Wednesday, 9 November 2016

The view from St Julians

(DISCLAIMER: As an overall nice human being, I do not force entry, vandalize, steal, or disclose means of entry or location if it isn't obvious. I do this to protect locations and respect them. 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. This blog also contains the ingredient "Metaphor." Metaphor is one of a group of problem-solving medicines used to treat Literal Thinking and other diseases. Metaphor takes two or more unrelated topics in a way that stimulates lateral thought processes and creativity. This product is to be consumed optically. )

Let's talk about Sanity! What a terrifying condition to be burdened with! You know, people suffering from sanity will often do perfectly sane and ordinary things, like spend their money monthly on the privilege to watch TV, in the hopes that something *gasp* original will be on it. People who truly suffer from sanity will give you confused looks if you dont watch TV. Its a sad illness actually. People live out their entire lives without living at all.

But there's more!
Sanity causes a little voice in your head to speak out if you're doing something that might get you into trouble. Common sense and a conscience do that too but the difference is they will (hopefully) just say things like "I can't murder/hurt/steal from them, I'll go to jail (and it's morally wrong.)" Sanity expands on this I'll-get-into-trouble mindset and soon you're dreading negative consequences from just about anything, from getting down on all fours and barking, to simply wearing a silly hat in public (Oh No!).
Sanity is the unwanted party crasher of life.

Roughly five years ago, I gathered the old rooftopping posse of old and together we climbed St Chads church right to the top. It was the proudest moment of my addiction so far. Addiction to what, you ask? Danger? Adrenaline? No, no. Addicted to life! In the few months since I'd started doing this crazy sport, I'd taken my life from rock bottom to howling with laughter as I clung to a gold cross at the highest part of Shrewsbury. I was ecstatic. I was the best kind of high. I had a bit of a double rainbow moment up there. You have to understand that in that moment I felt true power. Nothing as pedestrian as power over people. I don't have that, nor do I want it. The world doesn't need anymore managers or politicians. The power I felt was the power over my own life. I could do whatever I wanted! How many people throw away their opportunities  out of fear of failure, or ridicule? I have, plenty of times. But not this time. In those moments the world belonged to me.

This was before I'd decided to put my adventures into the public eye, before this blog, before the media put my arrogant, smirking, kittenishly sexy mug on the front page, and before lots of people knew who I was, back when I could sit on a rooftop and innocently eat my lunch without looking down to see people waving at me. I used to say people don't look up. That's not true in Shrewsbury anymore.

This year, I climbed another church. This blog is the view from St Julians!!!

I know, I know. I said I was going to show the adventure where I bust my hand, didn't I? Well when I wrote that sentence a couple blogs back, I had completely forgotten this one was due!

 St Julians church, to my knowledge, ceased functioning as a church in 1976. Its cemetery is overgrown and remarkably photogenic, but restricted from public access, but not from me. Prior to its construction, a Saxon church stood here, dating aaaaall the way back to 1188. The tower is all that remains of this, with the rest of the church being rebuilt in the 1770s, which is why there is a contrast in colour. Apparently the guy who designed the churchs reconstruction was the same guy who designed the Iron Bridge of Ironbridge. What an awesome bloke!

In modern times, the church was active as a craft centre and was also the training ground for Shrewsburys now-disasembled street theatre. A sign at the gate says that the church opens on Saturday for bible studies and also warmly welcomes me to join them to discover the depth of Gods love and the breadth of his wisdom. I don't think God has time for me but someone tell him I say Hi.
From what I can gather, the tower of this church was a place of residence until the owner recently moved away.

But enough of the babble. Check out the view!

 It never gets old. Each time I climb anything I feel the same rush, like I'm seeing the view for the first time. I brought Tree Surgeon on this trip too and encouraged Rushworth to do the same. He's a miscreant adventurer in his own right, that bloody magnificent bastard Rushworth. Whereas Tree Surgeon is my brother from another mother, my best friend, my faithful steed, my can of goddamn spinnach. If there was an animated movie based on my life, Tree Surgeon would be voiced by James Earl Jones. Rushworth can be voiced by Danny DeVito. He's quite petite. But we made several trips up here, so you may see clearer skies in some photos.

In the pictures, you can see the towers of St Chads and the Market Hall, which my old rooftopping posse conquered shortly after St Chads. I could probably spot a million other places that I've been too.

