Sunday, 23 August 2015

Whitchurch, Shropshire

We’re taking a detour for a few weeks and resurrecting Life in Midlands Towns – our first stop is Whitchurch in Shropshire.

I’d been meaning to go to Whitchurch over the years as many of our road trips have taken us through Cheshire, just over the border, but none of the roads ever led through Whitchurch.  As we were going to Ludlow for a couple of days, I made sure our route took us through Whitchurch so we could stop off and have lunch.

Getting to Whitchurch means getting on the M62, M6, M56, exit junction 10 onto the A49 and keep on going until the B5476 which takes you into Whitchurch.  There is another route that takes you by Chester which is 5 minutes quicker but 10 miles longer.  As I spend far too much time on the motorways these days, I opted for the pretty route instead.
We took advantage of 2 hours free parking in Iceland’s car park on the edge of town.  It’s only a short walk into Whitchurch town centre so it was fine.

My first impression was that it’s a bit like Nantwich, but with less people.  It’s a pretty little place with nice architecture including some black and white buildings (the Natwest looks really good) and lots of Farrow and Ball neutral paints going on with a touch of Cath Kidson in the d├ęcor.  It is one of those places that looks typically English, and tourists like to visit, although I don’t really think that many tourists have found Whitchurch, sadly.  Interestingly, Whitchurch has a new Civic Centre built from wood and brick, and whilst it doesn’t blend in with the rest of the town, I like it a lot as it is both refreshingly modern and sympathetic to the existing architecture.  Gold stars for town planning there!
There are quite a few independent shops and pubs in Whitchurch, but it was sad to see quite a few had closed down too.  I guess that’s partly due to the location, which is miles from the nearest motorway and large populations that you’d find in big towns and cities.  On the upside there is still an independent book shop in town, which is always a positive sign although the name “Bookshrop” is a bad pun in my world.  It was great to see in the centre of town there was a farmer’s market.  If we had been going home from our trip, rather than heading off on one, I would have bought a car boot full load of food as it looked so tasty.

We did a tour of the charity shops, naturally.  One shop we noticed was going all-out vintage, which I like to see as it makes a change from the standard charity shops.  However Neil didn’t find much, but Whitchurch didn’t strike me as a music town.  On the other hand I picked up a copy of Tony Parsons’ “The Murder Bag”.  Normally I’m don’t read Tony Parsons as I tend to read crime fiction, though I hadn’t realised he’d started to write crime fiction now too.  I have to say it was a good effort although the ending tailed off a bit.  It was a gripping read though and it only took me three days to finish.  For a first crime novel it was a great start and I look forward to reading more of his crime books. 
We did find a slightly rambling antique centre in Whitchurch and I always love browsing these places.  It was definitely more vintage than antique – honestly who will buy a cross stitch picture for £25 when you can find them for £3 in charity shops?  That said, it was nice enough and you can also pick up some chalk paint there (not the Annie Sloan’s stuff though).  I was a bit more interested in eavesdropping on a conversation where a young lad was talking about what he’ll do when he finishes his apprenticeship.  He plans to go to America, so I guess he must be doing some sort of engineering apprenticeship, as I can’t imagine an admin one will take you that far outside the borders of Shropshire.

We did find something to eat at the local chip shop called Chester’s on Green End.  It was busy and the food was nice.   I had fish and chips and Neil had a battered burger.  In all honesty, battered burger doesn’t float my boat, but Neil always has to order them when he sees them on the menu –  I’m sure this is a Cheshire / Shropshire thing.
We couldn’t stay too long as we had to get to Ludlow, but I was really pleased we’d finally made it to Whitchurch.  It’s one of those places that gets overlooked as it’s in the middle of nowhere and a chore to get to.  We’ve been to other northern Shropshire towns like Market Drayton and Oswestry over the years and it seems Whitchurch has suffered like them from the recession.  This is a nice little place to visit and the locals are really making an effort to make this place somewhere pleasant to come.  So if you are planning a trip to Shropshire, try to stop in Whitchurch for a bite to eat, but don’t blame me if you get stuck behind tractors on the way!