We've been back from our Shropshire holiday for two weeks so it's about time I shared some holiday snaps with you. As you know from my previous holidays I take hundreds and hundreds of photos, then whittle them down to the ones I want to keep, and then whittle them further to load onto my blog- but there are still a lot of photos to share!
These fab, vintage tearooms were part of Boscobel House, an English Heritage site and our lunch time stop on the way to the holiday home. The tearooms are in an old stable block belonging to the Victorian farmyard on the site, which is mostly open but empty of animals- aside from a little party of hens and some white doves.
The site itself is quite small and is essentially a little manor house and the farmyard, but it's claim to fame is that it was one of the hiding places of King Charles II after he was defeated in 1651 at the Battle of Worcester. He originally hid in White Ladies Priory, a short walk from Boscobel, where he was disguised in county clothes to continue his fleeing journey unnoticed but, whilst trying to escape through Wales to France, had to turn back as the route was heavily guarded and ended up at Boscobel, a remote country house designed for privacy- although more used by Catholic priests as a hiding place than Kings.
Even this house, then buried in dense woodland, wasn't safe as the pursuing soldiers had already raided the White Ladies Priory so Charles, along with another fugitive hid in a giant oak tree and stayed there until the soldiers had searched the woods and left. Although the actual oak tree is now gone, the descendants of the original tree live on. Apparently the oak in the below image with the fence around it, is one such tree and nearly on the same spot as the original, although how they know that I have no idea. Charles spent the rest of the night in a priest hole under the floorboards in the attic and was then squirrelled away to France, where he remained for nine years before returning to reclaim the throne in 1660.
We fell over into Wales on our first proper day of the holiday. Being on a little sticky-out point of England, right on the border into Wales meant that we pretty much crossed the border several times a day, occasionally without realising it. Generally you can tell when the road signs have the Welsh written above the English, or 'araf' (Welsh for slow) appears on the roads first.
We were visiting Valle Crucis Abbey, a CADW site (Welsh heritage) and previous home to Cistercian monks. Building work on this site started in 1201, and there is quite a lot of it still left, although it isn't an enormous site.
The chapter house still has a roof on it and a lot of the stone detailing is left even though it was dissolved in 1537. You can even wander around the monks fish pond, complete with water.
It was really lovely to be able to walk on the same flagstones that the monks would have walked on, and to see the same vaulted roof. The cloister walls are no longer there but you can walk it's outline and imagine the flowers growing in the centre. There is a second floor accessible above the chapter house, however when we went it was closed off due to pigeons nesting. Perhaps if you find yourself that way you could go and send me a photo of the monks bedrooms.
There is an amazing amount of places to visit and things to do in this part of the world, we barely went 30 minutes away from our holiday home in any direction. After the Abbey, it was a five minute drive to Horseshoe Falls in Llangollen, the birthplace of the Shropshire Union Canal. A chap called Thomas Telford, who will come up again on another day, designed a horseshoe shaped weir to draw water from the River Dee into the canal system. Originally this would have been levelled by raising or lowering planks, but now there is a Meter House, built in 1947, which measures how much water is taken through to the canal. Having narrowboated along the Shropshire Union Canal system, it was really fascinating to be at the very start of it! Although I know that canals are man-made water systems fed by rivers, it hadn't even crossed my mind to think about the effort that goes into it and the careful planning. I just assumed it kind of happened naturally at the junction between river and canal as a sort of 50/50 split.
We walked alongside the baby canal (it starts out quite small and shallow- you can't get more than a kayak along it), admiring the way it has been cut out of a huge cliff of rock. You walk between the canal and the river and eventually come out alongside the Chain Bridge Hotel, from where you can cross the chain bridge over the River Dee to the railway station. The bridge you see today was rebuilt in 1929, but the original bridge was built in 1813 by a coal merchant called Exuperious Pickering (what a name!!!!!) who used it to transport coal, lime and stone from his mines. New chains were put in in 1876 by Henry Robertson, and his son reused those chains for the current bridge. It bounces when you walk!
This part of the world seems to be stuffed with aqueducts and viaducts, all crossing over and under and through each other. It's quite amazing. We watched the steam train stop off at the station opposite whilst enjoying a fabulous roast dinner in the hotel- thoroughly recommended!
On our drive home again, we paused at the side of the road when we spotted this giant, towering aqueduct. As we watched a narrowboat chugged across it! I was adamant, if we could, we were going over that!!! (But that's for another day.)