 Here you can see Fish Street, which is glowing with light polution next to the foreboding neighbouring church, St Alkmunds. I did once sneak up the interior of that tower, right to the bell, but this is far more impressive.

 The foreground is in shadow but it lights up at Dogpole street, and looking closely you can just see the Abbey there in the distance.

 And this is Wyle Copp. Tree Surgeon and I actually spotted Ms K, Tree Surgeons wife, while we were up here and struggled in vain to get her attention. She didn't see us though.

And down below are two pubs, the Old Post Office and the Wheatsheaf. Both are good pubs but I have frequented the Wheatsheaf the most because the Paprika Blues Band occasionally plays there. You don't know the Paprika Blues Band? Look them up. They've got a great vibe to them, and I often seek out their gigs when I need to turn a frown upside down.

So unfortunately I don't have much in the way of photos. It was windy so many of my long exposures came out blurred. And as always, the photos dont do the experience justice. But sometimes people say to me "You're going to get yourself hurt" and "You could fall and die." And you know something? That sounds far more dignifying than reaching 90+ and spending my final years bed ridden in a care home, with a bag strapped to me for my poop to go into while I'm spoon fed gunk by carers who don't know me and don't get paid enough to put up with my sense of humour. I don't fear dying, I fear not living.
People in some parts of the world are lucky to make it to puberty, so I'm really quite lucky. That life we complain about, someone is praying for. And I didn't outlive them by several decades just so that I can come home from my minimum wage job and watch Eastenders.

I think when one feels that they dont belong in the world that exists, then that's because they need to create one of their own, and add it to the existing world. This blog is facing exciting times. We now have an established "group" so we can plan journeys and adventures, and photoshoots, since I love photographing people too, and I know loads of photogenic people. So when I mention the time before this blog when I climbed St Chads in complete anonymity, I'm not grumbling, because in the few years that this blog has existed, it's brought a lot my way. A camera, friends, confidence, and happiness. And some say the internet is evil. The internet gives us the power to make something out of nothing, and share it with the entire world. Its a tool for creation.

Thank you for reading. As always, you can follow me on Instagram, and Twitter, and feel free to share the blog over the social media of your choice. And of course, be there for each other. The world is only as poopy as we let it be. Go make someone happy. Turn a day around, compliment a stranger, defrown a miserable git, slap someone with happiness. Bonus points if you get a hug out of it.

Have a beautiful day and thanks for reading.
Stay awesome!

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Grove Inn and the Fat Frog

  (DISCLAIMER: As an overall nice human being, I do not force entry, vandalize, steal, or disclose means of entry or location if it isn't obvious. I do this to protect locations and respect them. 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. This blog also contains the ingredient "Metaphor." Metaphor is one of a group of problem-solving medicines used to treat Literal Thinking and other diseases. Metaphor takes two or more unrelated topics in a way that stimulates lateral thought processes and creativity. This product is to be consumed optically. )

 So I vented some negativity in my personal life recently. I purged the right places, removed the right gangrenous limbs, found the cure for syphilis and I'm ready for a nice cheery blog post made of rainbows, sunshine, dreams, angel queefs, and unicorn meat (Yum!) all while sneaking around a dusty, crumbling, sometimes floorless (but in my heart flawless) closed down pub just outside Ironbridge.

*Cue dramatic music.*
Special thanks to the Telford Memories Facebook group for the exterior picture. I didn't have time to get one of my own because as you can see, there's a pub right across the road, and decided not to lurk around for too long afterwards.

But yes, we're returning to Ironbridge. What is it about this place that attracts me so much? I just cant stay away! After the power station "security breach" scandal in which the media bent and twisted the truth, I was told that I better not set foot in that part of the world for a while. But I did, for Lincoln Grange Nursing Home, better known as the Beeches, with my fellow Shropshire blogger, Michael. The media took interest again, this time stealing one of his photos and ending up paying him some money when he pointed out his copyright notice, resulting in me adding my own copyright notice just in case it ever happens to me.
Give me money, media, you know you want to!

And someone build me a statue, god dammit.

