Shropshire Star

Shropshire Day: Natural beauty and culture help county celebrate its own patron saint's day

Shropshire Day had an added reason for celebration this year - the county is benefitting from being named as one of Abta's 10 global holiday destinations list.

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Wenlock Abbey, one of Shropshire's many historic sites

February 23 is Shropshire Day, originally named in honour of St Milburga, Benedictine abbess of Wenlock, who is associated with several miracles, some during her lifetime and others from the discovery of her relics.

Shrewsbury's Greek Orthodox Church held a vigil on the eve of the saint's day with three hours of services.

Shropshire Council said there were many reasons why the county should celebrate.

A spokesperson said: "The Shropshire Hills, part of the National Landscape, covers about a quarter of the county. Some of the popular spots include the Long Mynd, the Stiperstones, and the Wrekin, and not forgetting Shropshire Council-run Severn Valley Country Park, where the river meanders through lush meadows and woodlands and you can stop for a break at our visitor centre.

"Our many charming villages and market towns, including the county town of Shrewsbury, each has its own character and history.

"Shropshire has a rich and varied history, that spans from the prehistoric to the modern times. There are 16 castles in the county including Shrewsbury Castle, Ludlow Castle, Stokesay Castle, and Whittington Castle. It also has one of the best-preserved Iron Age Hill Forts in the UK – Old Oswestry Hillfort – and there’s Ironbridge Gorge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where the world’s first iron bridge was built in 1779.

"Shropshire has a strong reputation as a ‘foodie’ paradise thanks to its traditional pubs, cafes and fine dining restaurants, as well as the ever-popular food festivals such as the Ludlow Food Festival, Shrewsbury Food Festival, and Shropshire Oktoberfest in The Quarry, Shrewsbury.

"It’s not only food festivals that are a feature of Shropshire’s ‘What’s On’ calendar. Shrewsbury Folk Festival, Wenlock Poetry Festival, Shrewsbury Flower Show, Shropshire County Agricultural Show, Oswestry Balloon Carnival and other music festivals are also popular events."

The county also features in literature over many centuries.

Tim Ashton, whose family owns Soulton Hall near Wem from where Shakespeare may have been inspired for the character of Old Rowland in As You Like it, said literary links go back to the 14th century.

From medieval poetry to modern fantasy, the county has woven its way into the fabric of numerous literary works.

"William Langland, author of the iconic Piers Plowman, hailed from Cleobury Mortimer while St Erkenwald, a 14th century poem, is written by a poet who spoke in a Shropshire dialect," he said.

"Parts of Shropshire lay within the ancient Forest of Arden, setting for As You Like It, and Sir Rowland Hill, a prominent figure from the county, may have inspired that play's creation."

Literary legacies include the Cotton family, original custodians of the famed Cotton Library, which originated in Shropshire.

And Shrewsbury Abbey provided a home for Brother Cadfael in Ellis Peters' The Cadfael Chronicles.

Mr Ashton said that more recently A. E. Housman's A Shropshire Lad immortalised the county's beauty in verse and D. H. Lawrence's St. Mawr explored the Stiperstones area.

Mary Webb, born and raised in the county, set all her novels there, notably the evocative Precious Bane while for younger readers, Malcolm Saville's children's adventures unfolded against Shropshire's backdrop.

The Wrekin and Ellesmere are widely believed to have inspired The Lonely Mountain and Laketown in The Lord of the Rings while Terry Pratchett, in Good Omens, playfully credited the angel Aziraphale with designing Shropshire.

"From medieval bards to modern fantasy worlds, Shropshire's landscapes and legends have cast a spell on writers, ensuring its place in the literary map for generations to come," Mr Ashton said.