This 16th-century property stands on Wyle Cop, part of the historic centre of Shrewsbury. The…
Poet A E Housman wrote that Shrewsbury was ‘islanded in Severn stream’, and there has never been a better description. The Saxon town was built within the natural moat provided by a tight loop of the Severn, completely encircled except for a small gap, making a perfect defensive site. Even the gap was guarded by a ridge, on which a castle was later built. As it moves away from the town, the Severn continues its crazy meandering and the walk described here is contained within a series of loops to the east of the historic town centre.
You can hardly miss Shrewsbury Abbey, but the Abbey Church that survives today was once part of a much larger complex, with a full range of monastic buildings. Following the dissolution of the monasteries (1536–9) by Henry VIII, the church survived as a parish church, and some of the other buildings continued in use until 1827, when Thomas Telford drove his Holyhead road through the site, proving that the vandalism of road builders is nothing new. The Abbey Church of St Peter and St Paul was founded in 1083 by Roger de Montgomery on the site of an earlier Saxon church, just outside the town walls. The most striking part of the present building is the great west tower, built in the 14th century during the reign of Edward III. Shrewsbury Abbey is the setting for the popular Cadfael novels by Ellis Peters (the pen name of the late Edith Pargeter).
There are buildings from all periods along Abbey Foregate, but Georgian is the dominant style, with an abundance of beautiful brick town houses. Shrewsbury saw extraordinary growth in the second half of the 18th century and it was then that Abbey Foregate was developed as a desirable residential suburb.
Lord Hill’s Column is a sky-high tower of Grinshill stone erected in 1816 to honour the military achievements of Viscount Hill, who fought with Wellington at Waterloo. It is said to be the tallest Doric column in the world.
Walk along Abbey Foregate away from town. Go as far as the Shire Hall (all too obviously a product of the 1960s) and Lord Hill’s Column. Turn left by Lord Hill, past the Crown Courts on Preston Street.
When the road bends left into Portland Crescent, keep straight on along a tarmac track, then take the right fork. When the track ends, the right of way remains well-defined, going straight down a field to the River Severn. Turn left on the Severn Way. After walking through a small wood, you’ll soon pass under an impressive railway bridge, cast at Coalbrookdale Foundry in 1848, the year Shrewsbury acquired its first train service.
The path climbs to the edge of a housing estate and then runs along the edge of Monkmoor Community Woodland, where grassland has been newly planted with young native trees. At the far side of this, a tributary stream blocks the way forward. Follow the obvious main path as it curves left, until you can cross the stream at a footbridge. Turn right to return to the river.
Pass under two road bridges, both carrying the A49. Soon you’ll pass the suburb of Monkmoor, where Wilfred Owen lived as a boy. Pass under a third road bridge and continue on along the riverbank until the footpath turns left and emerges into a street. Turn right here and it will soon lead you back to the Abbey, through an interesting old quarter of town.
Streets and riverside path, impassable in floods
Riverside meadows on edge of town
Lots of local dogs by river, some pavement pounding
OS Explorer 241 Shrewsbury
Abbey Foregate car park opposite Shrewsbury Abbey
At town end of Abbey Foregate
WALKING IN SAFETY
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
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About the area
Perhaps nowhere else in England will you find a county so deeply rural and with so much variety as Shropshire. Choose a clear day, climb to the top of The Wrekin, and look down on that ‘land of lost content’ so wistfully evoked by A E Housman. Peer through your binoculars and trace the course of Britain’s longest river as the Severn sweeps through the county, from the Breidden Hills to Wyre Forest, slicing Shropshire in two. To the north is a patchwork of dairy fields, hedgerows, copses and crops, broken at intervals by rugged sandstone ridges such as Grinshill or Nesscliffe, and dissected by a complex network of canals.
Spilling over the border into neighbouring Cheshire and North Wales is the unique meres and mosses country, with serenely smooth lakes glinting silver, interspersed with russet-tinged expanses of alder-fringed peat bog, where only the cry of the curlew disturbs the silence. South of the Severn lies the Shropshire Hills AONB. It’s only when you walk Wenlock Edge that you fully discover what a magical place it is – glorious woods and unexpectedly steep slopes plunge to innumerable secret valleys, meadows, streams and farmhouses, all tucked away, invisible from the outside world.
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