An easy walk to a black-and-white village, returning by the river.
Distance 5.7 miles (9.2km)
Minimum time 2hrs 30min
Ascent/gradient 80ft (25m)
Level of difficulty Easy
Paths Meadows, lanes, tracks, village streets, riverside, 9 stiles
Landscape Low-lying meadows, fruit farms, villages, small town
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 190 Malvern Hills & Bredon Hill
Start/finish SO 850402
Dog friendliness Some opportunities for trustworthy dogs to be off leads
Parking Free car park opposite Church of St Peter and St Paul
Public toilets In town centre
1 Begin away from Upton, along the A4104. The 'new' Church of St Peter and St Paul was built in 1878-9 in a neo-Gothic style. Shortly take the old road right, skirting sports fields. Less than 50yds (46m) before this rejoins the A4104, turn right again. At the bend take stiles on the right. Near the field end go left, through a plantation. At a sunken lane turn left, to houses and a street.
2 Walk beside a playing field, then turn right, passing a children's play area. Take the second public footpath on the right, initially beside ash trees, later through an orchard. Cross a road, going down another orchard row, admiring the Discovery apples and Czar plums of Clive's Fruit Farm. At the end move left to cross the old railway track by wooden steps. (In autumn you should feel some empathy for the notorious 'leaves on the line' problem.) Follow a sunken lane. Turn left at a road. At a junction turn right, soon taking a gravel driveway left between two bridges. Go right of the house to a stile beyond its sheds. Pass some hazel coppice on the right. A huge conifer marks Hanley Castle's site.
3 At the next stile turn right to a gate with a concealed side stile and a second stile beyond it. Just through the latter on the left is an iron kissing gate. Take the left-hand field edge. Enter the churchyard, ignoring waymarkers. The chunk of brickwork - the central tower, the north chapel, and the chancel - was added in 1674, whereas the stonework is largely 14th-century. Near by, the timber frames of the almshouses are from 1600, but they were rebuilt in the early 19th century. The school has been added to, piecemeal, with varying degrees of architectural sense, since its foundation in 1544.
4 Walk down the village street to the B4211. Turn right along the pavement for 220yds (201m). Cross at the cross. Quay Lane leads to the river. Turn right, soon edging a vast arable field. After a long ½ mile (800m) rejoin the B4211's pavement. Go under Upton Bridge, past its predecessor's site and three pubs.
5 Keep beside the river on a road. A gate leads on to Upton Hams. After a short ½ mile (800m), at a fishery sign, turn right. A kissing gate gives on to a vehicular track. At the first tarmac road go straight ahead. At the crossroads turn right into School Lane, all the way to the town centre. (Turn right for the tourist information centre in High Street.) Turn left along Old Street to return to your car.
The craftsmen of Upton's boatbuilders, cartwrights and the like are believed to have aided the Parliamentarians in their preparations for the Battle of Worcester in 1651. They built two pontoons, which were hauled by the Parliamentary army from Upton to the Teme-Severn confluence, They used these two 'bridges of boats' to cross each river, giving them a great strategic advantage.
Close to the river, the tower of Upton's old church, built on a 13th-century base, was the scene of a skirmish a few days before the decisive battle. The remainder of the church was demolished in 1937; a 14th-century effigy and several memorials were transferred to the new church.
If you learn nothing else from this walk, please remember that the 1850 Roman Catholic Chapel of St Joseph in School Lane was built by a C Hansom, the brother of taxi cab designer Joseph Hansom, and that the racing driver Nigel Mansell was born in Upton upon Severn on 8 August 1953.
At Upton the River Severn has only 36ft (11m) to fall to the sea. After the heavy rains of some recent winters the town has been dubbed 'Upton under Severn'. The arguments on flood control will never cease, although not building on a flood plain would seem a natural starting point. (The back page of the town's visitor directory carries an advertisement for flood damage repair.) Up in the Welsh mountains and not far from the slopes of Pumlumon, where the River Severn rises, is Llyn Clywedog Reservoir. It was built in the 1960s to control the flow of the river, providing extra water in periods of drought and preventing flooding downriver but, even boasting the highest mass concrete dam in Britain, it can only hold so much.
The castle that stood here was, in the 13th century, part of the Earl of Gloucester's estate. It was mostly demolished, when already a ruin, at the time of Henry VIII, but some residual stone was later used to repair Upton's bridge.
The Three Kings in Hanley Castle serves snacks and traditional ales. In Upton there are many choices. The route passes three riverside pubs - the Plough Inn, King's Head and Swan. The Olde Bell House Tea Rooms are in New Street.
Severn Leisure Cruises have a huge boat at Upton. The Tudor House Museum at 16 Church Street focuses on local history. At the end of June, Upton hosts a three-day Jazz Festival, attracting performers from diverse locations such as the USA, Hungary and Norway.