Thursday, August 5, 2010

Spectacular Shrewsbury

By Claire & Chuck
August 3

We really loved Wales and its gorgeous landscapes—from rocky mountain to slate covered trails to lush forests. We would have to say this country has as much beauty as any place we have visited.

We left Betws-y-Coed desperate to find a service station with LPG for our fridge and stove. The woman at the local Shell station sent us 15 miles north—the opposite direction from our destination—but we decided it was worth it. We found it—but added an hour of driving to our day. This came back to haunt us, later.

We arrived in Shrewsbury, Engand, birthplace of Charles Darwin, just about noon—frustratingly slow progress when you’ve been up since 5:30. We were now in the district of Shropshire, and noticed the difference immediately. No more dark stone and slate houses—instead, lots of red brick and half-timbered houses along the road we came in on..

Quantum Leap, a monumental sculpture and tribute to Charles Darwin, local boy.

We found a place to park along the road then ambled down the street where we stumbled upon The Mount, where Charles Darwin was born and lived until he was 11. The former home is now a governmental building with employees whose job description includes showing tourists the room where Darwin was born.

We finally found signage to the Tourist Information office; it is to our everlasting shame that we did not really research Shrewsbury. Rick Steves has virtually nothing on it. My only reason for wanting to see it is because of the Benedictine Abbey that was the setting for the Brother Cadfael mystery series by Ellis Peters (penname for Edith Pargeter).

I knew nothing of the Castle, the other Churches or the sunken gardens. But, today was one of those days when we bit off more than we could chew—late start due to late opening of the checkout office where our food was being held, an hour lost to find and purchase LPG, backroads drive to Shrewsbury, backroads drive to Ironbridge Gorge, and backroads drive to our campsite, near Hay-on-Wye in Hereford, right on the border with Wales. We blame Susan for our tardy arrival at the campground—they closed 5 minutes before we pulled up! At any rate, we shortchanged Shrewsbury and only visited the Abbey.

Cyclists defying death on the narrow—and bicyclelaneless—backroads of England.

The drive to the Iron Bridge was uneventful, though we did have our usual pangs of regret regarding Homer’s size—He is too wide and too long (especially with the bike racks) to be comfortable in either Europe or the British Isles, much of the time, when driving or parking. But, again, we had not planned well: I was primarily interested in seeing the bridge, not the 10 local museums associated with the bridge and the birth of the Industrial Revolution in the Severn Valley. So, I did not bother to tell Claire about the other opportunities, since this was “my” day to see chosen sites. However, we did not have time to spend, given that we have to make advance reservations to ensure we have a place to stay. As we have stated previously, this is a severe downside of touring in high season—much of the spontaneity of travel is scrapped.

The bridge, built in 1779, was surprisingly small, from a distance; but, by the time I had walked around it and over it, looking at its size and construction from multiple views, I was won over: It is beautiful, in its way.

We finally arrived at our campsite—5 minutes after the Reception Office closed, at 5pm! Fortunately, there are no barriers to entry and there are no keys required for access to the toilet facilities. We simply drove in, hooked up and prepared dinner. Much later, the camp warden knocked on our door to be sure we were “all right.” We are.

Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day. ~ A A Milne

1 comment:

Elle, who is selling her place in Umbria;) said...

Charles Darwin was the great uncle of the famous composer Ralph (pronounced "Rafe") Vaughn Williams.
One day, the young Ralph queried: "Mother, the Church tells us that the world was constructed in it's entirety in seven days, yet uncle Charles says it evolved over millions of years.. which way is true?"
And his mother replied, "My dear, I can't be certain, but if you consider both possibilities ~ either way it's simply stupendous."
Love that Mrs. Vaughn Williams;)