Worcester (England)

Worcester

Worcester (pronounced "wuster") is an historic English cathedral city located on the river Severn, close to the border with Wales. Worcester is the county town of Worcestershire.

Understand

Worcester started life as a Roman period settlement. It is famous for the part it played in the English Civil Wars: the scene of some of the decisive battles, and of Prince Charles' escape, after in his defeat. Parts of the town still have buildings from this period, particularly Friar Street.

It has pleasant river walks, a medieval cathedral and the ruins of monastic cloisters. The medieval city walls remain in traces. Around the cathedral are picturesque Georgian residences.

Worcester is actually the ancestral home of the famous Lea and Perrins Worcestershire sauce. It's produced by the Heinz Corporation on its factory on Midlands Road in the city, where it has been produced since 1897. Worcester is also the home of one of England's better known county cricket teams.

Town planners

The city was heavily renovated during the 60s and 70s and not very sympathetically. Numerous old roads and courtyards were demolished. The last cathedral lychgate in England was demolished along with Sir Edward Elgar's shop to make way for a charmless hotel and a multi-storey car park. This is known locally as "The Rape of Worcester". However this overlooks the fact that many of the old buildings were little better than slums and were deeply unpleasant. Nevertheless, a look at old OS maps shows that the city centre was perforated by intricate old 'courts' which were almost all removed. A few wide roads were driven into the city to facilitate easy traffic movements. A feature of today's city is that many roads have historic buildings on one side and modern ones on the other due to road widening. Even the remaining historic roads are superficial - for example Friar Street has many beautiful buildings but look behind them and you'll see the concrete backs of nearby buildings. Having said all this, Worcester is a pleasant city which is safe and relaxed. More recent development is a lot more sympathetic, if a little conservative. There are still many interesting things to see and these are taken advantage of by several guided walks offered through the local tourist centre.

Orientation

The ancient city of Worcester is on the east bank of the River Severn. As the city's boundaries were redefined in modern times it has come to encompass the village of St. Johns, which is on the opposite bank. From the M5 motorway it is accessed either from Junction 6 (when approaching from the North), or Junction 7 (when travelling from the South).

The main axis of the city runs roughly North to South. The Cathedral sits at the southern end of the High Street (now pedestrianised). As you proceed North from the Cathedral you will walk along the High Street which is the main shopping street in the city. Where this becomes a road again (at the taxi rank) it's name changes to The Cross, and it's name then changes (again) to Foregate Street (where one of Worcester's railway stations is located). Continuing Northwards, the street changes it's name (again) to the Tything where Castle Street joins it and is also known as the A38 trunk road. The road then goes through several more name changes before it reaches the limits of the modern city about 2 miles from the city centre.

To the east of the High Street, and running parallel to it, is the Shambles, another pedestrianised shopping street. To the east of the Shambles is New Street, which going southwards, becomes Friar Street. Both of these streets are amongst the most picturesque streets (as long as you ignore the concrete circular ramp that disgorges from the mutlistorey car park into Friar street). Broad Street runs westwards from where the High Street becomes The Cross and runs down to the only road bridge across the Severn in the city.

It is important to realise that there is only the one road bridge across the river as it dictates the rather confusing one way system. At rush hour (and if the M5 motorway is closed) it is usually quicker walking around Worcester than driving! There is also a railway bridge, and two foot bridges. The first one, the Sabrina Bridge, is about 500m north of the road bridge just before the Racecourse stadium. A new foot bridge was opened in 2010 about a mile to the south of the Cathedral.

The area to the South east of the cathedral is known as Sidbury and is effectively the end of the city centre. Just after the Commandery the road forks - the lefthand fork, London Road (A44), heads South eastwards towards the motorway network, and the other fork heads towards Tewkesbury (as Commandery Road/Bath Road/A38). On the river Severn, about half a mile south of the Cathedral is Diglis Basin where the Worcester and Birmingham canal terminates and joins the river Severn. The warehouses, factories and wharfs in this area had fallen into severe dereliction, but most are now converted into apartments (though some are still in progress). The basin itself is now the home to large number of canal boats and other leisure craft and, particularly on a sunny day, makes for a pleasant stroll around. Currently this area lacks facilities - there is the Anchor pub, and not far away the Diglis Hotel. The lanes around Diglis are a labyrinth to strangers - the easiest way to get to it is to walk down the canal path from the Commandery (at the Commandery walk to the canal lock, and facing the lock turn left under the road bridge).

