The Severn is the longest river in the UK. It rises at an altitude of 610 metres (2,001 ft) at Plynlimon, which is the highest point of the Cambrian Mountains in Wales, then winds its way for 220 miles through Shropshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire, before spilling out into the Severn Estuary. In the 1800s, hundreds of thousands of tonnes of coal was transported along the course of the river, from collieries around Madeley and Broseley to the saltworks of Droitwich and other riverside towns.
The Canal & River Trust manages a stretch of the Severn between Stourport and Gloucester. It’s a section that’s busy with narrowboats and pleasure boats, but stroll along it for any length of time and you’ll also hear the huffings and puffings of rowers powering their way through the water.
Rowing has a long, proud history in Britain, most notably for the clubs formed at the universities of Cambridge and Oxford who famously compete each year. Upton Rowing Club is another such historic club, founded in the early 1800s, which now has access to 16 unbroken miles of the Severn between Worcester and Tewkesbury. Members meet on Wednesday evenings (6.30pm) for an informal outing on the river, and the club also hosts coached sessions on Sunday mornings for members to improve their skills.
If you’re a complete beginner, the club hosts a 15-week ‘Learn to Row’ course during which qualified coaches will teach you all the skills to row safely and speedily along one of the most beautiful stretches of river, with the chance of spotting kingfishers, herons and cormorants as you glide by. You’ll be learning as part of a crew of four, so it’s a great way to meet new people or get your friends and family involved. And of course, once you’re a member, you can take part in the club’s lively social calendar, from regattas and charity events to a swift pint in the pub after a session on the water.
Gareth C Price