Bear Steps in Shrewsbury is not only the shortest ‘shut’ (alleyway) in the town but it is also the shortest complete public right of way in Shropshire. It is numbered 0443/UN16/1 on the Shropshire definitive map of rights of way, and it is only four metres long.
I encountered Bears Steps and other shuts, with fellow members of the Ramblers’ board, on a July weekend in Shrewsbury, where our meetings were interspersed with pleasant walks. Trevor Allison, footpath secretary of Shropshire Ramblers, led us on an early walk on Sunday morning, around the many shuts of Shrewsbury.
Trevor is a Ramblers’ hero. Between 2011 and 2015 he walked every definitive path in Shropshire: 5,000 kilometres over four years, using public transport. He recorded the state of the paths and reported problems to the county council.
On that Sunday morning he led us from the Premier Inn on Mardol Quay, over the railway line and down to the River Severn. The town is built in a great meander in the river (‘islanded in Severn stream’ wrote A E Housman in The Welsh Marches, A Shropshire Lad 28). This stretch is on the southern side of the town.
We then proceeded at speed through the town, taking in many shuts.
We passed many churches
and squiffy buildings, such as 15-16 Mardol, described by Pevsner as ‘an early C17 freak with most of the posts and studs baluster-shaped’.
We passed the 70 steps, linking the Pride Hill shops with Raven Meadows.
This shut was shut
Shrewsbury is the birthplace of Charles Darwin in 1809, and it celebrates this in many ways. There is the shopping centre
and the Quantum Leap sculpture by the Severn, marking the bicentenary of his birth.
Our tour with Trevor was just a taster. One needs many hours in this fascinating town, but Trevor has inspired me to return, Pevsner in hand.