Get in

By air

London Heathrow Airport is linked directly to Worcester by a twice daily National Express Coach service. Journey time approximately 2 hours. Birmingham International Airport is Worcester's nearest airport from which there is a regular local rail service via Birmingham New Street Station.

By road

From London (113 miles), drivers should ideally take the M40 motorway north-westwards until the junction with the M42. From here, head westwards to the M5, where you should head south and watch for signs to Worcester.

Alternatively, from London, drivers could take the M4 west towards Bristol. At Junction 15 (Swindon) take the A417/A419 northwards. This will eventually bring you out at J11A on the M5, where you should join the M5 Northwards. The A417/A419 is mainly good dual carriageway, but there are a couple of miles of single carriageway road near the "Air Balloon" pub which can be rather congested at peak times. Alternatively conitnue along the M4 westwards until after Bristol where you can join the M5 heading North. Look for signs to Worcester.

Worcester is 27 miles from Birmingham, 111 from Manchester, 57 from Oxford, 25 from Cheltenham, 26 from Stratford-upon-Avon and 63 miles from Bristol.

Visitors approaching Worcester on the A38 from the north may wish to make use of the Perdiswell Park and Ride, open from 7AM to 7PM Monday to Saturday. The corresponding bus is number W1 and runs every 10 to 15 minutes throughout the day and takes about 10 minutes to reach the city centre. It stops at a limited number of stops en route, but one of them is Foregate Street railway station. The standard charge is £2.20 per person (which includes all day parking). A group ticket is also available for up to 7 people in the same vehicle and costs £3.50 in total. For under 19s the charge is £1. All tickets are available on board the bus or from a ticket machine at the car park. For full details see the City Council's website about Park and Ride: http://worcestershire.whub.org.uk/cms/park-and-ride.aspx

By Train

Worcester has two train stations, Worcester Shrub Hill and Worcester Foregate Street, Foregate Street Station is the closest to the town centre. Shrub Hill is easier for cars to access, as Foregate Street has no parking available.

Worcester is not on the main railway line between Bristol to Birmingham, but on a slower side line. It does have regular trains to Reading and London Paddington. The journey takes approximately 2 1/4 hours. Its also within easy reach from Cheltenham, Stratford-upon-Avon, Gloucester, The Malvern Hills, Evesham, Oxford, Hereford etc. Trains come on a relatively regular schedule.

By Bus

The Bus Station is situated at the bottom of CrownGate Shopping Centre. National Express coachway stop on the edge of the City and links with a scheduled city bus services that takes passengers into Worcester City Centre.

By Boat

The City stands on the banks of the River Severn and the Worcester - Birmingham Canal. There are some moorings available. Distances to Worcester from:- York - 228 miles, 110 locks, 115 hours cruising time. London - 174 miles, 223 locks, 140 hours cruising time. Birmingham - 32.5 miles, 61 locks, 34 hours cruising time Liverpool - 182 miles, 168 locks, 122 hours cruising time.

See

While it undoubtedly true that the planning decisions of the 1960s and 1970s robbed Worcester of a cohesive collection of period buildings a large number do survive. The trick is to look around (and up), particularly in the shopping areas. A good example, which is easily overlooked, is 61 Broad Street (currently used by the Skipton Building Society) which dates from the mid 18th Century and has Venetian style windows with Gothic glazing, each window being topped by a carving of a head.

Do

Festivals

Music

Sport

Worcester is home to:

Of course, there are numerous Golf Courses around the Worcester area. You can also canoe and row on the River Severn.

Theatre

Clubs

River Walks

On a sunny day the best way to see Worcester is to walk along the river. The paths are well maintained and being river bank walks they are all flat and easy going.

