Often overlooked, yet a glorious mix-up of England’s best bits, Shropshire is home to the Shropshire Hills (an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), two nature reserves, waterways, ancient woodlands, heritage, and quirky attractions. The West Midlands’ County takes on a beautiful hue in spring, with adventures including:
Mini-Beasts and Bird Spotting in the Shropshire Hills
With 30 acres of riverside meadows to explore, crammed with wildlife habitats and alive with birdsong, Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre makes for anidyllic spring day out. Birdwatchers can join the resident expert on a series of spring birdwatch events (£10); while throughout the Easter holidays there’s a pond dipping for mini beasts activity (weekdays 1-2.30pm £4.50).The starting point for six circular walks taking in castles, hill forts and countryside vistas, the centre also features a fascinating and permanent Shropshire Hills Through Time exhibition, and an award winning café which uses local produce from the nearby farms. For Easter more information: www.shropshirehillsdiscoverycentre.co.uk
Jump aboard the new heritage rail connecting Oswestry to an Artisan Brewery
From Easter onwards, families will be able to try a new taproom by train service thanks to the opening of a new heritage train service. The volunteer-operated Cambrian Heritage Railways will connect Oswestry town centre to Stonehouse artisan brewery and Henstone distillery on the outskirts of this pretty North Shropshire market town. The opening of the railway link, which is staffed entirely by volunteers, has been long-awaited by the local community and is the result of months of hard work and dedication from all involved.
The 15-minute journey will mean that locals and visitors can forget the car and board the train to discover two of Shropshire’s most lauded small-batch producers and a great antipodean BBQ-style restaurant with outdoor seating too and a live-music programme. Tickets £8 adults, £5 children, or family (2+3) £20 https://cambrianrailways.com/
Take in some heavy metal at The British Ironwork Centre
Set within 60 acres of countryside just outside Oswestry, the British Ironwork Centre’s outdoor sculpture park is a safari experience like no other. With 100 sculptures all made from metal including a gorilla made out of 40,000 spoons, there’s also an extinction trail featuring life-sized metal animals whose existence is threatened. The unusual attraction is also home to the Knife Angel, a poignant exhibit covered with 100,000 steel blades from knives handed in in amnesties around the country, (when it’s not on display elsewhere as part of the National Anti-Violence UK Tour). There’s also a great café, ice-cream parlour, shopping farm animals and outdoor children’s adventure playground. Dog friendly, children free, adults £4 www.britishironworkcentre.co.uk
Total Wipe Out on Alderford Lake’s Aquapark
For some ‘Total Wipeout-style’ fun Alderford, just outside Whitchurch in North Shropshire, offers all sorts of watery action on its 14-acre lake.Opening on 9th April the venue is opening a new 120-person inflatable aquapark – featuring a 3.8m inflatable tower (£16.50). There’s also on-the-water bikes, wild swimming, paddle boarding, kayaking, and canoeing (rentals and lessons available). Lakeside walks, a woodland play area, great café and farmshop mean visitors can make a real day of it. Entry is £2 for adults and £1 for children with on the water activities from £6.95 adults and £5.95 children for all-day swimming. https://alderford.com/
A fantastical exploring at Hawkstone Park Follies
For a springtime walk with a difference, Hawkstone Park Follies is an eccentric Victorian-built wonderland filled series of man-made gullies, caves,
arches, towers, bridges even a hermit’s cottage all set within 100 acres of wooded parkland and sandstone hills. For Easter, 9-24th April there’s a dragon’s egg Easter trail and activities. £11.25 adults, £7.75 children, and family tickets from £32.25 (2+2) (https://www.hawkstoneparkfollies.co.uk/).
Sail back in time on a new Ironbridge Coracle ride
Back in the mists of time, when the Industrial Revolution was just picking up pace, coracles – traditional bowl-shaped crafts made from wood – were used to cross the River Severn before the world’s first Iron Bridge was constructed. This year, visitors to Ironbridge will have the chance to ride in their own coracle, courtesy of Shropshire Raft Tours who will be launching rides down the River Severn in a brand new fleet of coracles, specially commissioned to replicate the originals. The introduction will make Shropshire one of just a handful of places (perhaps the only place) in the UK where coracles can be hired. Coracle hire costs £40 for maximum of four. www.shropshirerafttours.co.uk
Bluebells, bunnies, and frolicking goats at Park Farm Countryside Experience
While the ‘Woodland Bluebell Nature Walk’ at Park Hall Countryside Experience and Farm is a must-do springtime amble – the sightings of babyanimals are also certain to bring gasps of delight. Visitors can interact with the lambs, pet the guinea pigs, and watch the bunnies have fun in their own ‘Burrowland’ themepark. Hours can also be spent mesmerised by the goats as they frolic in their dedicated playground. Here, the spring-born kids literally leap on trampolines and enjoy their very own goat swing. For human kids there’s a huge indoor play barn plus an outdoor adventure playground, zip wires, and vehicles to ride. www.parkhallfarm.co.uk £11.95
Blue dalliance in bluebell woods
Shropshire’s ancient woodlands are home to some of the UK’s most magnificent bluebell displays. This springtime unfurling is at its peak from mid-April to early May making it the idea time to book a stay and go a-wandering in the woods.
