Wednesday, 17 August 2022

To skies that knit our heartstrings right

It's the final installment of my travelogue which, considering our holiday was almost two months ago, isn't a minute too soon. By now, my holiday memories are starting to gather a fine layer of dust, and if I'm not careful they'll slowly recede into the mists of time.

In just under three weeks we'll be going on another adventure, so let's get these ones done and err ... dusted!

I'm covering our final four days here. Too much for one post perhaps, but then again, not enough for two, so let's make a start with Tuesday the 23rd of June.

Once again checking the weather forecast for the day ahead had been a bit of a letdown, offering a mixture of grey skies and the odd shower, not to mention a quite unpleasant wind, accompanying the measly highs of 17°C.

It is quite unheard-of for me to wear a jumper during the Summer months, but that's exactly what I did that day. This mustard yellow honey-comb knit one was a charity shop find earlier this year, while its companion, the groovilicious maxi skirt, was part of my charity shop haul in the weeks before our holiday. I added one of my by now famous chevron belts, pinned a dink butterfly brooch to the jumper and, instead of a necklace, wore a pink, grey and white chiffon scarf at my neck for extra warmth.

Our itinerary for the day couldn't have been more simple: we were off to Shrewsbury to do a spot of shopping, perhaps throwing in some sightseeing if time and weather allowed.

Confidently, we entered the address of the nearest Park and Ride into our car's built-in Satnav, fully expecting her to direct us to the left at the end of our lane, just like her predecessor did in years past.

But no, she was about to ignore the left turn and would have made us drive over the Long Mynd if we'd let her. We turned a blind eye to her instructions and turned left, thinking that we'd made her see sense by doing so. Well, what can I say? We might have averted another scary Long Mynd episode, but she still made us drive up a steep and narrow lane leading to the middle of nowhere. The views were marvellous though, the tiny bump in the horizon being the Wrekin, rising above the Shropshire Plain to a height of 1,335 feet (407 metres) above sea level: a prominent and well-known landmark, 

Having finally, and safely, arrived at the Park and Ride car park, we boarded the bus which was waiting for us. It would be the first time in well over two years since I'd been on a bus, and obviously we wore our masks, even if the majority of our fellow passengers didn't.

After less than 15 minutes, the driver expertly negotiating traffic, we alighted at the Market Square.

From there, we strolled up the High Street, Pride Hill and finally Castle Street, where our first port of call, Marks & Spencer, awaited. After buying underwear and a classy new pair of pyjamas for Jos, we made our way up to the top floor café for lunch.

Afterwards, we followed our noses for a while, exploring the town's maze of lanes and alleys (which go under the name of "shuts") until I declared it was time for a rummage at the charity shops.

While Jos was taking a breather on a bench, I went in and out of the charity shops lining the street called Mardol, where most of them seemed to be concentrated. It's here that I found the denim maxi skirt (below, top right) you could see me wearing in my previous post. I also found a charcoal grey based floral cotton skirt as well as couple of books.

Mission accomplished, our next stop was the Market Hall. 

The three columns with the axe-like heads on the top right are part of the Darwin Gate Artwork. Charles Darwin is without doubt Shrewsbury’s most famous son, who was born here on 12 February 1809.

The Market Hall, which includes a 240 ft (73 metres) clock- tower, an indoor market and a ground-floor shopping centre, was hailed “the most modern building” in Shropshire when it opened in September 1965. Today, the indoor market is thriving, with over 70 small businesses, traditional market stalls selling fresh farm produce standing alongside cosmopolitan cafes, award-winning artisan producers, vintage and antique sellers and a host of quality craft and gift stalls. 

Considered a monstrosity by some, it is only when viewed from above - the photo on the bottom right obviously isn't mine - that its cunning ocean liner shape becomes apparent.

Although the rain had thankfully held off all day, it was a completely different story on Wednesday, when rain would be very much on the menu. In addition, the mercury had now dropped to a decidedly unsummery 15°C. 

After some deliberation, the day's destination was finally settled. We would drive down to Church Stretton which, as the crow flies would take us just under 20 minutes. The problem, however, is that the crow would most definitely fly over the Long Mynd, approximately following the route of the famous Burway, which is something we have been trying to avoid at all cost.

Taking the far less scary detour by way of A and B roads took us about half an hour instead. 

