Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Presthope Tunnel

(Disclaimer: Joking aside, I fully understand the risks/dangers involved in these adventures and do so in the full knowledge of what could happen. I don't encourage or condone and I accept no responsibility for anyone else following in my footsteps. Under UK law, trespass without force is a civil offence. I never break into a place, I never take any items and I never cause any damage, as such no criminal offences have been committed in the making of this blog. I will not disclose a location, or means of entry. I leave the building as I find it and only enter to take photographs for my own pleasure and to document the building.)

I've never done a railway tunnel before, but I've always wanted to. I find them really photogenic and interesting. In addition to that, they're eerie, silent testaments to an older era, when the train lines around the UK were much more abundant. Since the more well known Bridgnorth tunnel was quite formidably secured, and we don't force entry ever, I needed to get my tunnel fix elsewhere.
Tunnels can be hard to find, even if one knows the basic whereabouts, and this one was no exception, hidden in dense woodland.  It also didn't help that we approached in the dead of night.

If you think it's scary to come here in the dead of night, look at it this way- the interior of the tunnel is pitch black anyway. The most we'd get now is roosting pigeons or something. Personally pigeons give me the willies ever since I got trapped in a derelict brothel with eight of them flapping around terrified in the dark. But on rooftop adventures they're somewhat more tolerable. They just fly away.
But of course, if given a choice of avian to deal with, I'd go with a goose, and name it Bethia Barleycorn.

Onto the tunnel!

The railway system of the UK is the oldest in the world, with its earliest examples dating back to the 1560s, when they used wooden wagons pulled along by animals, mainly for the conveyance of coal and other goods. These lines were nowhere near as sprawling as they were today, rather made up of small localised lines owned by various companies.

Over time, the technology became more refined, most notably with the introduction of iron rails in 1793. And then during the 19th Century, it all grew very rapidly, with the steam locomotive being invented in 1802, and trains being opened for passenger use in 1830. From that point on, trains became quite the craze. All the little privately owned isolated tracks were linked, creating a countrywide network, although still run by dozens of competing companies. The craze reached its peak in 1846 with the planning of a few new proposed routes totalling around 15,300km of extra tracks. However, a third of these lines were never actually built, due to companies collapsing, being bought out, or turning out to be fraudulently channeling investors money into other projects. Nevertheless, Britain still ended up with a network of some 37,720km of tracks crossing the country.

And then during the first world war, it was all brought under government control.

That never ends well. Never have reptiles do a mammals job.

This particular tunnel was part of a railway line that stretched from Buildwas near Ironbridge to the Marsh Farm junction just north of Craven Arms in South Shropshire. The tracks from Much Wenlock to Buildwas opened in 1864. Later that year, Much Wenlock was then connected via rail to the nearby Presthope, and then in 1867 the remaining eleven miles to Craven Arms were completed, with additional stations at Rushbury, and Harton Road.

The tunnel was a reluctant addition. Those planning the track would have preferred to have a regular over-ground train line, but they were met with harsh resistance from local landowners, and so they were forced instead to plot the track 207 yards underground.

There's really not a lot I can personally say about the tunnel. Unlike a great many places that I go to, this is pretty straightforward, a linear path from one opening to the next, with nothing really to comment on. There's a small stream running through it.
I'm sure if I worked for the mainstream media, I could put a nefarious twist on this in order to sell a newspaper and get people angry, but honestly, I'm just here to appreciate that which has come before me.

Although if I really wanted, I could make it more terrifying by photoshopping a stampede of angry llamas charging out of the shadows...

For those who don't know, railway tunnels tend to have these archways so that maintenance workers can refuge from passing trains.

While the decline of railways began between 1923 and 1939 when about 2,100km of tracks closed, the most notorious blow to the industry was what is now referred to as the Beeching Cut.

In 1955 a modernization plan was put forward, replacing the traditional steam engine with the superior diesel engine. At the time, their largest competition was road transport, and it was predicted that this development, while costly, would be a worthwhile investment, because there would be a passenger increase due to the new technology.

This didn't happen, and by 1961, it was reported that they were suffering financial losses of about £300,000 a day. And if you think that's a painful amount to lose, just remember, this was 1961. Due to inflation, this value today is several million. So it really wasn't financially viable to keep so many lines or stations open.
A chap named Dr Robert Beeching passed a report that saw some 2,363 stations in the UK closed, as well as about 8000km of railway line, mostly rural. The British countryside is littered with former railway lines, and the remains of railway platforms where stations used to be. Some that spring to mind in the Shropshire area can be found in Dorrington, Baschurch, and perhaps the most well known, Oswestry. Protests from locals did save a few lines, but many were closed for good, and Beeching was forever known as the man who brought about the mass closure of Britains railways.

