Ten years ago… 14 April 2010: just the kind of thing we’d be doing today, if we could. The bridge was a different colour, and there were still cooling towers at the power station.
“We ought to go down and look at the river”. Last time the Severn was this high was almost 20 years ago, in Autumn 2000. These floods have set new records locally, though happily the temporary flood barriers along the Wharfage in Ironbridge seem to have been sufficient. There was a fear that the water might rise over the top, and at some stage (during the night?) the weight of water seems to have pushed them back across the road. Further downstream, the water’s on the road near Bedlam (only seen that once before) and poor Jackfield looks a bit sad. Now the waters are receding, very slowly – hope that’s the last of it for now…
Nearly six years ago, we stood beside the road, high above the Severn near Leighton, to look at the floods – and in doing so, recorded the scene downstream, taking in the then still active power station at Ironbridge. This afternoon, as the sun neared the horizon, I stood in the same spot and pointed the camera as before.
See “Deeper and Higher” for more on the February 2014 floods, and “Bang!” for the recent demise of the cooling towers.
Sorry – it’s hardly original. The eagle-eyed will have spotted one or two not-very-cryptic photo captions relating to Ironbridge power station, which operated for the last time just over four years ago. Since then, it has been decommissioned, and now is undergoing demolition. So far, such work has not been obvious, but this morning, at 11am, the towers came down. They were so big that they always seemed to be nearer than they were – the closest was about 2/3 of a mile away from our vantage point, the furthest not far short of a mile. Just before 11, we heard warning sirens – and then the towers began to fall. The boom of the explosive charges, like the crack of thunder following a nearby bolt of lightning, came when the towers were well on their way down. Yes, we know why, but the laws of physics can easily be forgotten in a moment of excitement.
Now they’re history. The intentionally salmon-pink towers were quite an icon in this part of the world, and it was a sad sight to see them being reduced to rubble (and an awful lot of dust!). However, the Severn Gorge already looks more rural, like it did in the early 60s, and when the chimney and turbine halls have gone, the riverside here will look completely different, in closer accord with a greener future.
We’ve had lunch, the rain has stopped and the sky has cleared, so we’re taking a stroll from Ironbridge to the top of Coalbrookdale and back. It’s a pleasant afternoon – mild, bright and mostly dry (it’s trying to rain when we get back to the car). But where are all the people? There’s no-one else on the bridge, the Wharfage is deserted, Coalbrookdale’s quiet. Most unusual!
View OS map on Streetmap https://www.streetmap.co.uk/map.srf?X=366895&Y=304151&A=Y&Z=120
Two weeks ago we saw a red ex-London Transport bus in Ironbridge (see The Wharfage and the bridges). Not a common sight in these parts! “www.regionaltransport.co.uk“, it said on the front. We’d better look into that… It turns out that they are running “sightseeing trips” between Shrewsbury and Ironbridge, on Wednesdays in August. The next Wednesday was wet. Today, the weather’s much better, so we’re off to Shrewsbury on the normal bus service. We’ll enjoy a light lunch before joining the 2.20 departure from the Square, by the old market hall. The route back to Ironbridge is very familiar, but it’s great to look out at the passing scene, from the front seats at the top… At Ironbridge there’s around 45 minutes to wait for the service bus home (we could have walked, but…) – perfect for tea and cakes.
I’m trying out some new kit – an hour in Ironbridge might be worthwhile. Wow – it’s busy! Oops! – after the first few photos, I’ve accidentally set a “creative” effect which has over-cooked the colours. I’ve tried to tone them down a bit, but really they’d benefit from a bit more tinkering. It’s hardly worth the effort – I could take them again (on a quieter day…) if I wanted.
There’s a cold wind, but it should stay dry. Maybe there’s a chance of some sunshine? Not really – certainly none of the deep blue that we had between the morning’s sharp showers. Down in the valley, walking between Ironbridge and the Coalport bridge, it’s sheltered and pleasant enough. To avoid what would have been a very muddy path, we’re crossing the Severn twice more – using the Jackfield memorial footbridge and lastly, the new “Free Bridge” – that’s four metal bridges in a row, all significant in their own way.
View OS map on Streetmap http://www.streetmap.co.uk/map.srf?X=368630&Y=302741&A=Y&Z=120