Shropshire is well-known for its role in the industrial revolution, with the iron bridge at – er – Ironbridge being both world-renowned and a very popular venue for tourists and others. That bridge was built in 1779, the first iron bridge in the world. Seventeen years later, Thomas Telford completed what is now the oldest iron aqueduct in the world (a much smaller aqueduct, completed just a month earlier on for the Derby canal, no longer exists). The aqueduct at Longden-on-Tern carried the Shrewsbury canal over the river Tern. It continues to cross the Tern to this day, though the canal is long-gone, and is both a scheduled ancient monument and a grade I listed building. Shame to say that, though we’ve lived in this area for more than 40 years, and driven past many times, we’d never taken a closer look. Until last Sunday, that is, killing time before seeing the Duchess (previous post – yes, we’re out of sync again…). Unlike Ironbridge, we were alone.
46233 “Duchess of Sutherland”, that is, hauling the return “Cathedrals Express” from Crewe, via Shrewsbury and Wolverhampton, back to London. There haven’t been many Duchess pacifics in Shropshire recently. Sister locomotive 46229 “Duchess of Hamilton” was active in the area perhaps 30 or more years ago, and 46233 has been to the Severn Valley, but I don’t think there can have many occasions – ever – when one of these Stanier locomotives has pulled a train along this line. Shame about the weather… and the exhaust. The train was heavy enough – eleven and a diesel at the back – but the Duchess had shut off steam when it passed us, already running a minute or two early.
It’s only open to the public six days a year – and as today is one such, we thought we’d better go and have a look. The 2nd Lord Berwick, of nearby Attingham Park, had it built for a friend, a little over 200 years ago. Gosh! – here he is in person, looking sprightly despite his years, explaining those things which might not be obvious. John Nash designed the house to be a little corner of Italy in the Shropshire countryside. Is that Vesuvius over there? (No, it’s just the Wrekin).
Thurs. 25 May: a visit to Boscobel House. It’s where King Charles I hid in the oak tree in 1651. The oak’s no longer with us, but a descendent is there for visiting. It’s looking decidedly tired, though beside it stands its successor, grown from one of its acorns and planted there 350 years later by the chap who may one day be King Charles III. We have to bide our time outdoors, until a guided tour has finished, and then we can explore this interesting old house.
Sun 21 May: a splendid garden, and memorable cream teas!
Fri. 19 May: can’t remember when we last looked around the house at Attingham. Have we ever?
Fri. 19 May: 60103 “Flying Scotsman” is due to haul “The Cathedrals Express” south from Shrewsbury. I’d better go and see that. It’s a day of sunny intervals – there’s plenty of blue sky, but quite a lot of cloud too. These trains can sometime run a little late – but not on this occasion. It was one or two minutes early through All Stretton, which was a great pity – if it had been on time, the sun would have been shining…