For this particular route, it was closed to passengers in 1951, although the line remained active from Buildwas to Much Wenlock. However, this tunnel was still utilised for goods transport until 1960. The passenger timetables were taken down in 1962, and the line faced full closure in 1963.

Much later in 2012, plans were drawn up to set up a bridleway, for horse riders, along this tunnel but as of yet these plans have not seen fruition. If they ever do, the tunnel could be put to good use, and be more than just a crumbling ruin in the woods.

Probably also worth noting is that in 1954 the area surrounding this tunnel, and part of the tunnel itself, were officially designated a site of special scientific interest, due to its geology.

And here we are at the other side, and the adventure comes to an end.
To conclude, the tunnel is incredibly eerie, and photogenic. I personally find the mass closure of various railways across the UK oddly fascinating in that it's given us plenty of historic ruins dotted around, but as someone who loves a train ride, it's somewhat inconvenient. I could be getting a train to work every day if it wasn't for that Beeching chap.

Rumours are out there of personal railway carriages for the government, which were established in preparation to whisk them away to the countryside during the second world war, and then hidden inside old railway tunnels when the war ended. Whether this is true or not, I don't know. It would be cool to find and explore those. Although as I've learned, messing with the Illuminati is like prodding a giants hornets nest, and I certainly don't want to Die In A Nasty Accident.

It's not going to stop me pointing out that our prime minister is named after shampoo, while Americas president is named after flatulence and looks like the child of Miss Trunchbull and the Lorax.

However, for a short tunnel in the middle of nowhere, I enjoyed it. But then, I have fond memories of the now demolished "Nuisance House" too. I'm easily pleased, and always wanting to document the legacy of humankind and all the stuff we leave behind us as we bulldoze our way through existence.
I think centuries from now, the time before the internet will be regarded in much the same way as we regard the dark ages. The dark ages weren't literally dark, but they are called that because there are barely any records of it, unlike the romans before them. The internet is a means of immortalising everything. It is history being recorded. I see absolutely nothing morally wrong with sneaking into places like this to photograph them for future generations. It sure spices things up for those poor 40th Century historians studying the 21st Century and wading through an ocean of pointless Facebook updates. You haven't been born yet, but if you're reading this, you're welcome.

My next blog will be on my National blog as Jess and I explore a derelict mansion. After that we'll be back here for some south-Shropshire goodness.
In the meantime, follow my Instagram, my Twitter, like my Facebook, and subscribe to Jess's Youtube so that you can listen to my annoying voice too.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, 20 April 2019

The Old Shawbirch

(Disclaimer: Joking aside, I fully understand the risks/dangers involved in these adventures and do so in the full knowledge of what could happen. I don't encourage or condone and I accept no responsibility for anyone else following in my footsteps. Under UK law, trespass without force is a civil offence, and as such to simply enter a derelict property through an available opening is not a criminal offence. I never break into a place, I never take any items and I never cause any damage, as such no criminal offences have been committed in the making of this blog. I will not disclose a location, or means of entry. I leave the building as I find it and only enter to take photographs for my own pleasure and to document the building.)

Hello! It's this blogs first post of 2019. What happened? Well, tired of this blogs increasingly inaccurate title, I decided to settle for mildly inaccurate instead, and make a third blog for non-Shropshire adventures. I think I have about five blogs now, but only three get regular updates... Anyway, todays adventure is in Telford, which means I get to post about it in the Shropshire blog, inaccurately titled Shrewsbury. Telfords close enough to Shrewsbury, right? You can spit at one town from the other, and locals from each frequently do.

If you've not been following the other blog, then I do recommend you check out Everywhere From Where You Are Not. I've been chased by llamas, and been called a misogynist for saying that llamas are more dangerous than the way men sit (Yeah it didn't make any sense to me either, but hey-ho, it's the internet in 2019), I've photographed bats under crumbling lunatic asylums, I've been rooftopping in Birmingham, screaming my defiance at Storm Freya, I've been banned from Facebook for pointing out that part in the bible where Jesus and Judas make out, and when I've not been ostracized for the bedroom antics of people I've never met because they died aproximately two-thousand years before I was even a sperm bravely lunging for an egg, I've been generally just refusing to die again and again and again, much to the disappointment of everyone who has ever met me.