Church Stretton nestles in a wooded valley, its spectacular setting the ideal base from which to explore the Shropshire Hills. The town has a variety of independent shops, traditional tea rooms, pubs and restaurants, plus a unique antiques emporium. And it was the latter, rather than its hill walking opportunities, that made us decide to come here that day.

Crammed with antiques and collectibles, there nevertheless wasn't anything which tempted us to pull out our wallets. Perhaps this was due to the bad news we'd received earlier that day, learning that Vix and Jon had tested positive, so that our planned meeting the next day wouldn't be able to go ahead. We were also due to meet Claire and her husband Gareth at the same time, but as he was still suffering from the aftermath of a cold, and both Jos and I had a mild case of the sniffles - not Covid, thankfully - we decided to cancel our meeting entirely. 

After leaving the antiques emporium, we had a rummage at the town's handful of charity shops, where I managed to find a second denim skirt, which you've already seen me wearing as well.

Lunch - mine was a chili jacket potato - was had at The Bucks Head, where we were served by an overly friendly and visibly nervous waiter, for whom we suspect it was his first day on the job.

Then we headed to St. Laurence's church or, in fact, we made a run for it across the churchyard as it had started raining by then.

The 14th century church with elements of  previous Norman architecture has as rare pagan fertility symbol or sheila-na-gig (above, bottom right) which can be found on the north face of the building over an old Norman doorway.

The sun had come back from her hiding place when we were exploring the churchyard, but such was the fickleness of the weather that once we'd retrieved our walking sticks from the car, she'd gleefully drawn the curtains of grey again. In fact, we'd only put our first steps on the paths of the Capability Brown inspired Rectory Wood when we found our plans thwarted by persistent rain. We just made it to a pool shaded by ancient yews and overlooked by the remains of an old pumping house, where we waited out the rain. 

With forecasted highs of 19°C, it started to feel a bit more like Summer again on Thursday. 

It was the day we were supposed to meet Vix and Claire at Attingham Park, but although the meet-up was cancelled, we still went ahead with what would be our final visit to a National Trust property, clocking up a total of 7 properties using our Touring Pass. Having paid only half of what we would have done without the pass, it had definitely been well worth the original outlay.

As if on cue, the heavens opened just as we were making our way to the Stables Courtyard, so our visit started with a browse in the second hand bookshop and a mooch around the stables.

Part of the Grade I listed mansion, which was built in 1785 for Noel Hill, 1st Baron Berwick, was in scaffolding, and only the basement was open for visits, so we opted to give it a miss. After all, we'd been there twice before, in 2018 and 2019.

Instead, we strolled around the walled garden, admiring its lavender lined borders, which are a haven for bees and butterflies.

Before returning to the Stables Courtyard for lunch, we had a look inside the Bothy, which is where, historically, the unmarried gardeners would have lived.

By a stroke of luck, the rain held off for the rest of the day, and what's more, the sun had come out to play when we set out for a walk after lunch.

I was wearing the maxi dress which I'd shortened especially for the occasion. Now it was just the perfect length to wear with my Cloudsteppers without tripping over its hem. I'd ditched my orange leather jacket by then, but was still wearing one of my King Louie cardies. My stretchy orange belt, orange beaded necklace and green plastic ring completed my outfit.

We'd chosen the 2,5 mile Deer Park walk, its directions instructing you to look closely in the bracken and ferns of the Deer Park, and you might be lucky to spot some of the deer herd.

We never expected to spot any deer at all, so it came as a complete but pleasant surprise when several of them suddenly materialized, seemingly unperturbed by our presence!

That evening, back at the cowshed, we were in for another treat in the form of a magnificent sunset, for which I grabbed my camera and walked up the lane.

Then Friday, our last day, dawned. As if that in itself wasn't bad enough, we were on tenterhooks to receive an email from Eurotunnel that we were OK to travel. Apparently, the French still needed people's vaccination certificates to enter the country, even if like us we would only drive through it for half an hour. We'd duly uploaded our certificates 72 hours before travelling on Wednesday evening, but by Friday morning we still hadn't received an email. 

The weather, mostly cloudy, windy, and punctuated by  a couple of showers, didn't really contribute in lifting our maudlin moods. 

Our original plan had been to return to Shrewsbury, but we decided to give the town a miss and revisit a magical garden we'd discovered back in 2019. Glansevern Hall Garden lies on the banks of the River Severn in Mid Wales, near the lovely little town of Montgomery.

