Hill Farm chalets near Bewdley

Back in July 2014 when I started this blog, one of my first posts was about Jonathan Meades documentary “Severn Heaven” from 1990, in which he visited the Hill Farm chalet field next to the River Severn near Bewdley. Almost six years to the day I went there myself and it’s still much as it was when Meades filmed it.

There are bits of the film on YouTube and here’s one of the clips, showing the river and the chalets from the air, with Howard Davidson’s rather rousing music.

The site was established before the Second World War as people built holiday homes to escape the cities, before Labour’s 1947 Town and Country Planning Act took away people’s freedom to do it. It was a feature of the time that these chalets were self-built, and no two are the same. Compare today’s uniform ranks of factory-made “chalets” in a caravan park. Some plotlands were aimed at the new breed of interwar car owners, but most were accessible by train and that’s the case with Hill Farm.

Today the Northwood Halt station is on the Severn Valley preserved railway, run largely by enthusiasts and operating steam engines and classic diesels. Due to COVID-19 they were just running line checks (I think) with 33108 and 50035 “Ark Royal”. The road crossing the railway leads straight to chalet fields either side of the line. All of the following photos are from the lower field next to the river.

Near the entrance is this board showing the layout of the site, the rules and regulations, and listing the names of the chalets. It’s a feature of these sites up and down the country that people choose personal or joking names for their chalets. There’s Hill Crest, Keswick, The Haven, Fairhaven, Dunroamin, Herzamine, and both Woodland View and Forest View.

Different plotlands grew in different ways. Some were laid out like conventional housing estates with plots occupying all the space within a network of roads. But in chalet fields like Hill Farm, the plots were allocated along the field boundaries. In the case of Hill Farm, the fields are still used for grazing.

Once you get into the site, the variety of styles is striking.

Recently the freehold was sold, and as the rules on the board explain, the chalet owners have a mixture of year round and summer season only tenancies. It’s probably the case that planning permission for holiday use or as a primary residence differs between the chalets, either frozen in time according to their use when the law was changed in 1947, or as the result of people establishing residential use for four years without council enforcement action. I hope the change of freehold ownership does not result in any attempts to destroy the site, as has happened elsewhere.

As a bit of fun, here’s a slider comparison showing the similarity between chalets/huts in Hill Farm and Carbeth near Glasgow, 300 miles away. I could have done this for any pair of photos between the two sites, between a dozen other sites I’ve visited.

I’ve found two more blog posts about the site from 2009 and from 2010, with interesting comments from their readers, and there’s a page about the “Severn Heaven” documentary on MeadesShrine.

If you come across this post and have a connection to the site, then a comment would be really welcome. Any special memories or even photographs of the site over the decades?

5 Replies to “Hill Farm chalets near Bewdley”

  1. My dad is 82, mom 77. Dad had his first holiday chalet approx 1960, then bought and lived in 2 others over the years.
    They are still there now and wouldn’t live anywhere else.
    His aunt Edna was one of the first people to own a chalef back in the 1930’s, my aunt aged 87 had her bungalow over 50 years. As an extended family we have so many fond memories… And oh so many photos. Do you love a place because its nostalgic? Or is it nostalgia that makes you love a place. Bewdley Hill Farm, swinging on the home made rope swings in the big oak tree, having a big den in the rotten middle of the same tree. Fetching water from the field taps before it was connected to the bungalows , and dad lighting the gas lamps before electricity was connected. Manning the gate for the holiday makers, collecting pennies, dividing the spoil to spend in old ma Margaret’s farm shop on penny chews, collecting eggs from the barn. Staring out the old bull. Blackberry picking, lazy summer days, playing family board games in the evenings. So so many memories. My parents are dreading the changes now the site is in new hands. 100 years of holiday shacks, as much as it changes it somehow stays the same.

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  2. Having just read the history of the chalets at Hill Farm, the charm of the place shines through the written words. The initial way of life there may have had some disadvantages but the beauty, tranquility and general setting transfixed in time, more than compensates. Friends of mine live in one of the chalets. They raised their family in the seclusion from the modern day attitude of fast living. Happy times. Now, however they live in the shadow of the Sword of Damocles. Will it drop and their chosen way of life be gone forever? They and the other residents live the life sought by so many, but found by so few. I am given to understand that the ownership of the ‘estate’ recently changed hands. As such uncertainty and financial burden now goes hand in hand with what was a kind of utopia. Maybe the incoming owner has yet to realise that he has such a treasure in his hands. Not treasure gained through vastly increased ground rents, but the treasure buried in the historical charm and deep rootef beauty of the place. Sometimes it can take a while to realise that what one can buy with money, comes with such a bonus of wealth not from the vision of increased rental charges, but from the purity of knowing when to stop and look around at the true wealth of the beauty and charm. Sought by many, achieved by few. Change is not always desired.

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  3. My Father purchased a mobile home on this site when I was 13 years old in 1981, I spent many happy teenage years walking for miles and exploring the surrounding area every weekend. I would visit every weekend with my girlfriend when I was around 18/19 years old but 4 events with the supernatural left us too afraid to visit, I still visit from Wednesbury once or twice a year and the bungalow hasn’t changed much, it still has the same curtains as when my father sold it around 1990, I have never told anyone but close friends and family of the events in the late 80s but I was young and scared easily, I realised with age that we wasn’t ever in any danger and I would actually love to stay in the same mobile home again just for the experience. I won’t name the bungalow out of respect for the now owners. Fantastic site. Always in my thoughts.

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