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.


  1. I love Nescliffe and have been lost in those woods for hours but I never knew of that house. It's impressive especially the bath tub with the tree, I'm picturing a version of this (tho more tidier) in my own place.

    I've been in the cave before they blocked it off - sadly because of drunken locals and not so local.

    I don't know Mr blogger, maybe you lost your wallet for all of that smiting you did or maybe Charlie D was on the same bus or maybe just maybe you were meant to be at Nescliffe. :P

    1. Nesscliffe has a hell of a lot to see given its size. There's an abandoned house there too but I think thats a future blog post, since I can't find a way in.