We had never been to Ironbridge, I think that is because it is hiding behind the other side of Birmingham from us, but it being on the return trip from the Bustypes show was an ideal opportunity.
The area is not flush with good campsites but we found a very acceptable site just off Much Wenlock Road in the shadow of Ironbridge power station. The coal fired power station is nearing its end and is running down. Beside the lane to the camp site is an old open cast mine that has probably also been used to stockpile coal as well. All around the site is woodland from which the deer and owls are regular visitors to the camp site. It is a mile or so into Ironbridge itself and we had brought our bikes to get around on.
As you can imagine there is so much history of the industrial revolution in and around Ironbridge so to get our bearings we started on Monday with a visit to the visitor centre. We decided first to go along the river gorge to the far end of town to the Coalport museum which although interesting was a little underwhelming. There is a good exhibition of of old china, some workshop type displays and you can walk around the kilns. To be honest we would have liked to see more real work going on.
After stopping for a pub lunch we crossed the river to the Jackfield Tile Museum. I am not sure why but this place fired our imagination more so than Coleport. The factory was formerly the Craven Dunhill works and still produces earthenware tiles today. There was the obligatory display of tiles through ages some of which are quite spectacular and then the opportunity to buy. A floor full of tiles here would cost a small fortune and we contemplated the idea for the porch at Hailsham but in the end couldn’t find enough in the bargain box. On the way back through Ironbridge we stopped to view the iconic bridge itself which is a graceful work of art.
The following morning we cycled to Much Wenlock to visit Ryan’s, often called the best butchers in Great Britain, to buy sausages for diner and an early pasty lunch. On the face of these I can say it is a very good butchers. That afternoon, fortified by our pasties, we went back into Ironbridge and up to the Coalbrookdale Museum of iron which is a truly fascinating place being the history of smelting throughout the industrial revolution. On the same site are the original blast furnaces in some state of preservation so you can follow the growth of the site at the time. Above the Upper Furnace Pool we had a look around Dale House, the home of Abraham Darby who perfected the coke fired blast furnace.
So in all it was an educational visit that we both enjoyed and I think we will visit again but give ourselves a little more time to see more.