Friday, 7 February 2014

Shrewsbury: The Rat Run

 Note- The group I explore with have a strict policy of leaving everything as it was, not vandalizing or stealing, and not exploring or violating any residential properties, nor do we force entry, merely utilize existing openings. Any entry on the blog that does detail a means of access does so under the assumption that the means of access can no longer be reached. Never would we reveal an existing opening over the internet, for fear of negative consequences against the property or person.

The Rat Run is nicknamed as such because of its vast expanse of explorable area that is reminiscent of a lab rat scurrying around a maze. The route covers the rooftops of Pride Hill, which are largely made up of the Darwin Shopping Center and the Pride Hill Shopping center. As such, where shopping centers are concerned, there are miles of tunnels behind the existing shops, loading bays, and underground tunnels. It has yet to be fully explored but it still makes for an epic adventure, given the struggle to get up there.
However, also a prevailing feature of shopping centers is security. There are CCTV cameras on the roof and the security are surprisingly fast getting up there. As such it is important to repeat that we do not steal, force entry, vandalize or compromise the means of access to those who cannot be trusted. Nor do we do this sort of thing with residential areas. We do it purely for the fun of exploring. Click on a picture to see it big.

Let's look at the Rat Run...

I just want to say it takes some real skill to get up here, not just physical but also mental. It's surprisingly easy to accept that you can't do something even when your body is fully capable of it, just because you're not allowed to. And yet straight away we have the means for an epic view and loads of climbing potential. We can see into areas of Shrewsbury previously hidden. The views are amazing, and the exercise is lovely. Anyone who can get up to the Rat Run feels a sense of having earned the right to be there. Here's a view of a garden, only visible from the Rat Run.

 Moving towards the road, it is possible to get a view of Castle Street, from the roof of the Chinese Express. From here, one can see as far as Barclays or down to the castle in the opposite direction. The Rat Run actually leads in the direction of Barclays, but due to security cameras, to progress, walking along the street view side is actually pretty risky. It's better to step away from the street and explore the maze of ladders and stairways.

And a quick stealthy scamper past security cameras awards us a lovely view of the bus station,

Also up here, we can see into the actual shopping center, looking down at the escalators.

And the rooftop isn't level so ladders also award some pretty good views.

Seventy Steps is the name of an alleyway in Shrewsbury that connects Pride Hill to the road near the bus station. When the shopping centers were built back in the 1980s, the alleyway was almost completely wrapped up and turned into a tunnel. Sadly the construction has kind of ruined the gimmick, as the alleyway literally was seventy steps but was then extended, and is now over a hundred steps long! And yet the name "Seventy Steps" remains. The alleyway did face possible closure in 2008 due to hobos and drug users, until Shropshire Council realized that all the needed to do was arrest people, add cameras and lock the gate at night. From the Rat Run, one can view the portion of Seventy Steps that is still above ground before it becomes submerged by the shopping center.

And perhaps the most daunting part of the Rat Run comes shortly after. The security cameras are out of the way by this point and assuming we get this far without being seen, we are now safely at the end of the Darwin Shopping Center. There's a nice street view (photo taken when Burger King was becoming Waitrose and Burton was becoming Cotswold.) In the photo below, the entrance to the Darwin Center can be seen and to the right, a ledge. It's pretty daunting but one must crawl along that ledge in order to advance further. At the end one can drop down onto the roof of the shop. From the ledge one can look up to Barclays (hidden in the second photograph behind a tree). So that should give a good idea of the distance already covered via rooftop. There's a small chillout spot on the roof of Carphone Warehouse with a view of Vodafone and the Dental Clinic. Nobody looks up so it's quite safe.

From here one has a choice- they can abandon the Rat Run completely via a staircase that leads to a doorway that opens on Seventy Steps (but once closed can only be opened from within) or they can drop down to a lower roof and continue on with the Rat Run. But doing so is pretty risky- beyond this carpark is the police station. So we're literally above the law but it can see us if it cares to look. Once past the car park, one is officially onto the Pride Hill Shopping center.

From here one can see that spiral staircase that one might have taken had they chosen to abandon the Rat Run. Back in the day this was apparently the way up until security put up that big door at the bottom. Simpler times, but certainly worse for the casual explorer. When everyone can get somewhere, things get trashed an vandalized. The challenge is welcome in this case.

