- Sporty sign in Bridgnorth -
Fresh from my Shrewsbury session at the end of December, I have Salop in my sights once more. I'm on a mission to make further use of my Ironbridge Gorge Museums annual passport (a ticket that has remained untouched since September), so I set out on the number 9 bus from Compton to Bridgnorth hoping that the morning showers don't turn into more serious rainfall. High Town sets the photographic ball rolling for January, my camera collecting up sports club shots and pub portraits. The Woodberry Inn appears to have had a makeover, losing the 'Down' part of its name in the process, while the Golden Lion by Northgate Museum is now a Holden's establishment.
- The Old Furnace, Coalbrookdale -
The next 9 along has me homing in on Ironbridge (via Broseley with all wing mirrors thankfully intact this time). I actually stay on board through to Coalbrookdale before alighting to locate the Darby Houses and a Quaker burial ground. My first museum of the morning is Coalbrookdale's homage to all things iron - I inspect the furnace remains out in the grounds then head inside to peruse the informative exhibition floors. The Darby family were pivotal in the development of ironmaking techniques during the Industrial Revolution, while John 'Iron Mad' Wilkinson was another notable pioneer.
- Enginuity -
Part of the same complex as the Museum of Iron, Enginuity is an interactive engineering emporium that enables children to get hands-on with the way things work. There are plenty of inspired youngsters in attendance at the time of my visit but I still get chance to work the robotic arms and spot a Sinclair C5. I tear myself away from all the fun by next hiking up an Ironbridge hillside where the steepness of the incline took me rather by surprise. St Luke's Parish Church helps me get my breath back in readiness for a mooch along Madeley Road, tracking down the Horse & Jockey and Golden Ball as tempting taverns for future reference.
- Is the Iron Bridge in there somewhere? -
Venturing back down the hill, the centre of Ironbridge presents a selection of interesting shops including Bears on the Square (for all your teddy bear needs) and Eley's 'World Famous' Pork Pies. My hopes for any scenic snaps of the Iron Bridge itself are dashed as the structure has been encased in protective cladding during repair works, a scaffolding shield I can admire from the comfort of the Tontine Hotel. A pint of Three Tuns XXX goes down nicely here as I look out from the public bar, then I set off on the next stage of my walk by joining the Severn Valley Way on the opposite side of the river. I always enjoy rummaging around railway remains so this footpath is a treat, following the course of a disused line from the Station Hotel towards Jackfield.
- Broseley Telephone Exchange -
Jackfield Bridge (a relatively modern river crossing which opened in October 1994) provides the ideal approach to my second Ironbridge pint of the day, bringing me to the doorstep of Ye Olde Robin Hood for some Holden's hospitality. One Golden Glow later, I decide to explore a place I last visited nearly ten years ago. Broseley has been absent from my archive since June 2008 so - after a short ride on the 9 - I set about correcting that omission by gathering glimpses of the telephone exchange, the King & Thai (formerly the Foresters Arms) and All Saints Church. The church was erected between 1843 and 1845 using stone quarried just the other side of Bridgnorth in Highley.
- Broseley Pipeworks -
Continuing my Broseley town tour and a landmark I'm especially keen to find is the Pipe Museum on Duke Street. This former factory celebrates the fact that Broseley was a prime producer of clay tobacco pipes, although seasonal opening times mean I'll have to wait until May before I can take a look inside. In the meantime, High Street allows for some sculpture spotting as I find a few of Gerry Foxall's creations depicting local industries (these were previously located at Ironbridge Power Station until the plant was decommissioned). A Lancaster Blonde in the Duke of York is my liquid finale as dusk descends upon Shropshire, and with a closing ride on the 9 my first trip of 2018 draws to a close. Here's to many more fine outings over the coming year!