Shrewsbury

Today was quite a lazy start for me, but we were still out the door by 9.30am. We drove about 5 minutes away to the Park and Drive service, which cost less than 1.60 pounds for a return trip into Shrewsbury and the all-day parking was free. I would definitely recommend it for anyone staying outside the town centre of Shrewsbury! It was about a ten minute bus drive into the Market Hall, which is next to tourist information, so we loaded up on brochures and walked to the Welsh Bridge, where a river cruise leaves every hour on the hour from 11-4. The boat is called ‘Sabrina’ which is the Roman name for the River Severn which surrounds Shrewsbury, and the word Sabrina comes from the name of the water goddess of the river. The trip is 40 minutes, from the Welsh Bridge to the English Bridge and back. You can order a drink and enjoy beautiful views and a running commentary from the driver – it was a really lovely introduction to the city. You pass a few interesting sights, among them the extremely expensive private school, whose alumni includes Michael Palin and Charles Darwin. There is also a brewery along the river, which used to draw the water from the river to make the beer, which is slightly gag-inducing. The riverbank was much, much higher only 3 months ago, and you can see the watermark on people’s fences.

Welsh Bridge

The white marks on the fence is the water level from 3 months ago

Carved on the Welsh Bridge by the architect

Another beautiful place that you pass on the river is the Quarry, which is a huge parkland in the Shrewsbury town centre. In the middle of the Quarry is a sunken parkland called the Dingle, filled with the most beautiful flowers and water features. There were park benches and flowers planted in memory of many different people, as well as a sculpture of Sabrina.

We then visited St Chad’s Church, the Shrewsbury Cathedral, the Shrewsbury Abbey and then St Mary’s Church. Needless to say, I am all churched out, though we did see some beautiful things. St Chad’s is a circular church and somewhere in the churchyard is a gravestone for Ebenezer Scrooge! This was placed there during filming of A Christmas Carol and was left there for kicks, but unfortunately I couldn’t find it. A lovely nun told us that the Shrewsbury Cathedral is the smallest cathedral in the country – and it was a very sweet little cathedral indeed – and it also sits on the old town walls. In both Chester and Shrewsbury, the postal addresses for the houses along the town walls are ’11 City Walls’ and ‘6 Town Walls’. It’s a really cute quirk of these old walled cities.

St Chad’s Church

St Chad’s Church

Shrewsbury Cathedral

Shrewsbury Cathedral

Shrewsbury Abbey was built in 1084, and there are still parts of the original building that survive. It has become particularly famous last century because of the Brother Cadfael series of novels, which I’ve read a couple of in preparation for this trip. Marnie and Grandpa visited the Abbey about 20 years ago and saw the herbarium and scriptorium and a number of other features from the books, but when we arrived there today, we were told that sadly the Abbey went bankrupt in recent years and all those extras in the Abbey grounds were sold off. Very sad. There is a wildlife trust that operates on the old land, but it has changed quite a bit apparently. But the Abbey is still beautiful indoors, and there is a special stained-glass window to honour Cadfael in there, and the non-Cadfael features are still very interesting. There are a number of 12th and 13th century tombs in there, and a little leaflet talking about Admiral Benbow, who was born in Shrewsbury. The Admiral Benbow is the name of the inn in ‘Treasure Island’ and I totally did not realise he was a real person. The more you know!

We had a really nice lunch (leek, mushroom, and goat’s cheese lasagne) and then headed to St Mary’s Church, which I think was the most beautiful of the four we saw today. It has an incredibly tall spire and contains a stained glass depiction of the Jesse Tree, which traces Christ’s family tree all the way back to Jesse of Bethlehem, King David’s father. It was pretty awe-inspiring. The guides in the churches and castles are always so helpful and willing to tell you all sorts of wonderful things that may not be explained elsewhere. I have not encountered one unfriendly person here, and it makes the holiday that much more enjoyable.

Jesse Tree

Afterwards, we split up and Mum and Marnie went shopping and I sat in a cafe with a hot chocolate and read my book, did a code word puzzle, and rested my legs, which are still sore from a million steps. Then we took the Park and Ride back home and are now sitting in bed watching Midsomer Murders and eating Welsh cakes. Bliss! Hay-on-Wye tomorrow, aka INTERNATIONAL BOOK TOWN. Yahoo!

Advertisements

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Chirk Castle

We left Frodsham this morning! Actually quite sad to be leaving. It was such a beautiful place to start our trip, and I hope to go back some day! And Yarrangall B&B was wonderful. We set off early and drove to Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which Marnie had visited with Grandpa around 20 years ago. (In fact, they had hired a canal boat and cruised up the canals for a week on their own, never having driven a boat before, and finishing at Pontcysyllte because they’re awesome). The aqueduct is the longest and highest in Britain, and is, quite frankly, magnificent. You can take a canal boat over it, or you can walk. We were a bit early to hang around for a canal boat trip, so Mum and I walked over it. It was strange – I don’t love heights, and there were a few moments were I felt a bit dizzy with the knowledge of how high I was, but the views were so spectacular that it sort of helped me forget. Some insane people were even riding their bikes over it, and you’ll see from the photos that there is no railing on the canal side of the bridge. All it would take is a particularly bad stack and you’d go flying over the edge. No thanks.

 

 

 

 

Afterwards we walked down to the water to take some photos from beneath the aqueduct and all the steps that I’ve climbed in the last few days has made my muscles protest something fierce. The nice lady in the gift shop gave us the key to one of the boats after Marnie told her about her own trip. The boat Marnie and Grandpa took (named ‘Daffodil’) is no longer in use, but the lady let us look inside a different boat that was of a similar make. It was a really lovely little setup, with a kitchen, bathroom and double bed squeezed into it, along with plenty of cupboard space. I think I’d like to go on a canal boat trip one day.

 

 

We drove about 15 minutes down the road to a little town called Chirk. We had heard there was a castle here worth seeing, and I am so glad we took the chance, because it was such an unexpected pleasure. Chirk Castle is not at all a ruin like Conwy, and in fact, the same family has owned it since 1595, lived there until 2004, and still visit occasionally to their private apartments. It was first built in 1295, and there is a lot to see from various periods of history. The (old) Myddelton family home, with it’s incredibly ornate decoration and dozens of portraits is particularly beautiful, but you can also see the King’s bedroom and chapel, the servants hall, and the scariest dungeons you can possibly imagine. They are dark and cold (about 9ft underground), and have these passages reaching up to the ground level to let in chinks of light. Really spooky stuff.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We walked back across the enormous estate, spotting pheasant and squirrels and millions of daffodils. Then we hopped back in the car and drove here, to Uffington, a tiny village about ten minutes out of Shrewsbury. This village has a church, a pub, and a few houses, and we are staying at the pub. Our room is quite fancy, and we have a private bathroom and kitchen. I am so tired I can barely see. I can’t wait for bed tonight!