortened to the Staffs & Worcs (pronounced ‘Wusts’). It runs for 46 miles, meandering through stretches of open heathland, oak woodlands and city suburbs. It was one of the major routes of the Canal Age – it even sprouted the town of Stourport, an inland port built over 250 years ago.
While the waterway’s industrial heyday is long gone, the Staffs & Worcs is now home to an abundance of wildlife. See it for yourself on this short walk in the Wyre Forest, as recommended by the Trust’s senior ecologist Paul Wilkinson. The four-mile route (there and back) follows the towpath from Wolverley to Cookley. Paul loves this walk because of its high chances of spotting blue tits, grey wagtails, kingfishers and perhaps even the occasional pipistrelle or long-eared bat. At Cookley, you can follow the towpath through an unusual canal tunnel – part of the village actually sits on top of it.
As you might guess, the Old Smithy Tea Room (back in the village of Wolverley) began its life as a blacksmith’s shop. During the canal’s heyday, horses used for pulling barges were brought here to be reshod. Nowadays, you can share a bowl of chunky homemade chips or treat yourself to an ice cream in the canal-side garden. Just across the car park you’ll find the Lock Inn, which was converted from a cottage to a pub to provide liquid refreshment to the thirsty canal workers. Apparently drunken boatman used pay for their ale here with cargo from their boats – I’m sure they got a stern ticking off once they sobered up!
The Old Smithy Tea Room, Wolverley Road, Wolverley, Kidderminster DY10 3RN; thelockinnwolverley.co.uk. Wolverley has a regular bus service (no. 580) to and from Kidderminster.