A Self-Guided Tour of the Pocket Parks of Shrewsbury

I don’t know if it’s because my time here has come to an end, but getting up this morning was just about impossible. I am absolutely exhausted and looking forward to a very long lie-in my first morning in Brighton. It’s a good thing my last day in Shrewsbury was sunny, otherwise I would have been tempted to not do my final walking tour and instead just spend the afternoon on the couch cuddling Puppy while watching movies!

But it was a beautiful day, so I set off late morning to do the Pocket Parks of Shrewsbury walking tour. We’ve been to most of these stops before and this is the first tour where I wish I’d followed my instincts and done it in my own order since I ended up walking all over town, sometimes for almost nothing, and having to backtrack to get home. The exercise was good, of course, but things were getting rather repetitive. Still, there were a few stops on this tour that were unique and I caught new things even at places where I’ve been.

Here’s a map of the tour (click to embiggen).

“There are several small green havens of peace in Shrewsbury town centre, quiet places to sit, rest, or have a sandwich. … Most are tended by the Town Council gardeners who call them pocket parks.”

So the tour starts at St Alkmund’s Churchyard, where we’ve been countless times. I made it a point to walk around and catch different perspectives.

“St Alkmund’s Church stands on the flattened top of one of the two hills within the river loop, looking as if perched on a pedestal. A Saxon church was once on the site, but the current building dates from the 1790s, except for the tower, which is late 15th century. From Saxon times until 1261, the King’s Market was held here in the space around and between this church and its neighbour, St. Julian’s.”

Note “the unusual 18th century cast iron windows…”

I loved the pretty turquoise front door.

The pub is called The Three Fishes.

Notice a discrepancy between the church and street signs?

Both spellings appear to be used interchangeably.

From St Alkmund’s, I moved to St Julian’s Detached Churchyard, which I was curious about and would be a favourite spot for me to sneak to on a lunch break if I worked in the area.

“This was founded in the early 1800s when John Oakley, a local grocer, sold part of his garden to St Julian’s Church as an extra burial ground. There was a great shortage of burial space in town centre graveyards at this time. He and his wife were buried here; the last burial, in 1881, was of his daughter at age 81. A century later, the Town Council took over the care of this graveyard and it has become a quiet secluded pocket park minutes from the bustle of Wyle Cop. The tombstones seem to form a paved area…”

I occasionally see signs like these in England, making it easier to navigate towns with no street pattern.

Next stop was Old St Chad’s Churchyard, where I spent so much time on the tour of the Shuts that I did not go back in as I did not learn anything new.

The leaflet did make me notice this building across from the chapel. This house “illustrates a fashion that was common in the town in the 18th century. At this time, houses were sometimes modernised by brick skins and plaster to cover the ‘old-fashioned’ Tudor timberwork.”

It was then quite a long stroll to my next destination, about a block from the abbey. On the way there, I discovered that the route to my next destination was blocked.

The reason why became apparent very quickly. I didn’t realise it had rained so much in the last few days!

The tow path is fully immersed.

I crossed English Bridge and immediately turned left into the Abbey Gardens.

“These once belonged to the builder John Carline. He and his business partner John Tilley were responsible for building the Welsh Bridge. Carline and his family had a house at the side of the plot away from the river. In his riverside yard, he kept materials, pieces of fallen masonry, and his models of the lions for the base of Lord Hill’s Column; they are still here. At one time, this park was also known as Mr Palin’s Pleasure Gardens; residents came here to walk and admire abandoned pieces of sculpture, which were on display. Many of them are still here. The park is now known for its rhododendrons and azaleas in the spring. From this park, there are excellent views of the 18th century English Bridge, the river itself with its old towing path, and above it a silhouette of the town centre, including the old Royal Salop Infirmary, founded in the 18th century and now converted into flats and shops.”

I love that detailing on the stone columns. Can you see how twisted they are?

I couldn’t get over how lush and bright green everything was!

Daffodils!

A crocus, in early March!

A large part of the garden was under water!

I had to make my own way to my next stop, easily done as I now know my way around the downtown core. I followed the route along the water on the medieval tour, so I didn’t miss anything.

I thought this building had a rather lovely curve.

I was feeling peckish and decided to get a snack to tide me over to lunch. Café on the Cop looked inviting and had a cream tea for just £4 (for which you could have tea or a pot of coffee!). That was exactly what I wanted. I came in and took a seat and was immediately taken in by the unusual slate place mats.

The very sweet proprietor came over right away for my order. I decided on tea rather than coffee as the latter just didn’t feel right with this snack.  I was not offered a choice for the type of tea and whatever it was that came was very lovely. But now, check out my scone!

It was huge! It was equivalent to two scones anywhere else I’ve had a cream team. Needless to say, this became an early lunch! The preserves weren’t the best I’ve had (a jelly rather than a jam), but the scone was the best ever and the clotted cream hit the spot. I did not have the butter. This was definitely my favourite cream tea of the four I’ve enjoyed since discovering this treat at the British Museum.

My next stop was the castle! En route, I got very close to the yellow house we saw on the Tudor tour.

