Safari Park

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Gala visitor CR 828 passes the Safari Park in 2012
The West Midland Safari and Leisure Park, often referred to as Bewdley Safari Park, adjoins the SVRSevern Valley Railway. It is located north of the Railway between Bewdley Tunnel and Bewdley, and can be seen on the right when travelling towards Bewdley from Kidderminster. The curve in the line at that point has become known on the railway as "Safari Park Curve".

History of the area

The OS Map of 1883 shows that the northern half of the area now occupied by the Safari Park was formerly the large estate of Spring Grove.[1] Spring Grove House is Grade II listed and was built by local chemical manufacturer Samuel Skey between 1787 and 1790.[2][3] The house was badly damaged by fire in 2006.[4] Skey's chemical works was situated on the west bank of the River Severn, about half a mile north of the current Bewdley bridge[5] and the same distance south of Dowles Bridge.

The same map shows the area south of Spring Grove to have been open heathland, much as it is today.

The Safari Park

The Safari Park opened in the spring of 1973 under its original name of the West Midland Safari Park. It attracted 700,000 people in 2018 and features a four-mile safari drive through. In January 2019 it was acquired by the Looping Group, a French amusement park operator, which intends to "develop the park into an even more exciting family destination".[6]

Two areas of the park are visible from the railway, both lying within the "Safari Drive Through".[7] Travelling towards Bewdley, the first area is the "African Plains", which most notably includes the Park’s southern white rhinos.

After passing the Stourport Triangle, the second area is "Elephant Valley", home of the Park’s three African elephants. The young bull elephant Sutton was born in May 2014 and was named in memory of West Midlands teenager Stephen Sutton. Stephen established a Teenage Cancer Trust charity and hugged Sutton's mother Five as part of his 'bucket list' of things to do before he died. The third elephant is Sutton's aunt Latabe[8].

Early proposals for a connection with the SVRSevern Valley Railway

In late 1973 the SVRSevern Valley Railway received an approach from the proprietors of the Safari Park for co-operation with them at Bewdley.[9] The SVRSevern Valley Railway reached Bewdley in summer 1974, at which time SVRSevern Valley Railway News announced that "...the Station at Bewdley will shortly be available for the use of visitors to the West Midland Safari Park by means of a footbridge recovered from the former Burlish Halt, to be erected on the island platform.[10]. However by late 1975 the suggested project was in abeyance due to a lack of labour and finance[11].

Olympic Torch

On Thursday 24 May the Olympic Torch arrived on the SVRSevern Valley Railway. 7812 Erlestoke Manor carried the torch between Bewdley and Kidderminster, pausing for a photo opportunity with the two cow elephants, Five and Latabe.[12].

Possible future station

  • BBC News reported in 2011 that the SVRSevern Valley Railway was "not against the idea" of a new station to join the Park with the railway.[13]
  • The Express & Star reported in July 2014 that "Plans are also in the pipeline to link the safari park with the nearby Severn Valley Railway. A new stop would be introduced serving the park."[14]
  • The West Midlands Combined Authority's 2017 "West Midlands Rail Franchise Award" report says: [15]
"2.9 WMT will also be actively developing proposals for a number of new services within the WMR area including [...] New service to West Midlands Safari Park as an extension of Birmingham - Kidderminster services which will operate along the Severn Valley Railway
2.10 The delivery of these new services have not been explicitly contracted within the new franchise and are subject to feasibility studies being undertaken and support from WMCA/TfWM as required."
  • Abellio, the new mainline franchisee, in 2017 published plans showing:
"December 2018 - We plan to extend Kidderminster terminators onto the Severn Valley Railway, subject to a new station being built at the West Midlands Safari Park."

See also

From The Window

References

  1. OS Map Worcestershire XIV.NW, Published: 1883
  2. RevolutionaryPlayers.org.uk (retrieved 4 March 2021)
  3. Historic England (Retrieved 17 March 2021)
  4. Express and Star (retrieved 4 March 2021)
  5. Wyre Forest Historical Research Group (retrieved 4 March 2021)
  6. 'West Midland Safari Park bought by French firm', BBC News, 9 January 2019 (Retrieved 13 January 2019)
  7. WMSP website
  8. Birmingham Mail (retrieved 11 March 2020)
  9. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 30, "THE PROSPECT FOR 1974", R. H. Dunn
  10. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 32, "THE RE-OPENING OF THE RAILWAY TO BEWDLEY, An article from the "Kidderminster Shuttle", R. H. Dunn
  11. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 38
  12. BBC News Flag-waving Elephants join Olympic torch relay (includes iPlayer clip)
  13. BBC News West Midlands Safari Park considers new railway station (Retrieved 26 November 2015)
  14. Express & Star West Midlands Safari Park reveal £80 million transformation plans (Retrieved 27 November 2015)
  15. "West Midlands Rail Franchise Award" (retrieved 17 September 2017)

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