But then recently another one of Shropshires adventurers, who I think comes from Telford, contacted me saying that shes been contacted by the media asking if they can use her photos. I checked her Instagram and sure enough, their comment is there on a picture of the interior of Sweyney Cliff House. Now let me ask you, what could possibly be newsworthy about Sweyney Cliff House? It suffered an arson attack years ago and has been crumbling to pieces ever since. But after this very blog post I'm telling you about now, we revisited Sweyney Cliff seeing as we were in Ironbridge anyway and it is just down the road in Coalport. Sure enough we discovered that someone has been trying to secure Sweyney Cliff House and make it trespasser-proof! They fixed the front door and everything! So I can totally see the scandal sheets now, saying "this house is dangerous, anyone can wander in, everyone should hate on this young (okay shes older than me by a year) urbexer for showing the world through social media that anyone can get in." You know, like they did with me in the Ironbridge Power Station.
And I didn't tell her not to let them run her pictures. I don't think I have that authority over anyone. I just told her of my own experiences with our beloved local media and she made her choice. No urbex scandal in the sheets today, and another adventurer gets to carry on their happy life without drama. Happy times. Someday I'll probably bump into this lady. We've got a lot of the same locations behind us. If you're reading this then Hello.

But seriously, why do the adventures around Ironbridge (Power station, Nursing Home, Crumbling Mansion) attract the media vultures more so than other locations in Shropshire? Seriously, if you are a local adventurer and you want five minutes of fame, just do something silly in Ironbridge Gorge!

Thats totally not why I'm doing this pub, btw. The media does not have my permission to run any of my stuff and when I learned of this place, the first thing I said was "Why the fritzl does it have to be there, of all places? Why Ironbridge???"

Ironbridge Gorge. Cursed with media attention.

So I was looking through the Shrewsbury tag on Instagram, when I spotted an old photo of long deceased Shrewsbury resident Captain John Benbow. I spoke about him in my underground tunnels blog but for some exposition, he's a famous traitor from the civil war. He helped conquer Shrewsbury for the Parliamentarians, before turning to the Royalist cause. When he was captured and trialed by the parliamentarians, he was ironically executed at the very spot in Shrewsbury where he was standing when Shrewsbury fell to his original parliamentarian conquest. And because he was the famous traitor, and the water lane was his means of entry into the town during his conquest, the area around it was called Traitors Gate and now it's a place you can go to for gourmet burgers at Lyons Den.

What history forgot to mention was that Benbow was a rooftopper. Instagram showed me a picture of him on top of Maplin, which in the 1600s was a Tesco. Since I cut off a few social branches that weren't benefiting the tree that is my excellent life, and since Deadpool can have Benjamin Franklins ghost in his supporting cast, I decided to whip out the old Ouija board and with help from a friendly satnav called Gnarlypup and a non-binary CIA agent called J (because when waking someone up from a centuries long slumber its always best to hit them with the perks of the modern era, and satnavs and a choice of gender identity are the first things that sprang to mind) we summoned the spirit of Benbow and asked him to fly us to Ironbridge.
The satnav proved useful. He didn't know where Ironbridge was. That area is a tourist attraction now because of its role in the industrial revolution, of which Benbow was actually not a fan. Turns out humans used to have regular daytime naps until the invention of the 9-5 job. Yeah, I'd be miffed if I woke up from that life into this one too, in spite of satnavs and gender identity freedom.

So we found ourselves at this wonderful looking place called The Grove Inn, and thanks to Benbows powers of intangibility, what with not having a body, we were able to get in.
All of the exposition dialogue had absolutely nothing to do with the location but everything is said for a reason. But lets get on with the adventure already!

Some locals have pointed out that we're in Coalbrookdale, not Ironbridge. But with it still being in the Ironbridge gorge, and with Ironbridge being the most well known village here, I did mistakenly assume upon my initial visit that it was all part of the same place.
Due to the sloped terrain, the ground floor facing the road is actually the upstairs to the real ground floor, which is down some stairs at the exterior. While the Grove was accessible from the street, the downstairs portion was The Fat Frog Restaurant. In its day, the Fat Frog Restaurant was decorated with hand painted murals. Now, however, it's a little bleaker.

 Here's what appears to be a cellar, probably used by the Grove Inn at some point. The fact that the delivery hatch was bricked up long ago is indicative that its use changed at some point, but without speaking to the former staff, I cant know for sure. Check it out though, it really shows the age of the place.