Apparently, a lot had happened in the three years since we were last there. In 2020, the estate was purchased by Naissance, a company which sources, manufactures and supplies natural and organic oils, butters, raw ingredients and skincare products.

The somewhat neglected gardens are currently being restored to their former glory and thus there is no admission charge as such, although people are free to make a donation.  

The gardens were still a joy to explore, with its follies and hidden corners, although some areas seemed to be closed off, which made finding our way to the Lakeside Walk, which circumnavigates the lake and leads you past the Island and its Iron Gazebo, a bit of an enigma. And no, it wasn't our knack for getting lost which was at play here, as apparently other people were having the same problem.

We concluded our visit at the on-site café where we had the one and only cream tea of our holiday. 

I'm sure it would have tasted a lot better, though, if we hadn't been totally stressed out by Eurotunnel's lack of response.

We kept checking our emails and logging into our account all through the evening and at the crack of dawn the next morning, and still nothing! It was only when we'd stopped at one of the services on the motorway later that morning that our account showed the green check we needed to travel. We never got an email at all.  What's more, when we asked at the Flexiplus lounge at the terminal what would have happened if we hadn't received the all clear, the steward replied that he had absolutely no idea.

So, that was it, our first UK holiday in three years over in the blink of an eye.

It'll be business as usual, whatever that is, in my next posts, but for now, I am leaving you with a photo of me looking wistful and having a serious case of the last day of the holidays blues!


  1. I'm always happy to tag along on your holidays-you take us to the nicest spots. Weather aside, you did get at least one beautiful sunset to photograph.
    I've never used a navigation device. I'm too easily distracted to manage it, so in worst case scenario I pull over and look at a map. Not that I go anywhere anymore :)
    You found some great stuff-who can't use more denim skirts? Looking forward to your next trip.

    1. Thanks Goody! I've learned not to rely entirely on a Satnav, and I'm still keeping a map with me. But it's very easy to get lost in a maze of English country lanes! xxx

  2. There's no time limit on travel reports. Well... perhaps we should post them before our next trip but you're meeting that deadline. :)

    1. Thanks Ally, it's a relief I've made it on time :-) xxx

  3. You certainly packed a lot into your holiday trip! And 7 National Trust properties visited - well done - I don't think I've visited that many this year....It was certainly a good idea to buy a pass for NT.

    Wonderful outfits and I am loving the maxi you shortened; what a totally brilliant print. Loved the orange belt with it; you looked very glam indeed. I'd love to know what books you picked up on your travels...

    I am very in awe of you eating only 1 cream tea during your stay - what great restraint.

    Denim skirts are like buses - none at all and then two come along at once!

    Have a great weekend,

    1. Thanks Vronni! The only downside to that NT pass is that it can only be picked up in certain places, though, so you've got to make sure you are near one of those. xxx

  4. I really get a sense of the whirlwind of your vacation, Ann - wow you both packed so much into your trip! Ah, that lovely English weather (it's very similar to my part of the world)! Loving all your outfits, esp. that first maxi skirt and your hemmed dress! It looks like it's covered in buttons!

    Amazing pictures! It's a relief to get those massive holiday posts done, isn't it? Worth it in hindsight, but at the time, ugh, so much work! I truly do appreciate these posts, thank you, my dear friend.

    1. Thank you Sheila! It never feels as if we have packed much into our trips, we do tend to take things very slowly, often making a late start and being back in our cottage by dinner time ... xxx

  5. I always enjoy to read about your adventures and see those cute collages full of timber framed houses and architectural details!.
    I have to recognize that I also visit Marks&Spencer to buy my underwear ;DD. we spent a morning in one of them when in London!
    Love to have a look at local markets and that Market Hall looks amazing (even if its modern architecture feels intimidating!).
    And so fabulous to visit those charities and charming market towns with delightful shops.
    Looking gorgeous in your maxi dress when visiting Attingham Park, and such a beautiful place (no wonder you repeated your visit!). Sorry that Vix couldn't join you. I'm still dreaming on meeting both you! (a girl can dream!).
    And so stressful to wait for that email in your last day of holidays!, so crazy!. Glad that your travel was finally ok.

