== The Iron Bridge and the Museum of the Gorge ==
The world's first cast Iron Bridge, built in 1779, spans the River Severn near Telford in Shropshire. It is part of an area classified as a World Heritage site, at the place where the Industrial Revolution was born.
There are good public transport links to Telford town centre, by Rail and National Express, and buses from the town's Bus Station to the Gorge.
We travelled by car and found clear signs from Junction 4, of the M54.
I had a day out in The Iron Bridge Gorge in April. I was pleasantly surprised that it was not overly full of tourists on the mild spring day of our visit, but I am told numbers swell dramatically in high season. I was also pleased with the variety of independent eating places with reasonably priced meals. However, most of the menus were displayed on chalk boards outside the venues, which means that the prices could easily be altered upwards as demand increases. Therefore, my advice would, as ever, be to take your own food and drink if you are on a tight budget, especially if you are visiting in the school summer holidays.
We were lucky enough to be able to visit the surrounding area later.
There are a variety of attractions illustrating the past and present life in the Iron Bridge Gorge. You will not be able to fully appreciate all the attractions of the Iron Bridge Gorge area in one day. If you are in the area for more than one day, and like the sound of most of them, I suggest that you buy a season ticket, so that you can visit each as often as you like during the year.
If you only have the one day in the area, I suggest that you start by visiting The Museum of the Gorge near the Iron Bridge, where you will get a good overview of the area, giving you the best idea of how to get the most out of your day, according to what interests you most. I was there for about an hour.
While you are in the town of Ironbridge, you will know doubt want to walk across the gravel surface of the famous bridge cast by Abraham Darby III in 1779. Sadly the Tollhouse, next to the bridge, has the most limited opening times of the museums, and we were not there at the right time to have a look round.
== Blists Hill Victoria Village ==
For the majority of visitors, I expect that the place where most time will be spent is Blists Hill Victorian Village. I advise that you allow at least 4 hours for this, but if you are not pushed for time, it could be a full day out, with things of interest for the whole family.
At the start is a giant walk-through film show. I appreciated all of it, but those anxious to get to the out-of-doors main attraction need not spend long here.
If you may want to spend money on your journey around the village (at the shops or on a variety of rides), change up some modern money to old pounds, shillings and pence at Barclays Bank near the exit to the film show. The friendly cashier was happy to give advice about how much "old money" visitors might need according to the attractions open.
Off peak all attractions were not open, or only open during restricted hours, but if on a tight budget, there is plenty to do without spending extra on top of the entrance price. For example, visitors could look at the Victoria fun fair rides when I was there off-peak, but they weren't running. Although, as is usual, those with children in their party will have pressure to spend more than an all adult one, going off-peak could save you money in this respect.
No doubt the best memories of visitors will vary, as the actors and actresses in Victorian custom will change, as well as some of the attractions. My dominant memory is the funny one of the entertainment in the pub. You did not have to go inside to hear the loud music, and the off-key comedienne singing a song made famous by Music Hall star Nellie Wallace (1870-1948) that says, "My mother said, always look under the bed . . . . . ." (If you want more of the lyrics to this entertaining song, Google the line I have given you.) This actress later took a break from "singing" to travel around the village as a passenger on a horse and cart, waving to her fans.
Other exhibits here showed the way of life of the different social classes and occupations - their homes, workplaces, and how they spent their limited free time.
I commented that the doctor's home, incorporating his surgery, seemed surprisingly small by our standards, especially considering his position in the community.
That was until how I saw how the farm workers lived! However, the joy of the farm worker actors were that they were enthusiastic about telling visitors about their crops, animals and way of live.
Coal powered machinery on the site contrasted the better paid but more dangerous working life of others.
Although this is very popular in terms of visitor numbers, it is spread out enough for congestion at peak times to be less of a problem than other sites.
In my opinion, this is the BEST ATTRACTION in the Iron Bridge Gorge for all ages.
== Enginuity ==
This is a hands-on, family friendly, engineering science museum. It shows the design decisions and manufacturing processes involved in industry, in themed zones.