The building itself dates back to the 1700s when it was a coaching inn, and owned by the Coalbrookdale Company, which was established in 1709, although the area was used for smelting iron as far back as 1536 by monks. A blast furnace was created for making steel in 1615 by Sir Basil Brooke, but he lost the patent four years later when he was unable to meet the demand for it, and then in 1644 he was actually arrested during the civil war for taking part in a plot to prevent the Scottish army from participating in the conflict. The furnace actually blew up in 1703 but with the establishment of the Coalbrookdale Company, it was rebuilt and restored, establishing the Coalbrookdale Company as the finest Ironfounders at the time, and its continued to grow and thrive to this day. But the pub and restaurant have changed hands many, many times.

The restaurant opened as the Fat Frog in 1996. 

 As you can see, the murals are long gone, as are most of the interior features.

 This safe was tucked away beneath the stairs, but it was unopenable.

I'm not sure exactly whats happening here, but it appears that some sort of work is being done.
It sure is strange to think that years ago this place would have been fully furnished and full of people eating and drinking.

 There's some graffiti on this wall, but look! Whats that in the background???

 It's a mural! Or at least the remains of one. Somehow this one alone has survived. Looking at the artwork in this condition is kind of sad. Long ago an artist, or a number of them, put some genuine effort into making this place look incredible, and now it's all been destroyed with the exception of this one surviving mural which has had massive chunks smashed out of it.

 Whatevers left has been scribbled on. Apparently we're not the first to intrude in here. Urban explorers everywhere would go keyboard warrior over this place!
The murals were actually inspired by the Moulin Rouge, and the food served here was predominantly French.

These stairs led up to the higher floor, which was apparently the Grove Inn.

 At the top of the stairs is this wall, and over the remains of this window, one can see the door to the exterior, with "Grove Inn" written above it, so that's clearly the bar area. But evidence here suggests that parts of the upstairs were also more of the Fat Frog restaurant, in spite of everyone remembering that the restaurant was on the bottom floor and the pub above it. Look closely at the wall there and you can see the remains of another mural.

And if you look reeeeeally close, you can see text that actually reads "Moulin Rouge" underneath the remains of larger text.
Hopping over that wall into the bar area was tricky, because as you can see, there was not much in the way of flooring on the other side.

 This is the bar area, I presume. It's right in front of the main entrance to the pub and I know from my research that the area to the right, fenced off by pieces of wood, was full of tables and chairs, leaving this area the place where the bar presumably was.
Allegedly the Grove also had a bar billiards table which made it quite the hit. It was, however, right across the street from the Coalbrookdale Inn, and people used to alternate between the two. But from what I can tell any rivalry between the two businesses was friendly. In the 1990s there was even a water and cream pie fight between the two, which sounds absolutely amazing!

Allegedly the Grove closed in 2011 due to health problems of the owner. Allegedly again, it was purchased recently to convert into apartments but this has allegedly hit some delays. 

 And here's the main entrance, still with the Grove Inn written above the door, and still with signs in the window.

 The place was spacious. This time, however, I'm put in a slightly more surreal mindset because in my research I've found loads of interior shots of this exact room from before the place closed down, when it was fully furnished, carpetted and decorated.

Of course now it's all stripped bare.

 Here's a better look at the wooden floor that separates the main room from where I think the bar was. The sign points out that there is absolutely no floor on the other side, but as we know, this is a slight exaggeration. There is some floor there, just not a lot.

Given that it's always our blog posts around Ironbridge gorge that attract the media and their beloved scandals, I feel this is a perfect time for additional disclaimers- These places are dangerous, and I set a terrible example, venturing into places that have barely any floor. and should any of this collapse around me I have only myself to blame. These places arent necessarily ready to accomodate humans yet because nobody expects humans to be here.

 Look at these amazing windows! It's a little taster of this places former refinery.

 Moving onto the bedrooms, The Grove offered four small bedrooms, each with their own ensuite bathroom facilities. It also had two self-catering flats with their own private lounge. The bedrooms that were once homely were now pretty bleak and samey.

 The bible was a surprising find, and remarkaly unvandalised. Given that the mural downstairs was now decorated with stick figures with genitalia, I was expecting the bible to be too tempting a target for any pen-happy urbexer. But nothing had been scribbled on or in it.

