A much-needed leg-stretch down to Coalport (for well-earned tea and cake…), on a grey Saturday afternoon. We may not be past July, but there are signs of seasonal change – the wheat looks ready for harvest, there are some hefty (but undoubtedly sour) apples by the farm, and ripe (but rather blobby) blackberries, with many better-looking specimens to come. Could be an excellent crop in a few weeks time… And at last the butterflies are playing to the camera!
Sat. 13 May: as part of the celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum, around 30 steam road vehicles – traction engines, steam rollers, steam lorries – have assembled at Blists Hill – and at 10am, they’re off to explore the local roads. They’ll be coming up Bridge Road into Broseley, down the High Street, then down the Ironbridge Road and off to the Half Moon for lunch. At 2pm, they’re off again, past Craven Dunnill’s, over the level crossing (it’s an awfully long time since so many steam engines crossed here!), past the Black Swan and back across the river. I’d better get out with the camera – record this wonderful one-off event, and perhaps incorporate some of the local landmarks to complete the picture.
…so we’ll do it in black and white! It’s a pleasant circuit, down to Jackfield by hidden paths in the jungle, then across to Coalport and along the old railway track to Coalport bridge. We cross the Severn again and walk along the other old railway, before joining Pound Lane and heading for home.
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We’ve parked at Bedlam, beside the old furnaces (I wonder how they got that name…). Our route takes us up the hill towards Madeley, where we’ll walk around three sides of the old (closed in 1920) Meadow pit mound. On and off, we’re following the trackbeds of the pre-railway age tramways of the Madeley Wood Company – as far as the All Nations (a last remnant of times long before “craft beer”, when pubs brewed their own beer). Now we’re walking down the route of the Coalport branch railway, which closed to passengers more than 60 years ago. Descending to the canal, at the foot of the Hay Incline, we cross the river to Jackfield, and for the first time walk the new path through the stabilisation works. Beyond, we’ll walk where Severn valley railway trains once ran – before crossing the Severn again on the modernistic new “Free Bridge” to return to the car.
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Everything’s in flower, or so it seems, and the butterflies are beginning to cooperate… We’re making the most of a dry and sunny afternoon after a day of rain, with another to come tomorrow, if the forecast is right. The youth hostel at Coalport (beside the china museum) is open for tea and cakes all summer, and the walk’s long enough to feel we’ve earned it (as if we needed an excuse…)
A quiet May Day afternoon in the Ironbridge gorge, enjoying the fresh air and the spring foliage
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