Continuing on with the tale, Tuesday I travelled to Ironbridge which is the birthplace of
the Industrial Revolution. A fascinating little town, I did stop in about 1993 and see the cast iron bridge built there in 1779 – the first of its kind. Coalbrookdale was the original town and besides iron ore for that industry there were the other necessary raw materials for tile, brick and pottery making (yes Coalport china comes from just down the Severn from here). This quiet area is not the heavy duty industrial area it was in the 18th and 19thcenturies but many of the industrial
archaeology sites are extant and in situ. I started with a visit to the Museum of the Gorge, then walked around town, and, of course, crossed the bridge again.
My main purpose in revisiting, however, was because my Queen Mary 2 tablemates told me I had to see the Blists Hill Victorian Town which founded in 1967 represents what a mill town would have been like in the late 19thcentury. (alright 8:30 PM, back from dinner at the Thatch Roof Inn – licensed since 1623 – yes I need old ambience and experiences). Now, I have visited and enjoyed a number of recreated or restored villages including one outside Belfast earlier this year, and Blists Hill absolutely
tops my list and I could have spent more than my four hours at this 50 plus acre site. Some buildings (blast furnace, mine, brick and tile works) are original to the site, others moved piece by piece, and some are faithfully copied or accurately “invented.” Costumed re-enactors were in most shops and trade sites working as they would have been. Steam engines driving equipment (including a steam traction engine in the street) were all fully operating. I was fascinated talking with the operator of the single cylinder steam engine who was running the cage up and down the mine shaft that dates to the 1770s, and the boiler was heating away in the adjoining building – too much fun! And even a school group came dressed in period costumes (I had to ask, and it was the kids idea). The first stop upon entering is the bank where you can exchange today’s currency for “tokens” representing the pennies, farthings, shillings, etc. of the time to make purchases at any of the shops or for food (money from the 21st century was still accepted however).
But closing time came, and off I had to go for the hour and twenty minute drive back. Oh no!! Accident prevented getting on the motorway, off I scoot for back roads – thank goodness I have learned how to “load” area maps into my IPAD as long as I don’t hit the wrong button and loose them. But sadly it was now dark so I did not see the two plus hours of back road scenery.
If I could have done anything different these past three days I may have stayed at a different B&B each night. I probably spent too much time driving to the destinations I wanted and back – the distances were more that I had thought with my research. But Stratford on Avon was somewhat central to what I wanted to do, and it did work.
And today, off I had to drive again for an hour and 20 minutes to The National Waterways Museum at Gloucester. Back roads I took, open country side which I love but think strange. England is so old and so small you would think that people would be occupying
every square inch, but no, villages are far and few in between, and when you stumble on one (like Stow on the Wold – a 16thcentury market town – that I saw today) buildings and homes are all attached basically without yards. I arrived at the museum, but was disappointed because the museum did not live up to its name, National, and really was general history and a learning center for children. I had hoped to learn something about the canals as used by the narrow boats today. The history was nice, but the Canal Museum in London is much better. What I did learn and find fascinating is that
Gloucester even though way inland was a seaport for trade and dock area was developed in the 18th and 19th centuries as the junction point between the ocean and the canals. This area has undergone quite a renovation/restoration which was nice to see, and the docks and basins are filled with residential narrow boats.
Leaving about 2:15 I took a different route back, partially on the M5 (you have to be careful because at 75 MPH you can still get run over) and got back to Stratford on Avon in time to be walking downtown before 4 PM. I had to make the obligatory trip to Shakespeare’s
birthplace (done that tour before!) and catch the rest of the town. It is busier, bigger and more touristy than I had remembered, but still worth the trip. And then I got to the boat basin !!! Ends up that the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal meets the Avon River here with one lock. The basin had a number of narrow boats (6 feet 10 inches wide) and a larger boat (9 feet wide) that was serving as an information booth, and also the gentleman there collected tolls for those entering the Avon River which is maintained by a group other than British Waterways. Now here was all the resource information that I had hope to get at the museum (well I did get one waterways annual at the museum).
I had collected information two years ago about narrow boats after visiting the Canal Museum in London, earlier this year learned there are also restored narrow boat canals in Ireland, and I am going to travel on one for sure next year (another new experience with memories).
Back to my B&B about 5:30 I started this blog, ate at 7 at the Old Thatch Tavern, and back
typing after 8 PM. As I said, not much time was spent in planning these few days. I had three places I wanted to visit, figured Stratford on Avon a central place to stay, sent an email to the first B&B I spotted and got an almost instantaneous response from Sue saying I could stay Monday and Tuesday but they would not be here Wednesday so I would have to find something else. I arrived and she and her husband Simon have been so helpful. They recently took over the B&B as a preretirement venture having always wanted to do so, and are doing a wonderful job with Adelphi Guest House. I told her that one of my criteria is responsiveness to my emails, and she set the bar. Ends up they are gone tonight, they have been fully booked the other nights I was here, but decided I could stay here alone. Originally they thought not because there would be no breakfast
available, but their Rumanian caretaker (who came with the B&B) insisted that they let him come in and make me breakfast tomorrow. So, as I am finishing up I am in the front parlor again (now the breakfast room) looking out over a park just two blocks from the 17th century downtown. Plan to stay here if you can, they have all the awards possible and the highest ratings on Trip-Advisor (they told me, I never looked). And my room with breakfast, just 40 pounds, breakfast alone worth 8)
I could not confirm my flight on-line (just like I couldn’t when coming) but I will leave about 9AM to make sure I am in Heathrow by Noon for my 3 PM flight. Heathrow is not a bad place to kill a few hours since there is so much going on in the shopping area. I am looking forward to some “home time” and A CHRISTMAS CAROL starts with auditions in a week. But who knows, you may get day-trip or over-night get-away reports before the end of the year. Thank you for joining me again, as always, yours, RAY
PS – remember you can click on an image to see it in a larger size