by Victoria Galligan
A visit to Ironbridge is refreshing for the soul: Great British heritage, super scenery and miles (literally) of attractions – what more could you want from a family day out?
We headed off in the car to Ironbridge on a sunny Saturday, hoping that our two and six-year-old daughters would have plenty to do in the town and its surrounding historical sites.
Ironbridge Gorge is home not only to the historical bridge – built in 1779 basically to show off the local ironworks – but the attractions span Blists Hill Victorian Town, the Enginuity transport and STEM museum, the Coalport China Museum (complete with brick-built bottle kilns), the Jackfield Tile Museum and Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron. Not only this, but the Brossley Pipeworks, Tar Tunnel, Tollhouse and Darby Houses also provide visitors with a unique insight into life at the start of the Industrial Revolution.
We started off at the Ironbridge village centre, playing on the beautiful park, which is overlooked by the steep hills. The children enjoyed the well-kept play area and we had an ice cream on the grass while others sunbathed and tucked into picnics.
After making our way up the high street and visiting some of the quaint gift shops with curious names, including the Merrythought Teddy Bear Shop – full of vintage and new teddies and boasting a huge Beefeater Teddy outside on the pavement – plus Moonshine and Fuggles wines and spirits, we walked across the bridge to view the River Severn from above.
The first major iron bridge to be built in the world, the historic structure was under renovation at the time of our visit. Last year English Heritage announced its ongoing restoration project on the Iron Bridge, which is costing £3.6million and was described by the organisation as "an ambitious conservation of its ribs and arches, its stonework and decking". Visitors can still walk across the bridge, however, and the other side of the bridge is home to the Tollhouse museum.
Further afield, the Victorian town Blists Hill is an open-air museum where visitors can become fully immersed in a past life, from shopping at the milliner’s to seeing townsfolk demonstrate some of the skills and crafts of yesteryear.
With numerous pubs which line the main street in Ironbridge, offering tables for outdoor dining and drinking, the Gorge area is a culturally-rich part of England which offers the perfect weekend away for grown-ups as well as children.
Forthcoming events at the Ironbridge Gorge this year include:
• Create Industry (July 21 - September 2), featuring workshops like fabric printing and buggy building;
• Create Nature (October 29 - November 2) with a virtual Arctic Augmented Reality Experience;
• Coding Workshops and the Schooling Good Taste Exhibition, which run all year.
• Halloween, Bonfire Night and Christmas events are also planned
See www.ironbridge.org.uk for more details.