With the World War Walk planned for this Saturday I thought I’d make the most of the beautiful weather this afternoon and go out for a trial run, making sure that I knew the route, and assessing any places that might need to be altered for the safety of the group. I set off from Coalbrookdale, having just said goodbye to my volunteers who had been in working on the Craven Dunnill tile moulds again this morning, and headed down the dale, along the Wharfage and over the Iron Bridge. From there I followed the Severn Valley Way all the way to Coalport, crossed the bridge and then continued back along the Silkin Way until I reached Coalport China Museum. Finally I finished with a stroll along the canal, and across the footbridge to Jackfield.
The weather is absolutley gorgeous, with the sun shining and temperatures reaching around 22 degrees…so about half way around I found myself asking the all important question – why on earth am I wearing jeans?? (Note to self, if it’s hot on Saturday don’t make the same mistake twice!!). At least as I walked down the Severn Valley Way it was cooler in the shade. I even saw a buzzard which flew up in front of me about halfway between Jackfield and Coalport. With the sun shining on his back he looked almost magical. It’s at times like that when I consider myself pretty lucky to be living and working in such an amazing county. Just under 300 years ago this place was the birth place of industry, and over the centuries that followed the Ironbridge Gorge has been hugely influencial not just in the iron industry, but also in mining raw materials such as coal, limestone and clay, as well as being at the forefront of the ceramics industry with companies such as Caughley, Coalport, Craven Dunnill and Maws all once based here in the Gorge. There were also two key railway lines that followed the River Severn, with the London and North Western Railway on the northern bank, and the Severn Valley Railway (part of the Great Western Railway) on the south side of the river. Yet today much of this industry has gone, leaving behind a mixture of archaeology and nature that is accessible and available for all to see. It couldn’t be any more different from the noise, smells and sights that were associated with the many and varied industrial activities that were once going on here. Now its a very peaceful landscape with spectacular views, beauty spots galore and the peace and tranquility that can be found along the river bank in the sunshine. Yet if you look closely there are still many hints and reminders of the industrial past that are well worth a look if you can find them. It truely is a very special place to be.