Ice-cold in Coalport

I exaggerate – but a friend said there had been snow in Wellington this morning. We certainly wouldn’t have wanted to be caught in one of the morning’s sharp showers, but the afternoon would be bright and sunny (and cold, and it will be good to stay out of the wind…). Yes, the weather forecast was right. The colours are so much better at this time of year, aren’t they? There’s only one problem – the tea shop in the youth hostel is closed during the winter months. We’ll have to make do with chocolate (it’s what camera bags are for, isn’t it?)

Old Iron

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.

Longdon-on-Tern Aqueduct on Engineering Timelines website

The Aqueduct

A district of Telford is named after the c1792 sandstone bridge built to carry the western branch of the Shropshire Canal over the turnpike road. Both are long redundant, but their courses remain. Though we’d driven through the area very many times, we’d never sought out the structure – perhaps we ought to go and have a look? Sadly, it’s in need of renovation, and much of it is hidden behind corrugated steel sheets. We walked there from the “coke hearth” at the top of Coalbrookdale, along the trackbed of a pre-railway age tramway, with beside us the railway which still carries fuel to the power station. We left this route where it was once crossed by the Coalport branch line, following the latter a short way to the aqueduct. Now our route would follow, on and off, the canal – to a point where it was crossed by a wagonway – another ancient bridge with a plaque to confirm the fact, though its construction date seems to be unknown. Whatever its age, it made an excellent spot to shelter from a sudden sharp flurry of snow… We returned to the car along rough lanes before descending once again to the wagonway beside the railway. Most of our walk had been on, or beside, ancient transport routes, mostly unseen and unknown by today’s road users.

View OS map on Streetmap