Saturday, 29 August 2015

Harlescott Railway Signal Box (or why I shouldn't write at 4am)

The following is clearly a work of fiction. You can tell it's a work of fiction, because the subject of the adventure no longer exists. If you recall, I mentioned two posts ago that I had failed to get in there on the day before it was demolished. So how else other than time travel is an explorer meant to get there???

Well it turns out, since this is a fictional story, that time travel was indeed the answer. And don't seem so surprised! Loads of stories featured here are fictional. What, you thought someone could be this good looking in real life? No, beyond The Explorer, at the real heart of "Shrewsbury from where you are not" is a mostly faceless lady we here in the fictional universe know as The Artist. We tried referring to her as God once, but Charles Darwin got angry. And so did Westboro Baptist Church, but they're always angry so it's okay.

 As you can see from the early concept art, That Explorer Person has laser eyes gained by radiation exposure when exploring Chernobyl, yet another fictional adventure. The Artist, with her brilliant talent, actually sits and paints all the images you see here at Shrewsbury From Where You Are Not. What, you don't believe me??? Here's what Shrewsbury looks like before she colours it in.

But I digress magnificently, for I am a fictional character without a plot. But to retrace my steps, I did indeed find a time machine, nestled deep in the cavernous cellar of the last articles subject, Stoke Grange! There I sought the ultimate adventure. I would set my sights on... TELETUBBY LAND!!!

*cue dramatic music*

This image does not belong to me or The Artist. No, unlike me and my photos, it's real! Teletubby Land was a real, derelict and abandoned historical location up until 2013 when it gained a Gremlin infestation and the land owners decided to demolish the entire thing and fill it with water.

I don't think they saw the movie. That's so going to backfire on them. But the point is, since I didn't get a chance to explore it when it was there, I decided to utilize time travel. However, since the Artist didn't write trans-chrono physics into my skill set (I know right, laser eyes and knockout breasts, but no idea how to program a time machine) I ended up not at Teletubby Land, but back in Shrewsbury, just prior to the railway signal boxes demolition.
So why waste the adventure?

  (LEGAL DISCLAIMER: As an explorer, I do not force entry, vandalize, steal, or disclose means of entry. Trespass without forced entry is a civil offence rather than a criminal one, which isn't worth acting on unless one causes damage, steals, has ill intent, etc. I simply photograph and leave everything as I find it. I do not condone breaking and entering, and I do not condone what I do. I'm a danger to myself and a terrible role model. I'm also a fictional character retelling a fictional adventure, so none of this really applies)

The derelict Harlescott Signal Box was, to my initial disapointment, baricaded by a measely piece of wood nailed over the top of the door, preventing my access. However, the ground floor door was open...

 Those verticle metal bits along the side are the mechanisms for the signal levers. Naturally, I didn't touch them just in case any were still connected. But as you can see, some of them are lying on the floor already, since the place was derelict.

Here's an old telephone exchange.

 And look guys, railway signal boxes were apparently affected by window tax back in the day too!

 Here's a closer look at those lever mechanisms.

Anyway, in spite of the upstairs door being locked, the fact that numerous levers had been removed made it completely possible to access the top floor via the hole in the floor where the lever used to be. Thus proving my fictionality. No way would I be so inventive with getting somewhere if I was a real human being!

Here's a sign with some interesting communication information on it.

In the corner was a small handwashing area, which still had paper towels in the dispenser, but no sink.

Where was the toilet? Outside, in a little room at the exact opposite end of the building to the actual door. So if one worked here, and needed to trot off the the loo, one then would have to come all the way back upstairs to the work area to wash their hands, which is kinda weird.

Hmm... It's still cleaner than some toilets in some of Shrewsburys pubs and clubs.

And that about sums up the Harlescott Railway Box. It was demolished less than 24 hours later, which means that if this wasn't a work of fiction, I would very likely be the last person to set foot in this place and appreciate it prior to its demolition.

In the days following the demolition, numerous groups online were sharing old memories of this place, and it was obvious that this signal box had quite a lot of sentimental value to the right social circles. And of course, it wasn't exactly in the way, so its demolition seems rather pointless. Doubly so given how much people love their old buildings.

But regardless, if you have any information or stories about this place or any other place mentioned on "Shrewsbury From Where You Are Not" please get in touch. I can be reached via various social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. In the meantime, if there's any part of Shropshire thats secret, forgotten, or abandoned that I have no desire to see, it's only because I already have.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Stoke Grange Farm

A lot of my readers have suddenly started asking me if I've noticed this particular derelict property, or if I'm ever going to explore it. In addition to this, someone completely unrelated posted on a Facebook group asking about it. I'm not sure why this place has been a focal point of Shropshire interest lately- it's been derelict for an undetermined number of decades, allegedly due to a fire, and any information on it has been scarce. But look at it! How could I not check this out?

I learned that the building is best known as Stoke Grange Farm, and that it was originally named Chesthill Grange, and that it dates back to the 13th Century when it was built by monks of Combermere Abbey. As a useful bit of trivia, "grange" is a word for a farm owned by a monastery, so while it's commonly referred to as Stoke Grange Farm today, a more accurate title would simply be Stoke Grange, but then the UK is full of names like this. I think Llanrhaeadr Waterfall may have something like that going on too, due to being on the Welsh/English border, but don't take my word on that.

Chesthill Grange was used centuries ago for rabbit farming. I have no idea when it made the transition to Stoke Grange or when it became derelict. It's not a listed building, and people seem to be under the impression that a fire obliterated the place in the 1960s. Plans to fix the place up were hindered by its proximity to a military base. This might not sound like a big deal. However, the cellar of the then-derelict Stoke Grange was used as a temporary lair by the IRA in 1989, when they bombed the nearby barracks.

Wow! Up until then the history of this place was all flowery and whimsical, with rabbit farming and monks, and then it just decided to slap the 20th Century in the face.

It was time for Shropshires miscreant adventurer to take a look.

 (LEGAL DISCLAIMER: As an explorer, I do not force entry, vandalize, steal, or disclose means of entry. Trespass without forced entry is a civil offence rather than a criminal one, which isn't worth acting on unless one causes damage, steals, has ill intent, etc. I simply photograph and leave everything as I find it. I do not condone breaking and entering, and I do not condone what I do. I'm a danger to myself and a terrible role model. )

I initially went straight to the cellar down this lovely precarious stairway to darkness, but before I show those photographs, I want to show off the ground floor.

Already, there's a blocked up doorway, which indicates numerous modifications done to the place in the past, as anyone can expect from places several hundred years old.

I just love how photogenic this place is. I honestly did not want to leave!

And I'm loving all the retro appliances, the floor pattern, the eccentric fireplace design. It's such an awesome place!

 As you can see, the stairs up to the upper floors were almost completely gone.

 I did find one staircase that still had the stairs intact, but just look at the angle of those steps. This thing is just one fourteen-stone explorer away from being rubble on the floor.

But what did it matter? The upper floor was partly wreckage around my feet anyway and through the ceiling I could see the off-limits upper floor, as well as a ruined stairway to an even more off-limits upperer (?) floor.

So what's up there? I love the mystery, and in spite of the fact that downstairs is pretty bare, if a fire did destroy this house, it's quite possible a lot of the old belongings simply couldn't be retrieved from the higher floors. Who knows, maybe someday a grand piano will come crashing through the rotting floorboards.

But while I felt deprived of an adventure upwards, except maybe to Heaven should I attempt such a thing, the cellar was cavernous and fun. Check out the stairs though! It's pratically a slope.

Damn those IRA vandals, scribbling naughty words on the walls!

In all honesty, it is surreal to think that this place was once a lair for some IRA bombers two years before I was born. It is a shame that the upper floors were unreachable, but what I could find was still photogenic. Stoke Grange is a magnificent building and it would have been impressive to see it in its glory days. If anyone does have any information or memories from this place, or anywhere else I've writen about, feel free to get in touch, either in the comments or on social media. I'm on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr too. Find me, add me, we'll be buddies. 

In the meantime, if there's any part of Shropshire thats secret, forgotten, or abandoned that I have no desire to see, it's only because I already have.
Thanks for reading.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

The Nesscliffe ruins

Hello everyone. Remember last article when I had the audacity to mock and speak blashemy against our Lord and Master, Charlie D??? Well don't I feel smited for it now!
I've had a week off work on annual leave, which you'd think could be spent doing oodles of exploring. And you'd be right. But on my very first day, on my very first adventure, my bank card fell from my pocket and was left on the bus, and consequentially greatly restricted me financially, what with the weekend looming and the banks being closed. So resigning myself to the knowledge that the weekends adventures would be limited in the range I could travel, I decided to focus on what was local and walked out to Harlescott. Apparently the railway signal box was to be demolished over the weekend, and Friday was my last chance to see it. It's small, but photogenic, and I've never explored anything railway related. I also love the thought of being the last person ever to set foot in it.

But after a 45 minute walk out there, I realized that I'd left my cameras memory card attached to the computer, following the adventure in which I lost my bank card. It's a hilarious, if infuriating, string of forgetfulness that seemed almost a little too convenient, so not ruling out divine intervention, especially in the aftermath of a somewhat epic storm, I will blame our Lord and Master, Charlie D, who is no doubt punishing me for my mockery of him last article. Damn you, Charles Darwin!

That night, in typical Shrewsbury fashion, the spirit of Charles Darwin came to me in a dream. I asked him what I could do for him to cease his reign of terror upon my life, and he told me a grand gesture was needed. Something that demonstrates my loyalty and servitude. "Explorer, you must put party hats on ALL the towns statues," he said.
"But Darwin," I replied. "I did that last year. And let me remind you, few people would show such dedication to wade out to Sabrina at 3am in November, purely to put a party hat on her noggin. Most people would say that's a stupid thing to do, but not this socially awkward miscreant adventurer, the Brat Prince of Shropshire."

"Good point," Darwin told me. "But what's done is done. I guess you'll just have to write about what you found before you lost your card. Remember not to make fun of me again. My statue will stand here when you're no longer even bones."

