It’s too late to say Happy New Year. And it’s probably too late to show off the photos I took the day after my wonderful sister-in-law’s wedding deep in the Shropshire countryside at the stunning Ellesmere College.
For those of you not versed in English English, college is not always what you think it is. It has many definitions, for example it could be a section of a well known institution of higher learning, like Oxford or Cambridge. It could also be a place that one goes to learn a trade, like a vocational college. In most cases, however, it’s basically high school. So as an American, if you tell someone who is not versed in American English that your highest education was from a college, well they may think you just went straight from high school into your career. University, or “Uni”, is the common term for further education degree program.
Back to Ellesmere. About 35 minutes through narrow and fast moving roads you’ll find the imposing college campus set amongst rolling green hills. It was founded as a boys only boarding school in 1884, eventually admitting girls in the 1970s. Everyone kept going on about how the building was out of Harry Potter. And I have to say, they aren’t wrong. Sure, it’s not a Scottish castle up on a stony crag. But it does have its gothic influences, and its large hall could very well be imagined to have floating candelabra under its roof.
And on New Year’s Day the family all banded together to tidy up after the wedding and party of the year. Of which I was able to take a few snaps in between trips to the car.
Starting, of course, in the lovely town of Shrewsbury.
Let’s talk about Shrewsbury for one brief moment. This is a market town full of contradictions. And by that I mean of how the name of the town is pronounced. There are two schools of thought, possibly depending on what side of the River Severn you live. Our taxi driver back from Ellesmere told us that Shrewsbury is pronounced how it looks. Shrews-bury. I have found absolutely no evidence that this town was named for its over abundance of the eponymous mole like mammal. However why it also has a pronunciation of Shrows-bury I will not ever know. Apparently the posh pronounce it the latter, and the more common folk say “shrew”. This will be an argument that might never be settled.
The above photograph is taken from the Lion + Pheasant Hotel, a lovely old building with creaky, original floorboards with little sound proofing (we came in from the wedding at about 1:45am and the NYE party was in full, drunken swing downstairs. Directly downstairs from our room. If I had any more energy I’d have been down with them, reveling away. But instead I waited out the thump thump thump in the comfy bed and eventually fell asleep, dreaming of a bloody mary with my cooked breakfast). The street is called Wyle Cop, and it is a very historic street. Look, someone even posted an image of a painting by Louise Raynor of Wyle Cop on wikipedia. How handy:
I wonder if that building on the right is what is now the car park in my photo above? I think so, because when you look at this little pano I took from the window of our hotel, you can see the spire in the distance. What you don’t see is that the building next to the modern, brick car park is a beautiful old tudor style building, very common to the area.
And to look right you can see the bridge over the River Severn. And another stunning blue sky, the first in a long time. The Severn had completely flooded its banks due to the deluge of rain. Good thing we were in a hired SUV. Flooding? What flooding?
And back to Ellesmere we went, dustpan and broom in hand. And camera:
Much mirth was had as after midnight on NYE, this very organ played Jerusalem to the party goers. Everyone sang, raising a glass and toasting their homeland. Well, most of us sang. I actually don’t know all the words, so I just sang this bit:
And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And then I just hummed a bit until this part:
Till we have built jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.
Speaking of, here’s the view from the front of the college.
It’s not the best of panos, as you can see I lost some of that crazy blue sky. But if you can imagine that behind me is this:
Well, you have quite the imposing U-shaped school.
Before we left, we raided the kitchen for a post clean up snack. I marveled at the little signs telling the students what not to do. An amused relative cracked about how American I was to take photos of such things. Hey, I call it art.
American mustard. I just thought it was yellow. Do you think this is how the Chinese feel about Chinese food?
No snacks for Walt, no matter how hard he begged:
“Blech: coffee,” scoffs Walt.
“Oh but I do love marmite.”
Upon leaving Ellesmere, our SUV packed to the gills with presents and decorations to be dropped off in Birmingham, we were dying for a coffee to warm up our chilled fingers. So a stop in to the nearest Welcome Break it was:
A Starbucks is a Starbucks, no mater where you are in the world. Be it LA or just outside Telford.
Speaking of Telford, I am a bit gutted that our time there was so limited, as this area is rich with history. Telford is the location of the Ironbridge Gorge, an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Just mere miles away is this beauty (credit to Jason J Smith via Wikipedia):
And so we didn’t have time to visit it, or nearby Wales, of which the border was only 9 miles away from our hotel in Shrewsbury. But we did have time to visit this little educational hotspot at the Welcome Break car park:
What could this be?
Upon closer inspection we discovered…
Ah yes, a steam hammer. Of course! For use in building the Ironbridge itself.
But instead of exploring the Shropshire countryside and its Iron history. We instead turned back to our car, the trusty white Qashqai, to get us to Birmingham to unload our heavy, post wedding burdens, egg nog lattes in hand.
And a sunset in our wake: