Last week after coming back from our Netherlands trip on the Wednesday we were eager to find something for the weekend. I was reading some of my favourite blogs (as you do when you’re avoiding your to-do list). It was this procrastination that turned into a day in Shrewsbury. Well a road trip leading to a day in Shrewsbury to be precise.
And the prize for helping me choose our adventures is Zoe at Splodz Blogz! OK, so no real prize, Zoe, you kind of had it by getting the trip to Shrewsbury. Even though that had nothing to do with me! Hmmm, this prize things isn’t working so well!
Anyhoo! After reading Zoe’s account of her weekend away I did what any travel/explorer would do and Googled how far Shrewsbury was from Manchester. If it is under two hours, I thought, we’ll do it. And under two hours it was.
Saturday road trip
We have a couple of reasons that we love a good road trip. One is that we thoroughly enjoy visiting different places and the other is that we enjoy listening to audio books in the car (currently The Inverted World by Christopher Priest) And now that we have a working sound system in the car, it is the perfect way to pass the time. Nice views, journeying to a fun adventure and stories to keep us going. What more could you want other than a hiking bladder of tea while you drive? (mmm, tea!)
And off went for a day in Shrewsbury
Our adventure began from Manchester, nice and early with our picnic safely tucked into the boot of the car. The drive was pretty uneventful and a tad on the boring side as it was predominantly on the motorway, which is where the audio books come in. The journey was strangely familiar and all of a sudden when we spotted a side of the road picnic area it all became apparent that we had been there when we went camping in Hay last year. Funny how some things stick!
One thing we forgot about ad remembered pretty swiftly on drawing up to Shrewsbury was that it was Saturday. A sunny Saturday at that. And if you’ve ever tried to drive into any town or city on a Saturday, there tend to be a lot more people out and about on the roads. Us, being unsure of our whereabouts found it a bit of a challenge when aiming for the car park; straddling lines at times! But we made it and there were plenty of spaces. Just to note though, if you’re parking in the Frankwell Car Park before August then bring some old pound coins with you. We, and most of the people parking there were laden with new pounds which the machines don’t yet take!
The Quarry Park
We pretty much knew from the outset that The Quarry Park was going to be the location for our picnic and trip planning. We detoured swiftly through the streets and alleys to visit the Tourist Information Centre to grab a map and check out the local resources and then headed straight to the greenery to ease our grumbly tummies.
To be honest, I was a bit disappointed by the resources available in the Visitor Centre. The walks were description led with a not so clear (in my opinion) illustrated map. They were pretty dear for what they were too so opted for the free map. And went for the choose your own adventure style exploration of Shrewsbury.
The park was absolutely huge! A certain surprise being that we expected it to be proportional to the city. Not so! There was plenty of space to park our bums, loads of benches and even though it was a sunny Saturday and everyone was picnicking, we could still find a quiet spot for ourselves. Our lunch (if I may say so myself) was gorgeous! Vegan cheese (which we brought back from Paris in April) with some vegan peppered ham. The perfect fuel for checking out a new city.
Getting our wander on
Although I read Zoe’s post, I didn’t really plan our day or have any bearings of the place whatsoever so we just got our wander on and explored, catching what caught our attention and taking each turn we fancied. We feel that it was the way that Shrewsbury intended for us to visit according to their little poem in the shopping centre (Scroll back up if you missed it!)
It was lots of fun when we would come across something that I recognised from Zoe’s visit and we would take the time to get to know it ourselves by exploring, reading and taking in the information. Although I think that it is great reading up about things, you get a better understanding from actually experiencing it yourself. Anyway, I digress.
Our first port of call was the bridge that we spotted while we lunched. It is the Porthill Bridge that, would you believe it, was built in 1923! After our trip to Amsterdam, I am becoming increasingly interested in bridges, especially when you realise the age and engineering feat they are for having survived so long!
Finding our bearings
The thing about going it free style on your exploring is that you have to wander to get your bearings. There is no compass to help you know where to go, you just explore and find your own way. Yes, you’re likely to get lost. Yes, you’re likely to take a longer time to find the things you want to look at, but if you enjoy finding new things, then it is the perfect way to adventure. I reckon so, anyway!
The other side of the bridge led us to some bars and in the distance we spotted the theatre near to the car park. We decided to head that was as we knew we would recognise something from our slow car journey through that part of the city.
There is just something nice about a city with beautiful planters. Brightening up the way, softening the hard edges of many of the industrial features and just bringing that little bit more nature into the place. I wish Manchester would be a bit more plant-full.
Of course, this kind of wander helps you spot some lovely places to photograph and take a moment too. Just look at the sky, water, trees… just look at it all!
…and then this happened
We found the winding alleys, turning streets and little spaces between the buildings. I love getting glimpses of what we might find in the distance through the streets. It is something that just entices me to follow my curiosity and to take a different route. Even when I am following a map or walking route, I’ll always find something to take me away from that when I spot something that sparks my interest. Zoe said I would love the streets here and she was totally right!
On the hunt for a book
There was one place that I really wanted to find on our trip and that was one of the independent book shops on Bear Steps. The reason? I found that there is a self published book that was sold there outlining the hidden places in the city, which is my kind of book. This meant that our meandering had to have at least a minuscule amount of direction – but not too much!