 This adorable frog lightswitch is more evidence that maybe the themes of the Fat Frog Cafe continued upstairs. It's a nice little leftover of earlier times.

There was one staircase above the initial stairs we'd already come up, but first we wanted to check out this additional staircase at the back of the building.

Hope Everyone Likes Pancakes!

This room had a pretty creepy vibe to it. Allegedly the building is haunted by the ghost of a small child and also by the ghost of a Quaker since there was a large community of them in Coalbrookdale back in the day. I didn't see anything though, but allegedly many people who stayed here heard a small child laughing.
This one room is cut off from the others, being the only one at the top of the stairs. The other rooms were all linked. It was almost certainly a room for people to stay in though, since it clearly had an ensuite once.

Back on the lower floor, we went up the other stairway. This one is situated closer to the bar area, above the original stairs that came up from the Fat Frog.

 Upstairs was quite obviously once accomodation, and it was all in a very photogenic state of disrepair.

 The rooms are spacious up here and definitely more likely to be the flats that had private lounges. Unfortunately unlike the floor below I have no pictures of this before it closed and consequentially, I lack a frame of reference. Detective time!

 Check these imprints on the wall and floor. Obviously a wardrobe or something stood here once.

 This floor had a lot less floorboards than the floor below. And the floorlessness was situated above the downstairs floorlessness which made it possible to see down the entire building. But as you can see from the above picture my goal was to get to that little raised bit. It has no floor actually leading to it so it required a stupid dangerous bit of stepping on the beams.

 Fortunately it all held together. Through the above picture you can see the landing beyond the door. The other rooms I just showed, with the corner fireplace and the wardrobe are on the right from that, out of view. So given the spaciousness, and the fact that these spacious areas do connect to the landing and each other but not to the other two spacious areas, does suggest that these are the flats. Beyond this raised bit was either one such lounge or one such bedroom, and it was beautiful.

 Look at this room, overlooking the street. I love it.

And lastly, in the remains of a ceiling, one can see where a door used to be into what was once an attic. It's intriguing how much history can be read from a stripped out building.

And as far as The Grove and the Fat Frog Cafe are concerned, what remains is still interesting to me. The remains of the murals, the architecture, the frog on the lightswitch, all carry with them a tiny glimpse at the atmosphere that this place once had.

I actually wish I had been to this place when it was open, and I wish more photographs of the murals existed now because it's an artists creation that has been lost forever.  But it all serves to remind us how temporary everything is, and that just makes me love it more when I do get to these places. What we found on this adventure might not be there when someone else comes to check the place out at a later date.

But things being temporary isn't bad. You know, the Chinese word for Change also means Opportunity. So I often try to avoid being change resistant. And I dont hold grudges because people change too. The flip side to this is people often end up in social arrangements detrimental to their mental health because they've, say, known that person for a long time and they're change resistant, when in fact people grow in different directions. And sometimes one person grows and the other doesnt. It happens. But one thing that I have learned, especially recently, is that it never hurts to have a social cleanse. If someone is a threat to your happiness, remove them. If someone shows absolutely zero respect for you, they don't deserve you. Happiness starts when we filter out toxic people. We end up with what we're willing to put up with.

And might I say, I've ended up with a pretty sweet deal! The right people care about me, and the positive messages I had after my last blog post were really awesome. I have awesome friends and awesome readers. All you never-mets and barely-knows are just friends in waiting.

Thanks for reading todays blog. As always you can follow me on Instagram, and Twitter, and if you can spare some money to help fund the blog, click donate at the top. Proceeds go to camera equipment for the betterment of this blog. But measure wealth in happiness first and just be there for each other. Go make someone happy. Turn a day around, compliment a stranger, defrown a miserable git, slap someone with happiness. Bonus points if you get a hug out of it.

And remember, whether you consider yourself a rooftopper, an urban explorer, or a miscreant adventurer, don't trust the media. If they contact you asking to use your photos, ask yourself "Whats the newsworthy story behind this picture?" If you're trespassing then chances are the story is a villainizing scandal. The media is all about fear mongering. It's not my place to control anyone and I certainly don't own this sport, but I am the voice of experience on this one, and I dont want anyone else to get burned. 

Thanks for reading. Stay awesome!