Sadly this was UNDERSTAFFED and therefore DISAPPOINTING on my off-peak visit. However, it did have the POTENTIAL to be a good all-weather facility.
When fully staffed, I suspect that this could provide at least a couple of hours of family fun, but if it is only managed well at peak times, problems of congestion will probably spoil enjoyment then.
Therefore, I would say avoid, to avoid stress of one sort or another, unless it is improved to be consistently good.
If you have visited please comment on how you found Enginuity and the timing of your experience.
== Other Attractions ==
I have told you the best and worst of my experiences in detail. Here is my concise verdict on attractions that I consider to have a less wide appeal.
I was pleasantly surprised at the imaginative ways that THE JACKFIELD TILE MUSEUM and COALPORT CHINA MUSEUM were presented, using original buildings on the sites. They took what I thought would be dull subjects and made them far more interesting than I thought they could be. I believe that visitors with any interest in the subjects will find the exhibits showing the manufacturing process and finished displays excellent. They include relevant activities for children too.
Near the Coalport Musem is the TAR TUNNEL. I enjoyed the short walk along the canal to look at the tunnel from the entrance. I only advise walking down it if you are wearing old clothes though, as bitumen still oozes through the brick-lined walls. If you do want to walk along it, do wear a hard hat that is provided.
At THE BROSELEY PIPE WORKS visitors can see the well-restored place where clay tobacco pipes were made.
The 2 DARBY HOUSES are the former homes of the Quaker Ironmasters' Darby family. Many original family items are on display here, and enthusiastic guides showed visitors around, trying to gear their talks up to the main interests of their guests for each individual tour. Some might be interested more in family life, while others might appreciate the architecture or room exhibits more, for example. The guides also had a good knowledge of the whole area. Again, this attraction was very well presented.
== RECOMMENDATION ==
There is a lot to see in the Iron Bridge Gorge, so pre-journey planning is imperative to make the most of your visit, if your time is limited to one day or less.
I hope my review helps you with your preparation, but I advise you to also look at http://www.ironbridge.co.uk/ and http://www.visitironbridge.co.uk/index.php to get up to date information on what is open when, season tickets to the whole site and varying single visit prices of individual attractions.
At time of writing individual annual season tickets are between £14.75-£22.50.
Family annual season tickets are £61.50.
The whole site held at least some interest for me, but MY FAVOURITE IS THE BLISTS HILL VICTORIAN VILLAGE.
Last week I managed to tick a "to do" off my very long list of "to do's". Now, this list grows by the day with things I want to see, do and acheive and places I wish to visit. If i'm lucky I get to tick something off it once a month. This list, seriously, Is getting to be like the comedic scroll in shrek that goes on....and on....and on....and on....and.... ok, you get the idea.
This particular "to do" was "visit Ironbridge Gorge." a place I've wanted to go to ever since (and I cringe to admit this) I saw it on Home and Away, back years and years ago in the days of Selina, Damien and Jessie! and I can very happily say that I was not disappointed in even the smallest way.
Living in Corby, I was amazed to see that Ironbridge was only 1 hr 45 drive away from me along the M6 and then M54, an amazingly straight forward journey for me. I arranged to meet my friend at Junction 4 off the M54 just outside Telford who was going to lead me in and show me the sights of Ironbridge.
Being a country girl I was amazingly impressed with the scenery on the drive in to the gorge and vowed to some day buy the first house that I saw for sale there. The gorge had ample parking at both ends of the high street for tourists and I remarked to my friend many times on the lack of coaches and traffic throughout the town.
Arriving at the gorge we parked on the opposite bank to the High Street where we were able to walk across the now pedestrianised famous Iron Bridge.
There are numerous websites on the net and reviews on here which give the history of Ironbridge so I would rather focus on what the area has to offer than to repeat this information again so all I will say is "Its got a big bridge, made of iron, over a hole in the ground with a river and was built by a very famous man who liked to play with moulton metal..." right, thats the history bit done! So, after a brief stand on the bridge to peer and appreciate, we headed to a cafe that no englishman would want to miss.. "The Tea Emporium" in the square.