Either side of the main bridge on the East bank are North and South Quays (their names now an echo of when the city was an important river port). Note: the area around South Quay is being refurbished and is not due to reopen to the public until late May 2011.

The river bank by South Quay is a popular area to stroll and pass away some time. There are fountains set in the pavement near Brown’s restaurant, and usually a large number of swans congregate on the river nearby as they rely on the steady stream of visitors to feed them. Continuing south down the footpath you will come across Watergate (with marks on the wall to record the heights reached by various floods since the 17th century). Passing through Watergate will take you up into College Green and the cathedral environs. Carrying on along the river path will take you towards Diglis basin, and then, about a mile south of the Cathedral, Diglis Lock (a set of large locks on the river) and the new foot bridge. The area on the east bank of the river leading up to the new footbridge is a derelict industrial wasteland awaiting it’s turn for re-development. However crossing over the footbridge and heading north takes you along a leafy path through fields up to the main bridge. On certain days during the summer a rowing boat acts as a ferry across the river near the Watergate.

An alternative is to head north along North Quay and under the railway viaduct. This isn’t initially so visually pleasing as the area is host to a number of car parks and across the river is a prominent car hire firm based in a redundant petrol station. However as you pass under the railway bridge you will reach the race course (an area known as Pitchcroft). Just before the stadium itself you can cross the river using the Sabrina bridge and turn South again back to the main bridge (you can head North and continue along the Severn Way footpath, but there are no more crossing points until Holt Bridge many miles to the North). Alternatively you can stay on the East bank and continue to walk along Pitchcroft – as you leave the race course stadium area the path is between a splendid row of mature trees and it is possible to walk a loop around Pitchcroft. The trees on the eastern side have fallen victims to disease and many have been removed - many of their replacements however ‘drowned’ in the prolonged summer floods of 2007.

Learn

Buy

The Post Office is in WHSmiths on the High Street.

Numerous second-hand bookshops and minor antiques shops on The Tything (the main northbound road out of Worcester city centre). Several arcades: The Hop Market (Foregate street), Reindeer Court (The Shambles/Mealcheapen Street/New Street), Market Hall (The Shambles/New Street).

Eat

There are numerous curry houses along The Tything (the main northbound road out of Worcester city centre).

Drink

The largest local brewery Malvern Hills Brewery (MHB) does some nice, pale but hoppy beers such as Black Pear available in several local pubs.

The local vineyard (yes, there is one) is Rosebank Vineyard at Fernhill Heath, to the North of Worcester on the road to Droitwich. Phone +44 1905 451439 for an appointment to view. Their Madeleine Angevine 2009 white wine won the Silver medal in the UK Vineyards Association's 2010 national competition.

Sleep

Worcester suffers from a lack of decent hotels with any real spark about them. The best of the bunch are okay, but it would be pushing it to describe them as destinations in their own right.

City Centre

Connect

Stay Safe

As with the rest of the UK, in any emergency call 999 or 112 (from a land-line if you can) and ask for Ambulance, Fire or Police when connected.

If you are a deaf user requiring emergency assistance from Police, Fire or Ambulance text 80992 or use Minicom 0845 6000 303.

Worcester is generally a very safe place and has a much safer feel than most other cities in the West Midlands. However, there is a strong police presence at night time in the city centre (as with most UK towns cities the vicinity around some pubs and clubs can become fairly unpleasant late on a Friday or Saturday night). Avoid Dines Green, Warndon (not Warndon Villages) and Brickfields.

For non-emergency situations use 101 or 0300 333 3000 to contact West Mercia Police. If you wish to speak to a police officer in person, visit the police station on Castle Street in Worcester.

Hereford and Worcester Fire & Rescue Service - for General Enquiries contact 0845 1224454.

Hereford and Worcester Ambulance Service - for General Enquiries contact +44 1886 834200.

Severn Area Rescue Association is the Inshore Rescue boat and Land Search organisation covering the Severn Estuary, including the parts of the River Severn around Worcester. For General enquiries contact 0844 8460226.

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This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, January 24, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.