Catch-Me-If-You-Can… the beauty of Bridgnorth

England – Bridgnorth

View over Low Town, Bridgnorth

Woolly says – I’d been sat watching the rain for several hours, it didn’t seem fair that the sun had been blazing down all week but come to Jo’s day off and the heavens had opened, I sighed.

The amount of sighing and the volume of them had woken me up, I joined my small companion in the window and glimpsed a small amount of brightness overhead, maybe a cup of tea and the rain might have stopped.

Views of the river, Bridgnorth

Woolly says – As Jo sipped on her drink and I crunched on my toast I decided to fill her in on our day’s destination.  The ancient market town of Bridgnorth is in Shropshire and straddles the River Severn, made up of high town and low town the two areas are linked by many sets of steps or for those with smaller paws, a cliff railway.  Inhabited since the Saxons in 912 AD the pictures looked lovely and certainly well worth a visit.  As I wiped the marmalade from my tail….note to myself, sitting in the jar does seem to make a mess…. Jo had showered and changed and the rain had disappeared, I squealed in delight and raced to the car.  Having left Dudley behind, the road opened up to wonderful countryside which gave me lots to look at as well as spotting buds on the trees and hugely pregnant sheep in the fields.  I had decided that we would cover the town first and then a couple of places on the outskirts, as we drove through the small streets it appeared that parking was going to be an issue.

Having driven through Low Town and been unsuccessful in our mission to park, we seemed to be on a road leading away from the higher levels of the town, passing Daniels Mill my small friend started to bounce up and down which seemed to indicate that we needed to stop.

Woolly says – It might not have been first on my list of places to see today but as we were there it seemed rude not to stop.  Jo pulled int the driveway to be met by a large sign with the words ‘Closed Today’ printed in big black letters, of course it was closed this is us!  We headed off and retraced our steps until we found ourselves in the High Town area and Jo who seemed somewhat flustered finally found a space to squeeze the car into.

Driving through small roads with people walking in the middle of them isn’t easy but I was rather proud of my ability to get into the smallest space on the car park.

St Mary’s Church

Woolly says – The most predominant building of the town was St Mary’s Church which could be seen for miles.  The College of St. Mary Magdalen, Bridgnorth was founded as a royal free chapel and built within the castle grounds.  The nave, chancel and western tower were probably built around 1238, with further parts being added later.  Having checked my handy street map it appeared that it was close by and seemed a good point at which to start.  Although large, other than its rather nice tower the church itself wasn’t a great beauty and having peered through the glass doors it seemed that we wouldn’t be able to venture inside as a service was in progress, I tutted in annoyance and wandered past and into the castle grounds.

The first castle in Bridgnorth was built between 1098 and 1101 just prior to the Norman Conquests, what once would have taken up a huge area of the hilltop was now just a collapsing keep with a leaning angle of fifteen degrees, it didn’t look none to stable.  It did however make for a lovely picture and having taken the required number of shots we wandered around the park that the castle now stands in which gave us lovely views of the river far below and the steam from the engines at the train station, I looked up at Jo who smiled and agreed that yes we would go and have a closer look in a while, I mean what’s not to love about a steam train!

As we approached the main street it seemed to be heaving with people eager to get a bargain at the Saturday market, dodging feet became something of a problem and by the time we had made it to the town hall Jo had taken pity on me and had decided that carrying was a more sensible option.

This would at least mean everyone stopped falling over him as he kept stopping to take in the lovely buildings.

Woolly says – Well they were worth stopping for!  Having admired what had once been a mid 17th Century coaching inn formerly known as the swam which had know turned into a brand name coffee shop, I turned my attention to the former town hall.  Sat in the middle of the street, its rather impressive structure had been built in 1652 and had served as the administration headquarters for many centuries.  The small panes of stained glass looked in very good repair and it was just a shame that it’s open air centre was filled with market stalls which meant it was difficult to see the structure more fully. 

North Gate

We walked towards the North Gate, which is the only one of the five that had once encircled the town that remains, a sign pointed towards a museum, but just as I was about to trot up the steep steps to take a closer look and learn more about the gates, I realised that it was closed….well of course it was… I looked at Jo who shrugged and suggested that we find St Leonard’s Church.

Built on the highest point of the town the lovely building dated to around 1250, it sat in the middle of the green surrounded by the former Alms’ houses, the Grammar School and Richard Baxter’s house, who was a puritan preacher who had lived there in the sixteen hundreds.  All splendid buildings and not a single one open for a mammoth to view!

Steps to Low Town

With the promise of a ride on the cliff railway we ambled onwards admiring the small lanes and half timbered buildings that the town seemed to be full of.

The Cliff Railway

Woolly says – Until recently the small railway had been the only inland Cliff Railway that was still working in the UK, built in 1892 it had provided much relief for the residents of the lower town and the higher town meaning that they no longer had to climb the 220 steps from one place to another.  As we climbed inside the carriage the 111 foot descent looked a little steep for my liking but I barely had time to panic before reaching the bottom.

Low Town provided us with views across the murky looking Severn River and once Jo had filled the camera with some more photographs, we turned our attention to the roads that could be taken back to the top, not that I had any intention of walking up them and did a double check to make sure that I had my return railway ticket.  Following behind my human I padded my way upwards and towards Bishop Percy’s House.  Built in 1580 it had been home to the Bishop on his move from Dromore in County Down, Ireland, now it merely housed people supping a pint of real ale and enjoying the views across the river.

As the steep incline of the road seemed to be increasing, we headed downwards and climbed back onto the small railway to return us to the top of the town once more.

It had been a lovely walk round and my small companions delight at finding decorated trains along our route had added to his joy.  The art trail had been based on the locomotive which had hauled the world’s first fare paying passenger train, Catch-me-if-you which was built in 1808. Our small tour had already allowed us to find five of the twelve on display and I had a feeling that he was likely to find another one at our final point of call.

Woolly says – A short drive from the top of the town to the bottom left us near to the famous Severn Valley Railway, we had visited the Kidderminster station quite a few years ago with my bestie Sion,  https://www.travelblog.org/Europe/United-Kingdom/Wales/Ceredigion/Aberystwyth/blog-820304.html and I was eager to see how Bridgnorth’s station compared.

Imagine my delight when the first train that hove into view was the actual ‘Catch-me-if-you-can’ which seemed to be having a rest on one of the side tracks, having admired its long stove pipe and small barrelled body I was eager to see more.

As we arrived on the small platform a cloud of steam came into sight pulling an enormous amount of carriages, Jo was at the ready and poised for action as the engine puffed by and I couldn’t resist a small ‘toot toot’ as the engine went past us. 

Having climbed up the stairs of the overhead bridge I could see the workmen preparing her for the next journey which would be to Kidderminster, I looked at Jo who shook her head and muttered ‘next time Woolly’, I sighed.  Across the way was a large black engine which was being polished by its team of volunteers, a fine specimen to say the least, with no museum to visit and having watched the train depart I turned my back to the station only to discover yet another of the art trail trains, this one decorated in old newspapers, what a delight and a great end to the day.