And now we're back in Shropshire!
In a relatively nice part of Telford, looking at a derelict pub.

British pub culture is in a sad state of decline, with more and more closing every year. The general death blow of the pub culture is said to be the smoking ban of 2007, although it's taking a while for the victim to bleed to death. There are of course other things to consider, such as drink driving laws, and the fact that supermarket alcohol is cheaper.

Either way, the closure of pubs is sad. Pubs are communual. People come for the atmosphere, for the social aspect, to mingle with their community, and to get away from boredom and loneliness at home. But insufficient trade is slowly killing off the traditional British pub. We're witnessing the end of an era, and as such I think it's important to document them before they're gone.

The Old Shawbirch closed for good in 2009. It's taken ten years for someone to finally get round to demolishing it, and in that time it has attracted looters, vandals and on one notable occasion someone abandoned a car on the road outside it in 2014, causing all kinds of chaos. Due to the vandalism, finding a way in was pretty easy, because many of the windows were smashed. After all, why would anyone pay to repair a window when the pubs about to be pulled down?

And what can we expect to be built on the site of the Old Shawbirch? Houses, of course. Living accomodation for a population that will have fewer leisure facilities.

Protruding from the wall of the pub are a number of flag poles, which once waved the Union Jack and England flag. They're long gone now. Check out the wooden board peeling off the window. Whoever is in charge really doesn't care about maintaining the buildings inpenatrability.

Streetview doesn't go back far enough to show the pub when it was open, but luckily I've been able to find old photographs of it. This one dates back to around 1956.

As you can see, the pubs mostly unchanged, although they've since had a ramp and porch installed on the far door.

 The pub shows up on maps from the 1800s where it's referred to as the Old Shaw Birch, and allegedly predates 1800. The local area back then was a lot more rural. It has a few houses and a chapel lining that street, but it was clearly just a village. The surrounding streets and dwellings weren't there, but they began popping up throughout the 20th Century. This was before "Telford" as we know it today even existed. Telford basically started out as a whole cluster of smaller settlements which were then joined together by one central shopping extravaganza at some point in the 1980s and collectively name Telford. Telford is now one of the fastest growing towns in the UK and judging by the ridiculous amount of roundabouts, one can only assume that the developers rested their cups of tea on the site blueprints, and someone mistook the rings for road plans, but at the time it was meant to be this massive, positive development. You can find adverts for Telford on Youtube. This one is particularly popular. 

But back to the Old Shawbirch!

Across the road is a carpark, which I presume once belonged to the pub, given that it has a sign for it. When the pub closed, the council had it fenced up, presumably to stop people parking up for free, or maybe to stop it being used for dogging and any other antisocial behaviour.
Not that dogging is particularly antisocial.

Next to this carpark there was once another pub called The Royal Exchange, which was demolished in the 1980s. However, I heard a rumour that it was rebuilt brick-by-brick at Blists Hill. Blists Hill, for those who don't know, is a museum of the Victorian era designed as a replica of a Victorian town. Numerous old buildings throughout Shropshire and the West Midlands were "removed" and put here, and it all looks incredibly authentic. The staff themselves dress for the era, and work in the shops, banks and pubs and are very much in character.
Upon looking into it, it turned out to be untrue that the Royal Exchange was rebuilt in Blists Hill, but no matter, you should check out Blists Hill anyway!

At one point in the 20th Century, the two pubs, the Royal Exchange and the Old Shawbirch were apparently ran by the same families, but I'm not sure when or for how long.

Slipping inside the Shawbirch was pretty simplistic, but the interior was trashed.

 The majority of people who drank here seem to have fond memories, but in a straight up contrast to that, I did read a harsh review of the pub dated 2014, after the pub had closed, which claimed that it was very much a locals pub and well known for trouble. It then went on to mention the demolition of the Royal Exchange across the road, saying that they demolished the wrong pub.

See, to me that's a silly thing to say. If you dislike the crowd in a pub, demolishing that pub won't fix a thing if you. The crowd would have just gone somewhere else, most likely in this hypthetical situation, the Royal Exchange across the road. So the statement is instantly flawed.
The reviewers problem was with the crowd, not the pub, and as much as we'd all like to sometimes, we can't demolish buildings that have people in them. Especially when they're in the middle of a drink. That would be rude.

In stark contrast, people who actually drank here in its glory days think that it was a great place to go.

