The English countryside is exactly how it’s portrayed in the media: green, full of sheep and beautiful.
Just in case you needed a visual. Unfortunately, the weather was unusually cold and rainy, as you can probably tell from that grey sky.
As part of the HOST UK program offered to international students here, I spent this past weekend in Much Wenlock, a small town in Shropshire that is relatively near Shrewsbury and Wales. I stayed with a lovely British couple (and their two cats) on a small farm on a hill. My experience was very different than my other weekends, which I’ve spent traveling or hanging out with other university students, and I had a really nice time.
I arrived late Friday afternoon, so we went straight to their home and had a delicious homemade vegetarian dish. Meat is a staple in most Brits’ diets, so I’m thankful they were able to accommodate my diet! We finished the meal with some trifle, a pudding-like British dessert. This was also great, and it kicked off the weekend of the best British food I’ve had. (My dining hall leaves much to be desired.) We talked about current events and listened to BBC News before heading to bed.
We spent Saturday in downtown Much Wenlock, where we seemed to run into someone they knew every few minutes. We ran some errands before stopping at a cute coffee shop for a caffeine pick-me-up. (They found out early on about my caffeine addition, which had been getting progressively worse that week because of looming essay deadlines.)
We then went to see the Iron Bridge, the first arch bridge in the world that was made of cast iron. It was much larger and more modern-looking than I thought it would be, though I could still tell it was old. We also went to the few museums in the area affiliated with the bridge and learned more about its history. One of my favorite parts was a model of the town as it had looked hundreds of years ago — the person who created it did so with such detail!
We also drove by a few older buildings. In one area were enormous ancient Roman ruins which, interestingly enough, are being left alone until better technology is created that can tell them more about the remains. We also saw an enormous house that was built in the nineteenth century. It easily could have been featured in Pride and Prejudice!
By the time we finished seeing those places, it was late afternoon, so we headed back to the farm for some tea and biscuits. (Several people have confirmed that this is, in fact, a daily ritual for many.) Dinner was served after a (much-needed) nap, and the lasagna and cobbler that followed equaled, if not surpassed, the meal the night before. We talked more about current events, and I pointed out different places I’ve been and lived in their atlas. They traveled to the Northeast one fall and really enjoyed it, but they haven’t been anywhere else in the U.S.
We spent Sunday morning in Shrewsbury, a slightly larger town nearby. We spent some time in the town’s new museum, featuring sound bites controlled by a motion sensor and artifacts from hundreds of years ago. It was very nicely done!
We stopped for coffee at a cafe before heading to the library, formerly the schoolhouse that Charles Darwin, among others, attended. The library was closed, so we couldn’t go inside, but there was a large statue of Darwin outside.
We ended the visit with a long stroll along the river, where a youth regatta was taking place. Some of the children rowing were so small, and we were amazed that they could move through the water so quickly.
That visit concluded my weekend. I greatly enjoyed it — it was nice to do something different for the weekend and experience a different part of England! Thank you again to HOST UK and my wonderful hosts for making it happen!