I got a good view of the library across the way.

What an impressive flower arrangement! Can you see the Union Jack?

The castle is now the Regimental Museum, for which you have to pay. But it’s free to walk around the grounds.

“This pocket park is part of the Norman castle built in the narrow neck of the meander by Roger of Montgomery, a relative of William the Conqueror.”  The castle was once connected to the town walls by a sandstone wall.

“Edward I added to the castle, building the great hall in the 1280s, when it was a link in the chain of castles guarding the Welsh border. … In the 18th century, the castle was remodelled by Thomas Telford for Sir William Pulteney, the wealthy owner. He also built, on the old motte, a summerhouse-folly named after Laura, Sir William’s daughter.”

That was my next stop, Laura’s Tower. Up I went!

I love how that stone has been worn from so many centuries of folks treading on it.

Laura’s Tower.

Unfortunately, you can’t go in, but you do get an incredible view of Shrewsbury.

The abbey.

I headed back down to walk the grounds a little.

More daffodils!

The next stop was the library garden and I wasn’t going to bother since there was no new information, but then I saw an interesting tidbit. So off I went to look at the turnable, “which was installed in 1983 to rotate library vans.”

I did pop into the garden to admire the flowers that were blooming. The garden was “planted to give all-year-round foliage colour with minimum maintenance.”

It was another long way to my next park, which we’d been to on my first day out and about in town. Spoiler: both were closed. 🙁 I would have been better off coming straight to the last one from the Abbey Gardens and finishing at the castle. But anyway… I love this shot of Castle Street. It just looks so… old!

Shrewsbury bus station.

St Chad Church in the background.

Welsh Bridge.

I came to find a locked gate the Quantum/Mardol Quay Garden. But I could at least see things from the street.

“This pocket park is located on the site of the Mardol Quay, built in 1607. Some of the original cobbles can be seen and here river boats loaded and unloaded — old accounts show that ‘for every barge load of wood or coal 12d; for a ton of other goods — from a burgess 2d and from a foreigner 4d.” Later, the warehouses were converted into a car repair shop, which eventually was cleared for road widening in 1958/60. A public garden was established on the riverside, which was redesigned in 2009 for the bicentenary of the birth, in Shrewsbury, of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of the The Origin of Species.”

Remember this odd thing?

“A sculpture, designed by Pearce and Lal and called Quantum Leap, has been likened to a shell, human vertebrae, DNA, and many other things and is locally known as The Slinky because of its similarity to the coiled-wire toy. The garden celebrates Shropshire’s geological history….”

I passed the Rowley House yet again on my way to my last stop, capturing it from a new angle.

Narrow driveway entrance.

Getting closer!

St Chad’s Church “with its adjoining graveyard was built in 1792 to replace the one that fell down. From the churchyard, you can see the unusual circular shape of the church, the largest of its kind in England. In the middle of the 19th century, as a result of the crowded and very unsanitary conditions in town centre graveyards, a Burial Act was passed closing urban burial grounds. As a result, in 1856, the General Cemetery was opened on the outskirts of the town with cooperation from all six parishes. The churchyard is now maintained, as a semi-natural woodland. In the centre, look for Scrooge’s gravestone, placed here for the filming of Dickens’ Christmas Carol in 1984.”

Well, the churchyard was closed. 🙁 A very kind worker came over and said to me, “Sorry, lovie, they’re doing works inside.” Lovie? I love British endearments!

So this is all I saw of the churchyard.

The church itself is large and impressive.

Its vicar is well-named.

Main entrance.

Across the street, balustrade paid for by the Horticultural Society.

Across the street is the unassuming final stop, The Dingle.

I really love this church!

Another vantage point of the hospital.

I headed home after, going all the way back up Pride Hill and down Castle Gates, which I’d done twice before already today. In desperate need of a haircut, I popped into a salon with a sign that said walk-ins welcome. I found that £15 was very expensive for the little work they had to do (I just shear the hair very short), but needs must and I felt much lighter when I got out.

I took the route by the train station to go home from there and it was after I did the turn at Morrison’s Lubricants that I noticed this door for the first time. Very curious.

Well, thus ends my lovely stay in Shrewsbury! I adored this town! Hebden Bridge was cute, not somewhere I would have wanted to be for long. I could certainly see myself in Shrewsbury.

The puppy sitting was restrictive, but it was a blessing in a way in that it forced me to stick close and really get to know the centre of town. There is so much of Shrewsbury that I did not see as I did not venture much on the other side of the river, but I definitely covered the touristy part of town and then some!

I’d consider the puppy minding part of the exercise a success. I know I did a very good job of it and I’m very proud that. It was very challenging, exhausting, and sometimes tedious, but it was also immeasurably rewarding and I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much with such joy on a daily basis.

So I’m heading out tomorrow at about 1PM and as long as I make my super tight connections (not counting on it), I’ll be in Brighton by 6PM. If I do make my connections, I’ll be pulling out of London Bridge in exactly 24 hours and 10 minutes for the final leg of my journey across this country.

My route ahead isn’t nearly this directly, but is well represented here.

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