Once on the Pride Hill Shopping center, one can once more see down through the window into the actual shop. Now this photo is pretty bad, but the lit up object in the middle of two escalators is a glass-walled elevator.

And by following the route around, one comes across shops such as Boots and places like McDonalds. The latter actually provides a nice little spot to just sit and chill- Nobody can get to you from this chillout spot assuming you're good at climbing up smooth, diagonal surfaces. And since people do not look up, it makes for a good place to just sit and watch everyone.

There are perhaps many areas of advancement beyond this- loads of ladders lead to doorways that lead down into the Pride Hill shopping center. The presence of the Razor Wire sign still tickled us though, as it was only readable from the other side of the Razor Wire. Nobody would want to climb back over because if one can read the sign, one can also see that there's nothing over the Razor Wire.

At the end of the Pride Hill rooftops, one is greeted with a pretty good view of the bottom of Pride Hill looking up, and then also down High Street, which joins Pride Hill from the Square. As such it is possible to see the tower from the Rooftop Maze, and the Flag Tower, as they stand on each corner of the High Street.

This alleyway can be jumped over to get onto the roof of Cafe Nero but Cafe Nero's roof tiles are so fragile it's like jumping onto a roof made of paper. If you ever get here, don't do it.

Rumours exist of a radiation testing lab on the roof of the Rat Run, but upon inspection this turned out to be a staffroom and photo development site for Boots. Don't trust Shrewsbury rumours.

But beyond rooftopping, what else is there? Well there is a door somewhere on the roof of the Rat Run (Not saying which one) that is kept open. Assuming you can get past security, there is a whole maze of explorable tunnels. While a lot of these are generic shopping center tunnels connecting the shops to their store rooms and with lifts to the loading bay, there are some interesting features, such as a discarded crèche underneath Pride Hill. This reception desk is curiously at the very far end of the crèche, away from any public means of access, which means that people must have either come all the way through the shopping center, down some stairs, through the crèche, just to check in at reception, or there was once another means of entry. The walls are painted, and some signatures do list the names of the artists, and signs such as The Wall Street Creche, and "Pooh Corner" on a door next to a picture of Winnie the Pooh that leads to child-sized toilets, are all displays of some sense of humour that went into making this place, but the area itself is long since forgotten.

The fire exit led onto Seventy Steps, but given the number of cameras out there we made sure not to make us of this unless we were going to depart the Rat Run swiftly. There is also the remains of a sink down here but that too is long gone.

Further tunnels are rather generic to look at. They go on for miles, twist and turn and are very maze-like. A tunnel connects Pride Hill and Darwin Shopping centers underground and rumour has it that there's another underground tunnel that connects to some of the old Shrewsbury evacuation tunnels of centuries ago. We have yet to find that. We simply scurried like rats and mapped out what we could, but given the levels of security this isn't easy. There is some fun graffiti in some places though.

There are many aspects that still tickle the imagination. Are there other long abandoned areas like the Creche? Do these tunnels really connect to the ancient tunnels of Shrewsbury myth? And what's behind the padlocked door marked No Admittance that's so secretive they need to tape cardboard to the windows?

Furthermore, why do all the lifts skip Floor 2, when there are ladders and stairs that lead to locked doors on Floor 2? What's on Floor 2???

One thing I did like that I'll leave you with is additional rooftop views that can only be obtained from within the Rat Run, but not from the generic rooftop scramble. Sure the rooftops are great for a views but by going down and re-emerging in other areas, there are even more views, and doubtlessly more left to be seen.


  1. In the carpark between Darwin and Pride Hill centres it used to be possible to see part of a tunnel with arched roof. I think they have covered it over since. Any idea what this was?

  2. Hi Emma, I mentioned this in the comments of

    im sure it would have been access... either deliveries or staff into the grand houses of Pride Hill. I dont think the land would have been high enough for a tunnel in the Ravens Meadow area.....

    1. Aha yes that's the one. I'd never managed to work out quite what it was under. Always looked interesting but I couldn't tell what it might lead to

    2. It's behind McDonalds, right? A very interesting downstairs area. It's probably worth checking out.

  3. Do you know when the wall st creche closed? Looks quite familiar

    1. Hi Samantha. Sadly I have no idea when it closed, but you're not the first person to say it looks familiar.

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  5. The location of that Creche is extremely eerie. Why would it be in such a location as beneath Pride Hill?

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