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You are here: HomeAbout UsOur SocietyEventsThe Upper Reaches of the River Severn - Dec 2012'.

The Upper Reaches of the River Severn - Dec 2012'.

The December meeting of the History Group was given by Brian Draper and entitled 'The Upper Reaches of the River Severn'. It proved to be a very interesting and beautifully illustrated description of the Severn from its source in Plynlimon, the highest point in the Cambrian Mountains, to Bridgnorth.

From a boggy beginning marked by a post, the river passes through the Hafren Forest exiting at a narrow gorge as the highest waterfall in the area. At this point it starts to pick up tributaries and reaches the first town along its route, Llanidloes also known as Flannel Town because of its thriving industry making the cloth in the 18th and 19th centuries. At nearby Clywedog is the tallest concrete dam in UK which has a hollow construction. The resulting reservoir acts as a regulatory system for the river – filling with water in the winter and releasing it during the summer.

The course of the river continues through Llandinam, birthplace of industrialist David Davies, which became the first village to install electricity. The first large town is Newtown where the Robert Owen (founder of the Co-op) Museum can be found. Flood alleviation measures were put in place here back in 1970 as, before then, the town was well known for problems with flooding. Moving downstream, Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust has established a nature reserve at Pwll Penarth where otters and migrating salmon can be seen. Hen Domen, which is Welsh for 'old mound', is the site of a medieval motte and bailey castle and has a commanding view of the surrounding countryside. It is also the site of the original stone Montgomery Castle built in the reign of Henry III. One of the next tributaries to join the Severn is the River Camlad as it moves towards Welshpool and the National Trust property, Powis Castle. The Camlad is notable for being the only river to cross from Wales to England and it does so twice. Near Welshpool is Pool Quay which, in the 1800s, was the head of navigation up the very busy Severn. Man-hauled boats were used to carry materials up and down the river. Passing through a vast flood plain the Severn is joined by a major tributary, the River Vyrnwy, above Shrewsbury. This is an historic town with many interesting medieval buildings and the Welsh and English bridges providing crossing points across the river.

Moving on towards Bridgnorth, the river passes Atcham, site of the only Celtic church in England, and Attingham Park where the River Tern joins the main course. From here it runs through the Ironbridge Gorge, birthplace of the Industrial Revolution where it can be crossed using the famous Iron Bridge built in 1779. The river eventually reaches Bridgnorth where it separates High and Low Town, the two linked by the famous funicular railway. From here the Severn carries on to the Bristol Channel, a total journey of 354 kilometres. We all look forward to the lower reaches of the Severn being the subject of a future talk.

Sue Skidmore

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