Travel: Shropshire in the Winter

This winter break I spent about a week in the Shropshire area of England. This is a beautiful part of the country (West Midlands area) rich with old market towns and incredible natural beauty. As always my wonderful hosts gave me a warm welcome which included the highly anticipated and world’s best coffee walnut cake and Victoria sponge cakes.

Ellesmere Port
Our first stop was a long walk around Ellesmere Port, a town that sits on what was once known as the Ellesmere Canal but now goes by Llangollen Canal. It’s studded with narrow boats rather than shipping boats now, but is just as impressive. After walking along the canal and cutting through the town, you arrive at the Mere. As I learned on the signage near the water, the Mere we saw is called a “kettle hole” mere. Thousands of years ago this part of Shropshire was covered with ice–in this case a deep, steep-sided glacier that apparently is responsible for the “kettle” namesake–and slowly melted over thousands of years leaving meres behind. The trail around Ellesmere is now decorated with sculptures and is a popular site for a midday hike.

Chester
We then travelled to Chester, a beautiful city on the River Dee originally founded as a Roman fort and now filled with beautiful medieval buildings. We ate lunch at the Chester Grosvenor where I had an interesting dish of pressed pumpkin. The dessert was fantastic, with the highlight being a chocolate and honeycomb praline with raspberries and eau de vie that I stole from someone else’s plate. We then wandered around to the Eastgate Clock, taking in the views of the high street, and made our way into Chester Cathedral. It really is an incredible church and took nearly 275 years to build (starting in 1250!).

Ludlow
We spent part of a day in Ludlow. This market town is consistently voted one of Britain’s most charming villages. When we arrived it was pouring down rain and we took shelter in the town’s independent book shop where I loaded up on cards and stationery to send home. We ate a tasty lunch in a noisy cafe where I had a veggie Full English breakfast.

Old Oswestry Hill Fort
This fort was built during the Iron Age and was occupied for nearly 1,000 years. Though it was so muddy that we couldn’t quite appreciate the topography of the site, the ditches were impressive and surely would have provided a strong defense against any attack. Later on the hillfort was converted into Wat’s Dyke earthwork and was also used during WW1 as a training camp that unfortunately resulted in substantial archaeological damage to the site.

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