Arrogant son of a missing link... Here are the Nesscliffe ruins!

Between Shrewsbury and Oswestry is a teeny little village called Nesscliffe, which on passing through I spotted something that I just couldn't resist peeking inside. Their presence is hardly secret, but I'm going to point out that these places are dangerous, and I am a pretty inadequate role model. I've been cheating on my survival instinct with luck for some time now.

I just find something oddly attractive about seeing nature reach out and say "Guess what, puny humans. You can do what you want but I'm waiting, and as soon as your back is turned I'm going to snatch it all back."

Just look at this place!

Some stairs led down to what appears to be a bricked up cellar. 

As you can see, this place is deliciously unsafe. But at the same time it retained a homely vibe. Something about the overall layout of the place, combined with what was left, particularly the wallpaper and the curtains, made it easy to imagine what the place might have looked like once.

It all looks very post-apocalyptic.

I will admit, I did consider not going upstairs, given how unsafe the place was. However, I knew that if I returned home without looking, I'd always wonder what was up there.

As it happens, there was something I never thought I'd see. There's a tree growing in the bath. This place has apparently been abandoned for so long that enough filth has accumulated in the bath for plantlife to grow.

And yet there is still toilet paper. What a bizarre addition. I'd love to know the story behind this place. Was it abandoned because a disaster made the house uninhabitable, or was it abandoned, and then became uninhabitable?

 Still cleaner than some of the toilets in some pubs and clubs in Shrewsbury.

As I explored, the ruins became progressively less safe, and in some places the entire roof and ceiling had collapsed, and some hallways looked about ready to collapse on me.

There's another tree, growing from the remains of the upstairs, and from here I could also see the old radiators, now covered in rust, still hanging in the walls, even though the rest of the room is no longer there.

The kitchen was pretty eerie, as this was where the majority of the owners posessions remained.

When one looks back on places I've explored like Calcott Hall, Vanity House, and the Milk Cottage, and other "time capsule" abandoned houses, it becomes eerily clear that this place was probably not that different from them, and that given a few more decades they'll be just like this. Probably less time for the Milk Cottage, to which obliteration can't really come fast enough. 

In the out buildings were even more previous posessions.

As you can tell, I love eerie natural light shots, but for this carriage I just had to put the flash on so that we could really see it. Look at this beauty! It's probably still in working order and could be worth quite a bit to someone if it was dusted off and maybe given a fresh coat of paint. But instead it sits in this little shack and gathers dust.

And those are the Nesscliffe ruins.

Also present in Nesscliffe, which I checked out that same day, is Kynastons Cave, which was made back in the days when people were more imaginative when it came to carving into sandstone, by Humphrey Kynaston, a famous Shropshire highwayman.

Humphrey Kynaston was initially outlawed in 1491 for his role in a murder in Little Stretton, became something of a Robin Hood, robbing rich folks traveling between Shrewsbury and Oswestry. He was pardoned in 1516, and died in 1534.

The interior of the cave is fairly bland, but what makes it stand out is the central pillar, which has the very, very faint engraving "HK 1564." Since Humphrey was dead long before then, nobody knows who actually carved this. Although the ghost of Humphrey is still said to be lingering around Nesscliffe, and still frequents the Three Pigeons pub, which retains a seat next to the fireplace that was carved into the wall by Humphrey himself.

But it's his horse, Beelzebub, who seems to be the real wonder of the story, capable of leaping the river severn when the authorities destroyed the bridge at Montford Bridge in an attempt to stop him escaping. But while tales like that are easily subject to evolve and exaggerate over the passing centuries, it is said as if it's no big deal that Beelzebub lived in the cave with Humphrey. Now this fact is just thrown out there as if it's the most mundane fact ever, but look at these stairs! I admire any horse that can make it up something so steep and narrow.

I also admire whoever climbed the wall and engraved that "T" there, too. That's quite impressive.

And that's Nesscliffe. It's a teeny village between Oswestry and Shrewsbury which would otherwise have been completely off my radar. The ruins are dangerous, sure. It's a few thunderstorms away from collapsing entirely. But it's also very photogenic, and when one takes into consideration that time capsule houses like Calcott Hall and Christmas Cottage will someday be like this, doesn't that just make it all the more appealing? I see these places as very much like complex sandcastles, in the sense that they are always temporary, some more so than others. The aspect of them that makes them temporary is a combination of nature reclaiming it and humans going and trashing the place, pillaging the posessions, and vandalizing. But humans are just part of nature too, and these ruins reflect our mortality by showing us the slow, steady decay that takes place once we're gone. I wish I could have explored these ruins when they were new, but I still like what I've got here.

My weeks annual leave had just started when I checked this place out. And no smiting from Charlie D was going to stop even more adventures.

If you have any information about the ruins in this article or any of the other places featured on Shrewsbury From Where You Are Not, please get in touch. Leave a comment, or reach me on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. In the meantime, I hope to have quite the backlog by the time this gets published. If there's any part of Shropshire thats secret, forgotten, or abandoned that I have no desire to see, it's only because I already have.