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Monday 15 February 2016

Warren Farm

Probably my favourite part of the old Malvern-Ashchurch railway is the section between the derelict bridge on Worcestershire Golf Course and the top of the Three Counties Showground near Hanley Road. At this point, the Midland branch settled into a long straight section with a constant downward gradient as the route descended from the Malvern Hills in preparation for the eastward swing towards Upton and the flatter land around the river Severn.

Although barely half a mile long, the route quickly throws up some dramatic shifts in landscape as you walk south away from Malvern. Heading first into a deep cutting, the route continues onto a high embankment and crosses a tall bridge before descending onto the plain cleared for the Showground site. What makes this route special is that it is essentially a steady and gentle straight line driven artificially through the landscape: for regular walkers of the Malverns, used to climbing immovable hills, it is a very different experience to walk along a level path and to see the landscape move around you instead!

North - The Cutting 

The first part of the walk after the golf course bridge is reasonably flat, but the landscape soon rises around the line to form a steep cutting engulfing the route.

The cutting begins gently at first...
... before rapidly becoming very deep.
This part of the line is a haven for wildlife - small trees and bushes provide an ideal habitat for birds, while the deep slopes either side are full of rabbit holes.
At this point the landscape begins to switch as the hill surrounding the line gives way to a gentle valley. The incline of the railway is shallow and constant, it is the countryside that changes!
The end of the cutting.
Warren Farm.

Warren Farm Bridge

One of the most spectacular remains of the old railway can be found at Warren Farm, where the route runs out onto a very tall embankment complete with a high arch bridge to maintain access to the farm from Hanley Road.
The section immediately before the bridge overlooks a stream which has been incorporated as an obstacle on the golf course. The stream is quite large and runs through the embankment - presumably it is the reason for all the old drainage culverts scattered about.

The western side of the bridge top is very overgrown, but the capstone is still visible.
The eastern side reveals a lot more of the brickwork.
A closer look at the tell-tale blue bricks.
This is the high point of the embankment - as you can see, it is quite a drop onto the farm track!
The bridge from the west. The red brick and overgrowth combine to look rather stunning!
A closer look at the south-western buttress.
The buttress rest.
Looking through the bridge from the eastern side.
A closer look at that fantastic archway.
The best thing about this bridge is that it is still in use, and so has to be maintained properly. These curved walls on the eastern side of the old tracks look to have been refurbished more recently than the rest of the bridge.

The Embankment 

Moving south from the bridge, the embankment gradually sinks back to 'ground' level to reach Malvern Hanley Road station. The shot below shows the embankment continuing its straight course towards the Three Counties:

Here are some longer shots taken from the parallel footpath showing how the embankment falls gradually as it approaches the Hanley Road:

There are a couple of interesting remains just before the embankment fizzles out completely. First, there is this odd pile of bricks, which I assume forms the top of another drainage channel. The bricks are obscured by the earth so I can't tell how deep they go, or if they still serve a purpose.

The other interesting point is this retaining wall, which looks to have possibly been made out of old sleepers.

This final picture shows the embankment from the opposite end of the previous shot, heading northwards back towards Warren Farm bridge and Malvern.

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