While we walked through the stunning buildings and streets, we noticed the similarity to Chester. Another Roman city with many winding streets and green spaces dotted throughout. This, perhaps, is why we were enjoying it so much. A plethora of things to see and do and always a surprise around each corner.
Fortunately we found the book shop. Unfortunately they no longer had any of the books as the author had only done a short print run. We had a lovely chat with the owners though and began back on our way. It was at this point that we heard the faint jungle of bells and the tinkle of music. So in true curious urban wandering fashion, we followed the sound to find out what it was.
With such an old city, it is definitely worth looking up in true tourist fashion. We spotted all kinds of strange and unusual things up there. And the combination of rooftops that you would normally miss, is certainly something that I would recommend you take a moment to check out.
…and the jingling and tinkling? We found Morris Dancers! Not what we expected on a trip to the city on a not particularly special day (not that we are aware of, in any case)
After spending some time enjoying the dancing and music, and the shade too, we decided to take a look at the map to choose a bit of a route. With only a few hours for our visit we wanted to make the most of it. That not to say that we actually planned a route – or that we stuck to any particular direction either!
Exploring the buildings
One of the things repeatedly catching our attention was the buildings. Places of all ages and eras stood together in the patchwork design of the city. Even the Costa was tucked underneath the wattle and daub fonts of buildings from times gone by. Trying to find your straight line for each picture was like trying to find a needle in a haystack! Sometimes I’m looking at my pictures thinking I must have had too much sunshine!
Take this one for example…
One reason to explore side streets and alleyways
As you probably already know, I need no excuse nor reason to head straight into a dark alley or side street, but if you need some encouragement, I would recommend doing it to discover something new. Something that you’ll be able to share that others have missed. Surprises that can turn an ordinary day extraordinary or be cause for another visit at another time.
Down one seemingly normal side street. Some stained glass windows caught my eye. The way headed into the car park of the posh wine merchant, but just on the wall as an interesting piece of art. On closer inspection, they were mosaic and clay versions of buildings. An art trail I discovered from the little tiny plaque in the middle. This, was then, a nice new addition to our wanders as we looked out for more as we explored other unusual places away from the humdrum of the Saturday shoppers. We have added the Wakeman “look up” Trail to our next visit s that we can discover them all. (I loved that it was ‘look up’ too, as I encourage everyone to look up more rather than at the floor or their phones)
To the river
As the heat began to peak, we decided to take our wander towards the river in the hope of discovering some shade and a cooling breeze (this, we found was blind optimism!) but we enjoyed the walk all the same.We headed through The Quarry Park for another look and to enjoy a quieter time in the Dingle. We also checked out Hercules standing tall at the river’s edge.
Over on the side of the river we were treated to long vies over the calm waters with the occasional boat scooting by. It was amazing the difference between the park and town side of the Severn and this side. So much calmer and peaceful.
And talking about a city filed with surprises, we were chuffed to see a Picnic Boat and something you would never expect in a city, and by a boating club. Cows! Yes, seriously.
As we carried along the side of the water, we started to become aware of a kind of hum in the distance. What it was we couldn’t quite make out until we got closer and closer. There were crowds of people around the boating club, rather well dressed people cheering and shouting. It was then that we discovered that there was a rowing race going on. Between the local schools it seemed by the number of people in matching outfits (it could be a local thing, but we like to think school uniform!)
Back to the calm
After wading through the crowds we made our way back to a quieter part of the river and I stumbled upon a new friend. A ginger cat who was more than obliging to let me stroke him and grab some photographs. I was pretty pleased with the serendipitous one of him close up (after many failed attempts) as he stormed his way up to my lens with true feline excitement.
I don’t think any of my trips would be complete without an animal in there. Cat especially. I have umming and ahhing about a page of the animals I meet on my travels, what do you reckon? Comments below, please.
Coming to an end
As the time was drawing close to us having to make a move back towards Manchester, we crossed the river again and headed back toward the central part of the city. Not before snagging another of the ‘Look Up’ trail art pieces.
In true tourist fashion we discovered more interesting things than we could count on the short journey back to the car! New alleyways, a castle, some museums and even a disused building that I would have loved more time to photograph and explore. It’s the typical thing of visiting somewhere new, isn’t it, the always en with another reason to visit! Not that we’re going to argue. We fancy another return visit anyway.
As we wandered back to the car, we recollected the things that we had seen in a day in Shrewsbury. A surprising amount of things we discovered and on checking the map, we had walked the entire city. Perhaps not every alley this time, nor every place explored but enough to give us a taste to want more.
So was our road trip for a day in Shrewsbury worth it? Without a doubt, yes. It felt as though we were on holiday, with the trip making it a full day. The sun shining was a bonus and finding even more exciting bits at the end of the trip just spurred us on to discover more. I am also going to try to buy the book from the man directly – so that’s another reason to hit the road and make our way down south again.
Now to working out what to get up to this weekend?
Remember, wherever you are, follow your curiosity, look up and discover something new!
Have you ever spent a day in Shrewsbury? What was your favourite part? Do you have any ideas to throw towards me for this weekend?
Let me know in the comments below!
Oh and if you want to see more from our visit, check out the video I posted too.