You can't beat Darwin's Shrewsbury River Walk - guaranteed to lift the spirits come rain or shine!
Darwin's Shrewsbury River Walk is one of our hidden gems - you can start right in the middle of town, from Frankwell Car Park (SY38HB) and walk along the River Severn right below the house on The Mount where the great naturalist Charles Darwin was born in 1809.
I had to clear my head after too much time at the desk, and so needed this lovely trudge out of town with my delighted working cocker Connie.
'I was born a naturalist' - said the great man himself - Connie would say the same!
The walk begins at Frankwell Car Park (NB FREE parking on Sundays and Bank Holidays here, and after 6pm) - there's a gate into the Frankwell Cricket Ground in the far right hand corner. Stay close to the river and follow the footpath along crossing Poplar Island, looking across to Benbow Quay and sparing a thought for Admiral Benbow, born here in 1651, who left his key in a tree here before running away to sea (he died in action, fighting the French in the West Indies in 1702).
As you walk past the back of Mountfields, admire the efforts of the lucky homeowners who have wonderful gardens backing down onto the river - on hot days you'll see some of them boating and swimming from their own jetties! Connie and I loved these thistles and made sure we said thank you to the lady who had grown them!
Darwin lived in Shrewsbury for much of his childhood and this walk, through the meadows of Doctor's Field, would have been his stomping ground - where he first discovered a fascination for the natural world. In winter, you can usually glimpse his childhood home up on the steep bank, just before this sign, but the garden was sadly overgrown today, with brambles and nettles. The house sold last year to a Welshpool businessman who is keen to restore it to its former glory - so fingers crossed that the garden might have some TLC soon too!
I always thought Doctor's Field was named after Charles Darwin's father Dr Robert Darwin, a wealthy and influential local figure (he helped fund the building of St Chad's); however, apparently the name is much older and its origin is obscure. If you want to see the front of Mount House, you can turn left just after this sign and climb up steep steps to the main road, then turn left and you'll see a blue sign on the wall of Darwin's birthplace.This sign tells you how to find your way back to Frankwell Car Park.
It started to rain, and we could have bailed out here, but we were having the best time listening to Elizabeth Day's brilliant podcast 'How to Fail' along the way and wondering how Darwin might have responded to the challenge - of naming one's own's greatest failures? (maybe this'd help? - What Darwin Really Screwed up About Evolution). I have only recently discovered the joy of listening to podcasts on a dog walk - exercising the body, walking the dog and feeding the mind all at once definitely counts as multi-tasking!
Darwin had some posh neighbours too! These homes on The Mount have beautiful views across the River Severn, over to The West Mid Showground
The route up to here is beautifully flat, following The Severn Way and there are no stiles, so it's very dog friendly (Connie agrees!), although there are a few gates and a little bridge.
You can carry on along the river all the way to Shelton Way. You'll know when you've come to the end as the steps rise steeply up to the left bringing you back out at the top of The Mount.
To avoid steps, however, retrace your route back to the car park - it's such a stunning stretch of river, why not see it again? Plus you get a whole new aspect over Shrewsbury and the spire of St Mary's Church in the distance.
Just watch out for the livestock - there are often cows grazing free here and you'll need to make sure dogs are on the lead, before you meet them. Best to walk this in wellies after rain too, as it can become very muddy, but it was lovely and dry for us. Don't step in a cow pat!
If you want to extend the walk, you can do a loop, taking the steps and leaving the footpath where it meets Shelton Lane, crossing over The Mount and looping back through Copthorne Park to Frankwell - see my.viewranger.com
Are we done now? Can we go again mum - Pleeeeese?!!