We were visiting Ironbridge with friends and as they were the ones organising the trip we hadn’t given too much thought to exactly what we were going to do. We had assumed our day would be organised once all of us had arrived and had had a coffee or two. I did though the time to work out the best place to park – the long stay car-park south of the town! Not only is this a convenient place to leave the car in Ironbridge but you will find here an excellent assortment of information leaflets plus you immediately get to walk across the star attraction – The Iron Bridge.
We arrived before our friends and so decided the most civilised thing to do, given the cloudy skies, would be to await their arrival in a coffee shop. But they never came! They like us had left Shrewsbury that morning, but unlike us they decided to come via the A roads. Unfortunately that morning it was the completely wrong decision to take! They were stuck in a traffic jam and had no idea as to when they might arrive. It was agreed we would meet them later. Thank goodness though for all the leaflets I had collected! The one that caught my eye was the ‘Iron Trail’ leaflet. It was after all a Monday and I am one of Jo’s Monday Walkers! Plus this trail would take us near the Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron which MrB was keen to visit and on the backpage there was a mention of a viewpoint which I always love on a walk. The trail begins on the southern side of the world’s first cast iron bridge, the ‘brainchild’ of AbrahamDarby III’s Ironmaster of Coalbrookdale Company. Based on wooden bridges, it was designed by Thomas Farnolls Pritchard and opened in 1781. It is a remarkable creation, and even more so that it is still standing and still open to pedestrians.
We eventually dragged ourselves away from standing on and under the bridge and followed the trail along the Wharfage. We decided not to stop at The Museum of the Gorge as we thought we might visit this later with our friends if they ever escaped the traffic jam! So we continued north on the trail up Dale Road heading past the remains of the many forge pools and forges, some of which were covered in wildflowers. Towards the top of the hill we left the marked trail so that we could visit Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron. Superb museum if you are interested in our industrial heritage, as it was on this site that Abraham Darby (grandfather of the one who built the bridge!) perfected the technique of smelting iron with coke allowing much cheaper production of iron. Whilst we were at the museum our friends had arrived in Ironbridge and we agreed we would meet up once we made it back from our walk! So I will post about our museum adventure another time but before we keep walking here are a few shots from our visit. The clock tower is a late addition, and is very loud if you find yourself under it when it chimes!
You may recall one of the reasons I was keen to walk the ‘Iron Trail’ was it that it mentioned viewpoints, in fact at one point is describes ‘spectacular panoramic views’. As we headed up Church Road there was an odd glimpse of a view through the trees, it even looked like the sun might come out. The trail leaves the road here to take you on some of the ‘Sabbath Walks’ created by one of the local ironmasters for the benefit of his workmen and their families. Many of the ironmasters in Ironbridge were Quakers and consequently took a far more enlightened view to the employment and care of their workers than was typical at the time. However we were very aware of the time and so decided to remain on the road. As we approached ever closer to the site of Richard Reynold’s 19th century rotunda I began to feel quite excited about what we were going to find. I was aware that only the brick foundations of the Rotunda remain so I wasn’t expecting to see the revolving seat, but given the trail leaflet and various boards en route mentioned more than once ‘viewpoint’ I was looking forward to a rather fabulous view of The Iron Bridge.
Can you see it? No neither could I initially! After a bit of clambering up banks whilst trying to avoid the huge and steep drops the other side, I manage to capture these.
The views were not quite what I was envisaging and in a couple of years I suspect you won’t even be able to see this. Still it was fun, and we had enjoyed the stroll. It was now all downhill as we headed back to The Wharfage to meet up with our friends. Apparently they were near the bridge enjoying a pork pie! If we had been here in the 18th century the air would have been filled with the sounds and smells of the forges, smelting and cast works. These days however it is difficult to imagine we are in the middle of what was once a heavy industrial centre. In fact it is quite beautiful down by River Severn, and finally I get some rather lovely shots of The Iron Bridge!
On our way to catch up with our friends I noticed the iron kerbs. I was curious as to whether these were as old as the bridge, and so had a quick look inside the leaflet. Ah now these were a 1979 addition to welcome Prince Charles when he visited Ironbridge! The mileage marker however is original as is the building. It is now the Museum of The Gorge but was once Coalbrookdale Company’s wharfage warehouse.
We met up with our friends only to discover they had finished their pork pies and were heading off by car to the Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron! Our day was not quite going to plan, we were though all having fun and had spent the whole weekend together so it wasn’t a complete disaster. Plus the cloudy skies had been replaced by blue so all was well. As they trooped off to the museum we decided to have a late lunch ourselves before visiting another museum. I’ll tell you more about that another day, but for now lets retrace our steps to The Iron Bridge and where we have parked the car.