Look out for the Good Journey Mark – where car-free visitors are welcome and enjoy a discount
Car-free adventures aroundStourbridgeWest Midlands
Glass-making, canalside cafes, a base for beautiful walks in the Black Country: the area around Stourbridge, thirteen miles west of Birmingham, has a lot to offer visitors. Chiltern railways run direct trains from London Marylebone that take about two hours and twenty minutes. Whether you’re interested in exploring the Rock Houses, carved from the rust-red sandstone under Kinver Edge, or taking a trip to Dudley Zoo to meet the meerkats, this guide will help you get there by public transport: by bus and train, on foot or even by boat.
1. The Red House Glass Cone
This 90-meter brick cone beside the canal at Wordsley, now used as a museum and coffee shop, is the best preserved of the UK’s four similar glassworks. Local coal for the super-hot furnaces and a supply of fireclay to line them made the Stourbridge area a natural location for Britain’s 19th-century glassmakers. At the craft centre in the Red House Cone, you can still see glass-blowers in action (weekend afternoons or every day in the school holidays); have a waterside cuppa and learn more about this interesting industry.
- Arriving from out of town, the adventure starts with a ride along Europe’s shortest branch line. The mile from Stourbridge junction to Stourbridge Town is covered every ten minutes by an entertaining bus-on-rails shuttle.
- From the interchange outside Stourbridge Town station, you can catch buses to castle-topped Dudley, panoramic Kinver or canalside Wordsley.
- The old village of Wordsley, now a suburb of Stourbridge, has some impressive reminders of its glass-making glory days as well as a selection of scenic rambles through the neighbouring countryside.
- Hop on bus 256 or 257 from Stourbridge interchange for the two-mile trip to Wordsley (£1.50). When you see the unmistakable Red Cone out of the right hand window, get off at the next stop – Brierley Hill Rd – and walk back. The cone is free and open every day until 3pm (or 4pm at weekends). You can also walk there along the canal (see 4 below).
- Across the road, there are plans for a new museum of glass, due to open in Summer 2019. Next door is the Ocean Boat fish and chip shop and round the corner on Bridge Street is the homely Bird in Hand pub.
2. Get the bus to Dudley Zoo
Meerkats, orangutangs, giraffes, a wood full of free-running lemurs, brightly-coloured lorikeets that will land on your arm, a prowling snow leopard, graceful diving penguins, a Norman motte and bailey castle, iconic 1930s architecture… Dudley Zoo is one of those attractions with something for everyone.
- For car-free travellers this fabulous zoo-and-castle combo has a bonus attraction – it’s just a couple of minutes walk from Dudley bus station.
- From Stourbridge interchange, the 246 bus leaves every 10 minutes or less and takes under half an hour to arrive in Dudley. Head for stand D at Dudley bus station and you’ll see a little sign with an elephant showing you the way. Walk in this direction, turn right at the mosque, and you’ll see the zoo across the road.
- The entrance, with its waveform roof is one of the zoo’s twelve structures designed by the Tecton architectural group, led by Berthold Lubetkin. Look out for elegant kiosks, penguin and sea lion pools, and tiger pens dating from the modernist 1930s.
- The Black Country Living Museum is also nearby and offers 2 tickets for the price of 1 for visitors arriving by rail. Catch bus 11 from Dudley bus station – it runs every ten minutes and stops outside.
3. Explore the Rock Houses at Kinver
250 millions years ago the prehistoric winds whipped the red dune and desert sands into layers of soft, sunset-coloured rock. Iron age settlers built a fort on top of the cliff, with commanding views across the nearby countryside, but seventeenth century workers carved homes into the rock itself and made comfortable houses inside these naturally summer-cool and winter-cosy sandstone walls. In 1861, eleven families – nearly 50 people – lived in the caves at Holy Austin Rock, just above Kinver.
- The National Trust has restored the Rock Houses, complete with orchard and allotments, and tea room for visitors. They’re open daily from 11am to 4pm and it costs £5.20 to explore them.
- The 228 bus from Stourbridge runs to Kinver every hour and takes 25 minutes to get there. The village is packed with pubs and tea rooms so you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to refreshments.
- Get off at either of the stops on the High Street and walk up Stone Lane and Compton Road (about ten minutes) following signs for the Rock Houses.
- A more interesting and quieter route, taking you up through the woods, starts similarly along Stone Lane. Turn left at the letterbox onto Fairfield Drive.
- Keep going on a path past Foley Infant School and follow it onto the lane beyond. Turn right on The Compa and immediately left up Comber Road. Turn right into Astles Rock Walk and keep going on the tarmac path (don’t worry – it is public!) to the left of last house. Follow path ahead, keeping right up to the viewpoint and then follow signs back down to Rock Houses for a well-earned cup of tea and more spectacular views.
- You could also walk to Kinver from Stourbridge (see 4 below) and can even get to the village by boat on bank holidays.