Ironbridge, Shropshire Sunday 1st July 2012

Today’s Walks

Strenuous Leader: Rowland Nock   Distance: approx 12 miles

This is a semi urban walk, wihich takes in some of the fascinating industrial archaeological sites of Ironbridge.

Our walk starts due east by the south bank of the River Severn following the Severn Way along the old railway track as far as Coalport Bridge. Crossing the River Severn we pick up the Silkin Way and then head up towards Blists Hill Victorian Town, hopefully catching sight of the famous replica of the Trevithick steam locomotive.

Heading towards Coalbrookdale our onward journey takes us via Lloyds Coppice, where we will have lunch. We then take in the glorious views of the Iron Bridge from the renowned rotunda vantage point, returning to the northern banks of the River Severn. Following the bank westward we again cross the river and head up onto Benthall Edge. From here we descend back to Ironbridge for our well-earned refreshments (time permitting).

Please note this walk does include two long winding descending staircases!

Moderate Leader: Peter Denton   Distance: 8 miles

We start this walk heading towards Buildwas on the Severn Way, then heading UP to Harrie’s Coppice and Braggers Hill and along to Little Wenlock. We then head to The Wilderness, Leasows Farm and in to Leamhole Dingle. Down lots of steps along rope walk towards Coalbrookdale Iron Museum, then back down to Ironbridge Gorge for tea and crumpet, and a well earned rest.

Leisurely Leader: Leo & Jean Keenan   Distance: 6.5 miles

leaving Ironbridge we go along the River Severn, walking along the Severn Valley Way where possible, over the Buildwas Bridge to visit Buildwas Abbey for lunch and a toilet stop. We then continue past the Power Station and climb up the gorge at a slow steady pace towards Benthall Hall for another break before going through Benthall Woods, down to the valley bottom, to join the Shropshire Way and back over the Iron bridge itself.

Easy Leader: Hazel Anderton & Cynthia Prescott   Distance: 3.5 miles

The walk starts along the river side, over the Iron Bridge, and then up the lane towards Benthall Hall area. We then go across fields, along the side of Benthall Edge Woods, and then down through the wood following the Shropshire Way and eventually back over the Bridge.

We have to go along a lane for a while to get up as the footpath was blocked by a fallen tree, but we can’t remember any stiles. It might be a bit greasy underfoot in the woods. We made it a short walk in case by any chance it turns out to be a hot day, but there is a pleasant riverside path if you would like to walk a bit further, and some nice shops back in town.

Notes On The Area

Ironbridge Gorge has been designated as a world heritage site for the wealth of attractions and sights that it has to offer. It is known as the birthplace of the industrial revolution, which occurred due to the fortuitous combination of coal, iron, transport and water power. The iron industry of the area was closely associated with the Darby family and their firm, the Coalbookdale Company. The name of the valley is derived from the graceful structure of the world’s first iron bridge that spans the River Severn. Ironbridge itself is perched on limestone cliffs in the middle of magnificent Shropshire countryside. The area is uniquely preserved as it has remained almost totally undeveloped for over a hundred years.

Until the last 100,000 years, what is now the Upper Severn basin in Shropshire and mid-Wales drained north, joining the River Dee and flowing into the Irish Sea. However, during the Ice Age this route was blocked and a great lake built up. The water eventually spilled over the hills to the south to reach a tributary of the River Stour and the lower Severn valley. As a result, the modern Severn turns away from the flat plain of north Shropshire to flow south through a narrow gap in the south Shropshire hills at Ironbridge.

Abraham Darby, a Quaker ironmaster, first successfully began to smelt iron ore commercially using coke, instead of the traditional charcoal, in 1709 when the timber used to make charcoal was in extremely short supply. This enabled cheap iron to be mass produced for the first time – giving rise to a large scale iron industry in the area. Among the innovations that were made in Coalbrookdale were the first iron rails, the first iron wheels, and the first iron-framed buildings. Darby’s grandson, Abraham Darby II, enlarged the existing blast furnace to cast the ribs for the world’s first iron bridge. When the bridge opened in 1779 Ironbridge Gorge was one of the world’s major iron centres.