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The most pleasant town in England?
Shrewsbury in General
Member Name: merv
Shrewsbury in General
Date: 18/01/02, updated on 17/10/04 (369 review reads)
Advantages: Charming, Interesting, Friendly
Disadvantages: None whatsoever
I’m very fond of all the towns situated along the marches bordering Wales. From Chester in the north to Chepstow in the south there are some beautiful places to visit, Oswestry, Ludlow, Hereford and Monmouth are all regular haunts, but to my mind there’s nowhere quite like Shrewsbury for a day out. It has everything, beautiful surrounding countryside, historic buildings, a castle, a meandering river, a lovely park, an impressive collection of shops and some great places to eat and drink.
I quite often go with my wife and daughter to Shrewsbury on a Saturday (when it doesn’t clash with a home match!) and they go shopping while I go for a walk and explore the town and its surroundings.
Shrewsbury is situated on a hill, with the river creating an almost complete loop around the town and forming an island except for about 250 yards. Bursting with medieval charm, Shrewsbury has a wealth of timber-framed buildings, some of which lean so crazily that they look as if they’re going to topple over, and a visible history, which is present wherever you turn.
If like me you are interested in history or you just fancy a nice walk around a friendly town with lots to see and do, here is my suggested itinerary.
During busy periods, it is often preferable to enter Shrewsbury using one of the three convenient ‘Park and Rides’ as parking is a problem in the town and because it’s nearly an island, there are a limited number of roads into Shrewsbury. Buses run every 10 minutes from 7.30am to 6.30pm daily except Sundays and the last time we went the return fare was only 75p.
In quiet periods, on a Sunday or a summer’s evening there’s plenty of parking available and we usually park in the car park in Frankwell, by the famous Welsh Bridge - £2 all day and very handy for the shops, park and river. Whichever me
thod you choose to visit this is an ideal starting place for a lovely walk around the town.
From the Welsh Bridge, you are within easy walking distance of all of Shrewsbury’s attractions. These are my particular favourites:
A pleasant walk along the river to Shrewsbury’s park, the ‘Quarry ‘ home of Shrewsbury flower show is an absolute must on a sunny day. It occupies a sizeable chunk of the town embracing most of the bottom part of the ‘ox bow’ bend in the river and has all the usual facilities – children’s playground, bowls, tennis and boating and a wonderful aspect across the river to Shrewsbury school.
Best of all though it has the Dingle a beautiful floral area made famous by Percy Thrower, the original TV gardener, who was Park Superintendent here for twenty eight years. The hedged circle which forms the Dingle, is a lovely place to sit for a while and enjoy the formal flower beds, the pool with its fine trees and mallards and to see the effigy of Sabrina, goddess of the river. The sunken Dingle was the original quarry for the town's first building stone.
The whole park is a beautiful experience in itself, quiet and tranquil, its wonderful to sit by the river watching the boats from the rowing club go by with ‘trainer’ cycling along the tow path issuing instructions from a megaphone, just like a clip from the old Ealing movies when they were trying to portray a typical English scene. There’s a pub on the opposite bank, I think its called the Boathouse. They used to have a folk club there in the 70’s, which I used to go to. I can still remember sitting outside the pub on one barmy summer evening, pint in hand, listening to someone singing when the music was interrupted by a traditional jazz band playing from a boat cruising up the river. A simple pleasure, but a delightful memory, which has for some reason remained with me, and one
which sums up the essence of the park.
This is what I like best about Shrewsbury, its full of architectural gems.
With over 660 listed historical buildings in the town centre, you can easily see the influence of all who settled here, the Romans, the Normans, and the list goes on. These days, Tudor England is the most evident, with black and white half timbered buildings at seemingly every turn, no matter which medieval passage you duck down. The narrow alleyways are known as "shuts".
The Square in the centre of the town is dominated by the Old Market Hall, a heavy-looking stone structure built in 1596. This part of Shrewsbury played a prominent role in the 80’s film version of a ‘Christmas Carol’ an ideal location for an excellent film.
The streets of Shrewsbury have ancient and evocative place names, similar to York –Claremont, Murivance, Mardol and Shoplatch, to name but a few. The Bear steps link the Square with Fish street which has some fine examples of half-timbered architecture, and Fish street winds into St. Alkmund's Square were St. Alkmund's cathedral, founded in Saxon times has stunning stained glass.
From St. Alkmund's Square, you can head down Butcher Row, which offers more fine examples of medieval buildings to admire and on to St. Mary's street where St. Mary's Church built around 1200 has one of the tallest stone spires in England - the stained windows are amazing.
Shrewsbury really is a town of intrigue, full of charm and character.
With it's beautifully kept gardens, and delightful grounds, the red sandstone castle is one of Shrewsbury's historical treasures. Built by the Norman, Roger de Montgomery, who was Shrewsbury’s founder and became the first Earl of Shrewsbury, the castle was erected on a narrow spit of land to protect the growing settlement.
The castle ha
s been altered considerably over the centuries, and the oldest parts now visible probably date from the time of Henry II in the 12th century. Most of it was dismantled during the Civil War, but was later rebuilt by Thomas Telford. Today, it houses the Shropshire Regimental Museum. A free tour of the grounds and a short climb up to Laura's Tower provides some stunning views of the town, river and the countryside
To the east of the town across the English Bridge stands the Abbey which although founded in 1083 has, more recently, found world wide fame as the home of Ellis Peters’ fictional character, Brother Cadfael, whose chronicles are set in and were inspired ny the town. The Abbey has a history almost as long as the castle itself. Roger de Montgomery founded the Abbey, and even entered as a monk shortly before his death. He is buried there, but the spot not known today.
One of my intentions this year is to go on one of the Cadfael guided tours of Shrewsbury – they sound really good.
Rowley’s House Museum
This is a fine building in itself, a timber framed warehouse of the 1590’s, which shows fine collections and galleries displaying the rich history of Shrewsbury and Shropshire, especially strong on the Romans, medieval Shrewsbury and the geology of the area.
Shrewsbury has some very impressive shopping areas, two huge malls and a wealth of specialist shops often situated in historic buildings or located in the “shuts”. Tons of charm and character, selling everything from second hand books to art deco, geological specimens to musical instruments and antiques.
My own favourite is the “Parade” converted, I think from the old hospital. Thirty shops selling crafts, original collectables and fashionable clothing. A great place to go for a cup of tea, there are wonderful views from the balcony to the river below.
e MacDonalds is a bit special.
There you are, a whistle stop tour around one of my favourite towns, ideal for a day out, even better for a weekend. Charming, safe, friendly and lots to see, what more could you ask for?