This cafeteria is the home of every single tea in the world it would appear, even stating on the menu the recommended maximum brewing time for each variety, at an exceptionally reasonable price for a good old english cuppa I must say compared to many. The courtyard had very tidy wrought iron tables and chairs with a lovely view of the bridge across the street.
After kicking our heels for a short while, relaxing after a relatively long drive we decided to head off for our main target, a hill just outside Ironbridge by the name of "The Wrekin" (pronounced reekin)
A short drive led us to our destination and following a change into more appropriate footwear headed off up a shady wooded path for what I thought would be a nice gentle stroll to the top of a pleasant hill with pleasant views. And then I woke up.
By the first bend in the track I was puffing quite solidly and by the time I was half way up, the back of my thighs and my butt were burning massively, of course I couldnt admit this to my friend who I decided to let think was sweating marginally less than me! (he wasnt. dont tell him)
After a half hours brisk walk we reached the summitt at 1500 feet but wow! what a view. The rapidly tightening quads were instantly forgotten as we had panoramic views from the top back across to Ironbridge and miles beyond birmingham, Up to Chester in the north and across to Shrewsbury, the foothills of the welsh mountains and in the far far distance the very hazy outline of snowdon to the west. Simply breathtaking.
As we headed back down we stopped at the small outdoor cafe window very considerately opened (I would imagine in a fit of enterprise) by the rangers wife at the rangers cottage where you could purchase soft drinks, ice cream, crisps and tea. There was also a very conveniently placed toilet guarded by the countries least grumpy guard dog tucked just around the corner. Although there were no views from the cafe it allowed us to rest our legs and pass a pleasant ten minutes conversation on the benefits or otherwise of living half way up a stony track in the middle of a wood! well recommended although a medium to good level of fitness would be required to reach the top.
Hot, sweaty, thirsty and extremely hungry we decided to head back to Ironbridge and find what it had to offer in the way of food. as you head from the bridge and walk left along the river towards the museum, you will pass the ruin of a smelting furnace on the lopposite side of the road, just a ruin, just standing there, as is ironbridge's way and adds completely to the overall quaintness and feel of the place. Slightly further on you will come to a pub named "the malthouse" and this is where we found a lovely lunch of the best baguettes I've tasted in a long time! and of course the pint of shandy as a reward for a strenuous walk went down a treat to! most definately worth a visit.
Ironbridge of course has so many other attractions nearby. There is the Ironbridge museum, detailling a history of the gorge, the iron industry and building of the bridge itself, quite pricey at £20 for an adult, £13 for a child or £55 for a family. An intriguing attraction by the name of "enginuity" where you can test different aspects of electrical engineering, fab for the kids, and a victorian village just a short drive away. Being an outdoors walky kinda girl I didnt test any of these so all I can say is "they are there"
To summarise, Ironbridge was everything I expected it to be and not a disappointment in the slightest. A day would not have been long enough for me to spend and see everything it had to offer and I will certainly be going back for more walks, more exploring of attraction and most certainly sampling of different pubs! Charming, Quaint, amazingly scenic and, by virtue of the lack of coaches, yes during the holidays to, really rather peaceful.
Jackfield Tile Museum
We visited here as part of our annual pass visits to the Ironbridge Gorge Museums and although we expected it to be not that interesting we ended up thoroughly enjoying our visit.
The displays are both interesting and really well set out in a fun way. There is enough information if youre an enthusiast but its also great for an hour or so of fun.
There is a restaurant/cafe for refreshments and a shop where you can even order tiles for your whole house if you wanted!
We enjoyed our visit, its not one we would do over and over but would visit every so often as even our daughter enjoyed this.
Fantastic museum, full of interesting interactive displays, great fun.
We went and were almost snowed in however as the road into it is a steep one and not easy in heavy snowfalls!. The museum that day closed early so staff etc could get home but they said if we went back the next day if the snow was better we could take part in a special experiment testing a new display.
We did, it was great fun and our daughter absolutley loved it., The staff were friendly and helpful and all really enthusiastic which is nice.
Will definately go back
THESE REVIEWS HAVE BEEN PREVIOUSLY POSTED ON QYPE BY MYSELF UNDER THE NAME SUNLINESAM