During late spring, the National Trust’s Dudmaston Estate is swathed in dainty blue beauties. For the best displays, visitors can follow ‘Captain Geoffrey’s Estate walk,’ through the south facing Long Covert (where the sun’s warmth releases a delicate bluebell fragrance), and onto the ‘Belle Vue’ of the Dingle which is especially deserving of its name during bluebell time. nationaltrust.org.uk/dudmaston. The National Trust’s Wenlock Edge also emits a blue and purple haze every spring with carpets of bluebells as well as wood anemone, violets, primroses – even the odd early purple orchid. Throughout spring walkers (and foragers) along this fascinating limestone ridge will be guaranteed wild garlic too. Shropshire Great Outdoors features a selection of walks from Much Wenlock: http://www.shropshiresgreatoutdoors.co.uk/route/wenlock-homer-head-walk/
Go on a gardening road trip
Garden-lovers looking for a floral road trip will be well placed in North Shropshire where they can discover four of England’s top garden gems Wollerton Old Hall, a favourite of BBC’s Carol Klein and regarded as an inspirational English Garden at its best, its cheerful spring offering includes drifts of anemones and erythroniums with bursts of colour from aquilegias, oriental poppies and drifts of tulips. While The Dorothy Clive Garden offers beautiful hillside spring florals. Also nearby is Hodnet Hall Gardens with its brilliant springtime colour, and unmissable is David Austin Roses
Get hands-on with steam in Shropshire
There’s the chance to be truly transported back to the golden age of steam when travelling aboard the heritage Severn Valley Railway. Running sixteen miles between Bridgnorth and Kidderminster, the line follows the course of the River Severn through rural Shropshire and Worcestershire, on a journey that includes little-changed hillside, valley, and countryside views. Friendly footplate and platform volunteer staff are ready to answer any questions. A highlight of the trip is a ride across the River Severn gorge along the historic Victoria Bridge, which at the time of building was the longest single span cast iron bridge in Britain (it is also where Robert Powell dangled in the 39 Steps!). Throughout the year there are special steam galas and vintage events.
Whole day Freedom of the Line tickets cost £25 for adults and £16.50 for children (4-15yrs) with family tickets from £45 and allow passengers to travel at their leisure between all stations on the line (Bridgnorth – Hampton Loade – Highley – Arley – Bewdley -Kidderminster). Other short hop journeys can be bought from booking offices on the day of travel. For more information: https://www.svr.co.uk/
Peek and pedal into Shrewsbury’s past with a new ‘Heritage by E-Bike trail’
Ideal for a springtime outing, local Shrewsbury operator www.shrewsburyebikehire.co.uk has a created two new sightseeing by cycle heritage trail loops. Taking cyclists through the county town’s ‘shuts and passages’ (crooked medieval alleyways that criss-cross the town centre), along the River Severn pathway and beyond, each free heritage trail has its own dedicated map featuring frequent stops accompanied by written commentary about each location and its history.
Departing from the Shrewsbury E-Bike hire shop on Claremont Hill, the shorter inner route heads through Shrewsbury’s backstreets, taking in 13 sites of interest including Shrewsbury Castle, the Library (Charles Darwin’s childhood school), medieval churches, black and white Tudor houses and the distinctive red stone Abbey. The slightly longer outer loop trail features 20 stops and heads along the town’s English and Welsh bridges, meanders the River Severn that gently loops the town, before heading slightly out of town to stop beside the Shrewsbury Prison as well as the impressive Flaxmill Maltings, home to the world’s first iron-framed building.
The cost of a half day hire, including a cycle helmet, repair kit, lock and full e-bike charge, is from £35 per bike, with a full day £60. Each trail is designed to take half a day or less depending on the time spent at each suggested stop-off location. For more information, Tel: 01743 244800 or visit www.shrewsburyebikehire.co.uk
Indulge in the new Foodie Trails
Visit Shropshire’s collection of foodie trails is a great reason to visit in spring. Covering the four points of the county, it gives visitors a guide to the best that Shropshire has to offer, including outstanding food producers and places to stock up on local produce, from delis to butchers and farm shops to markets. With its farming heritage and fertile countryside, Shropshire is a slice of heaven for foodies, offering a plethora of enticing cafés, pubs and restaurants committed to serving food that is seasonal and locally sourced – whether that be grown, reared, produced, or even sometimes foraged. The trails offer suggestions to get the most out of any foodie visit to the county.