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.
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?