    1. Thanks Monica! Glad to hear we're not the only ones spending time in M&S during our UK holidays. One day, we MUST meet, let's not just keep it to dreams! xxx

  6. perfect english holidays - gorgeous gardens, stately houses, spooky ponds in ancient woods, pittoresque towns and treasure filled antiques and charity shops - and even a splash of rain from time to time :-D
    and you wore the perfect outfits for it!
    hugsies - sweaty ones...... xxxxx

    1. Thanks Beate, for the lovely comment and yes, even for those sweaty hugs :-) xxx

  7. I am in love with you travelogues from U.K. It’s soo gorgeous there. Sad you can‘t meet Vix. 🥴 Next time.
    With a very huge hug Tina

    1. Thank you Tina, and yes, there is always next year! I'm still sad we didn't meet that time you were stranded in Antwerp ... xxx

  8. Oh I know the feeling Ann. Airways have a knot in my stomach the day we leave. And my heart really hurts, seriously, when we are aboard of the ferry waving goodbye to our beloved England. But..... on the 11th of September we are going again with my sister and her hubby! Loved your vacation journal, we love the same things there. The best for me is when we are in, our, town in Februari or March and feeling like locals! Enjoy your weekend!

    1. Oh, I love visiting the UK out of season too! So envious of you going again in September! xxx

  9. I love hearing about your travels. How exciting that you have another adventure planned for the near future. Shrewsbury looks beautiful. Those pictures are remarkable! I haven't been on a bus since before the pandemic started either. Definitely a difficult transition. It's good that you wore your masks, even if other people decided not to. You can only do your part! That denim maxi skirt is such a great piece! So stylish and really versatile as well.

    St. Laurence's church looks incredible. I love all of your photographs. Thank you for sharing these historic views! Oh goodness! The deer park! How incredible! They look so sweet. I am so glad you had such a memorable time on this holiday. Travel is so special!

    1. Thank you Shannon! Luckily the bus wasn't packed, but I still don't want to use public transport during rush hour ... Those deer ... we never even expected to see any, let alone such cute ones! xxx

  10. Thank you Ann, I have so enjoyed joining you on your U K travels. It brings back so many memories of the half timbered buildings , the National Trust properties and gardens , charity shops and M & S shops for undies .
    Shame you couldn't meet up with Vix and Claire. Next time .

    1. Thank you Jill! I know, there's always next time. Making plans already! xxx

  11. Some very familiar scenes there Ann. I love Shrewsbury market and confess I had no idea that it resembled an ocean liner when viewed from above. We've also hunted for treasures in Stretton Antiques Market many a time and love visiting Rectory Wood. Thank you for the photo of the sheila-na-gig! Really sorry we couldn't meet up with you, but glad you managed to pack so much in. Everything crossed that you are able to visit again next year! xxx

    1. Thanks Claire! I found that photo of Shrewsbury market from the air on Facebook and I was as flummoxed as you! I knew you would love to see that sheila-na-gig but I don't blame you for having missed it. I did my research and thus knew exactly where to look! xxx

  12. You always manage to fit so much in! Even if you couldn't meet up with your friends you still had such a good and busy time! I love that you got to do some shopping too and those denim skirts are lovely! really liking your maxi dress at the end there as well! :)

    Hope you had a great weekend! We had a really fun one.

    Away From The Blue

    1. Thanks Mica! I was really pleased to finally find the exact denim skirts I had in mind. And now they double as holiday souvenirs too! xxx

  13. I'm gutted that we couldn't get to meet up (blasted Covid!) but it's been wonderful following your travels and seeing so many familiar places through your eyes! I think you and Jops have visited more NT properties than us this year.
    Shrewsbury was voted "most boring place to live in the UK" recently - very strange!
    All of your outfits are fabulous particularly that denim skirt, such a quality piece! xxx

    1. hanks Vix, and we were absolutely gutted as well. Let's hope we'll make it next year!
      I've absolutely no idea why Shrewsbury was voted the most boring place to live in the UK. I could think about a couple more likely candidates! xxx

  14. Oh, what a shame you weren't able to meet Vix and Jon. Covid really is a pain in the behind!

    Shrewsbury looks really lovely, even if the Long Mynd does seem like it's out to get you. And it's nice to see the indoor market thriving.

    1. We were totally gutted, but there's always next year I guess. Shrewsbury is a lovely town indeed, both for shopping and sightseeing! xxx

  15. So many beautiful buildings and gardens! I particularly liked the metal vines on the Glansevern garden and their slightly wild appearance ! I guess they will be tidier in future though!

    1. Thank you Laura! The metal vines belong to the Ginkgo Gate, and I think it's rather lovely too. And I do love the slightly wild appearance as well. xxx