But then anyone viewing a locals pub from an outsiders perspective is always going to feel a little uncomfortable. It doesn't necessarily make the pub bad, but when someone sets foot in an environment where everyone knows each other, and they stick out like a nun at a swingers club, it can be a little intimidating. But the locals, the ones who actually used the Old Shawbirch on a regular basis, all seem to view its closure as a loss to a tight-knit local community.

The pub has a small claim to fame, in that one of the former landlords sons the "Brain of Sport" competition in 1978, and had his trophy presented to him by Anita Lonsbrough, who won the gold medal for swimming in the 1960 olympics.
For those who don't know, Brain of Sport was a sports-based quiz on BBC Radio 2 from 1975 to 1989. It was before my time.

The landlords sons were such formidable quizzers that they even inspired the formation of another local charity quiz event that was ran from 1980 to 1993, being the longest running quiz event in the UK at their time and raising thousands for various charities.

Thats quite an impressive legacy for a small, locals pub. 

The bar is somewhere underneath this pile of doors and window frames.

The pub was thriving in terms of various activities, with a pool table, dart board, bingo, dominoes, karaoke nights, as well as being the meeting place for a cycling club and an air rifle club. By one account, dance classes were held here about 75 years ago too. One of the landlords was also said to have bred budgies which he kept in an aviary out back.
It sounds like the sort of place where things were never dull.

The decade following its closure certainly hasn't been dull either. I mean look at this mess. It's been completely trashed.

Here's an old diary dated 2007-2008.

This book, The Joy of Frogs, was published in 1985 according to Amazon, and is full of erotic illustrations, featuring frogs.

Here's an old cigarette machine.

But best of all, the dartboards still has scores written up from the last game. I love stuff like this.

There's some photos from a trip to the zoo.

Here's a newspaper from 2007, talking about cracking down on yobs. An ironic find given that the pub has been smashed and trashed.

Speaking of smashed and trashed, it's time to take a peek at the best part of any derelict building, the toilets.

And that's just the ladies. Onto the gents...

There's a urinal in here somewhere...

Well, they're still in better condition than the toilets in some active pubs and clubs.

Moving on upstairs, I wasn't expecting to find much. Often in these derelict pubs, we find evidence of squatters in the upper floors, and a bit of graffiti. This one had none of that but it did have a stray toilet seat...

People actually lived up here once, so it is pretty sad to see it like this. This was someones home.

I'm loving the walls of this toilet.

Here's the kitchen.

This was probably the oddest room. The floorboards have been yanked up, no doubt by metal thieves. But the most interesting aspect is that someone has arranged the seats in a rather social manner, as if people were chilling up here. The seats are pretty nice, too, and still in good condition.

Curiously, there's a safe in the floor, which I assume would ordinarily be concealed. It seems that at some point, someone quite carefully removed the covering. However, the safe is locked.

There was one room upstairs that had been locked, but in the room next to it, someone had very messily kicked the wall through.

Quite frankly, it looks like someone really wanted to get into that locked room. But even so, I think this is overkill. Could they not have kicked the locked door down instead? Or maybe just one hole in the wall to climb in through What could possibly have been in this room that someone wanted to access it this badly?

Well, theres this big safe. I guess that might have been it. I somehow didn't get a shot of this that didn't have Jess's feet in it, but she was providing the light source.
There's an ash tray on the safe, and furniture situated around it for sitting on. It's almost as if someone was hanging out up here.

Apparently the Shropshire Air Rifle Team used one of the rooms upstairs, which I assume is this one given that it's the largest. That wooden beam is actually holding a wooden board over a window.

This sign being up here would certainly suggest that drinks were served up here too, but I don't know for sure.

Lastly, we have the cellar. A lot of people find these creepy, but my main concern with dealing with anything underground is flooding.

It's fairly ordinary as far as pub cellars go. I have yet to find anything too insane, like medieval torture equipment or something.

That's all I have for the Old Shawbirch.
In conclusion, I'm always a little sad to see pubs go down, even if it's not a pub that I actually went to in its glory days. Pubs are historically the hub of the community, where people would come to meet. For many they are a home-from-home.
More and more pubs have been closing, along with countless other leisure facilities, to make way for housing, which means communities will grow, but these newcomers will have fewer things to do in their local areas.
What's important, I think, is that the history is documented before it's bulldozed and gone for good.

Next blog post, I'm checking out something else in Shropshire, and then on my other blog I'm checking out a derelict mansion. In the meantime, if you like my Facebook page, you'll never miss an update. Also follow me on Instagram and Twitter.

Thanks for reading!