Ironbridge Walking Festival
PUBLISHED: 15:03 22 March 2011 | UPDATED: 19:02 20 February 2013
From walking with the larks to spooky strolls with the bats there's plenty of ways to put your best foot forward on the biggest ever Ironbridge Gorge Walking Festival
From walking with the larks to spooky strolls with the bats theres plenty of ways to put your best foot forward on the biggest ever Ironbridge Gorge Walking Festival
This years Ironbridge Gorge Walking Festival, from Saturday, April 30 to Sunday, May 8, features 28 free, guided rambles, covering a range of interests and abilities.
There are challenging full day outings in and around the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site as well as family adventures, historic trails and wildlife walks.
Learning about the Gorges transport history, getting up very early to enjoy the dawn chorus, looking for clay or just enjoying an amble around some of the more interesting local pubs, there is something for everyone, including a wheelchair and pushchair friendly walk. Led by expert volunteer leaders, there will be themed walks taking in the fascinating, flora, fauna and archaeological history of the Ironbridge Gorge as well as its spectacular beauty.
For the more adventurous there are longer walks along the South Telford Heritage Trail and a circular tour of the Gorge, making the festival both more challenging for the experienced walker, and interesting for those wanting to find out more about the area.
The walks are graded into four levels of difficulty ranging from a gentle two-hour family treasure hunt up to a strenuous, 15-mile circular hike over the Wrekin, ideal for more experienced walkers happy with steep climbs and rough terrain. Well-behaved dogs on a lead are welcome on most walks but please check before booking.
All walks are free but with places limited (in most cases to between 15 and 20 people), pre-booking is strongly recommended. To book, or for a copy of the programme, call 01952 435857 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The full programme can be viewed online at www.cherryeventcatering.co.uk/events or pick one up from local Tourist Information Centres, libraries and community centres or at Cherrys Real Food Caf at the Green Wood Centre, Station Road, Coalbrookdale.
Overnight camping facilities are available at the Green Wood Centre or accommodation suggestions can be found in the Ironbridge and Telford visitor guide. Call 01952 567562 for a free copy or log onto www.visitironbridge.co.uk
Heritage for the hardy
The first walk in the programme, which proved very popular last year and is one for serious walkers, is a demanding 12-mile circular hike starting at 10.30am on Saturday, April 30 from the Toll House, Ironbridge and returning some five to six hours later. The walk is repeated on May 4 at the same time. It follows the South Telford Heritage Trail and takes in heritage sites within the parishes of Stirchley and Brookside, Madeley, Dawley Hamlets and the Gorge.
The trail takes in the remains of a network of canals, tramways, railways, coalmines, brickworks, potteries and ironworks that once flourished in the area. Highlights include the Blue Pool, a pit where clay was extracted by the Randlay Brickworks. The suspension of clay particles in the water gives the pool its deep blue colour. Along the route walkers will also pass Stirchley Chimney, a reminder of the areas industrial past, St James Church, one of the finest in Telford, the single arch aqueduct that gave its name to a village that grew up around it and 16th century Madeley Court, now a hotel. The fascinating Hay Inclined Plane, an engineering feat that lowered and hauled laden tub boats from the Shropshire Canal to the canal basin at Coalport is also along the route, and so, too, is the areas famous Iron Bridge. Walkers are advised to take a packed lunch and also to pack a camera to capture the spectacular views and good photo opportunities. The South Telford Heritage Trail can also be followed independently, either entirely or in part and more details can be found at www.walktelfordheritage.co.uk
Also on the first day of the festival, at 8.30pm, theres the Dingle in the Dark Walk, a splendidly spooky stroll around a candlelit woodland trail. New to this years programme, its sure to delight all ages and is suitable for accompanied children. With luck, night-time explorers will encounter bats, moths and other nocturnal creatures and they will certainly experience the special atmosphere of the woodlands after dark. There will be free hot drinks and snacks at the end of the walk. Participants should leave dogs at home, and are advised to bring a torch and wear appropriate outdoor clothing. Numbers are limited to 30. The one-hour walk led by Alec Connah of South Telford Rights of Way Partnership will depart from Coalbrookdale Community Centre Car park, Darby Rd, Coalbrookdale.
Up with the lark
For early risers theres an opportunity to enjoy the dawn chorus and to identify the song and calls of a variety of woodland and farmland birds in and around Benthall Edge Wood on Saturday, May 7 from 5.30am. The Dawn Chorus Walk led by local ornithologist Glenn Bishton leaves from the Toll House, Ironbridge and lasts three hours. Again, walkers are asked to leave their dogs at home for this walk and they are advised to bring a flask and a snack and binoculars would be useful.
For nature enthusiasts, theres also the chance to learn about the local bird life on May 1 at 10am with a guided walk around Devils Dingle, also with Glenn Bishton. The walk at Ironbridge Power Stations old ash disposal site should provide opportunities to see a diverse range of birds including many summer migrants. Walkers should meet at the main gates to Devils Dingle for the start of this three-mile walk, which will last about three hours. Again, no dogs are permitted on this walk.
On the penultimate day of the festival, theres the chance for wildlife photography enthusiasts to explore some of the best locations and habitats in the area. New to this years programme, the Wildlife and Environmental Photography Walk is suitable for beginners and involves a two and a half hour tour of local footpaths, accessing suitable photo locations and habitats with advice on basic technique, equipment and species. This is suitable for a small group of 12 people so early booking is advisable. Dogs are not allowed and walkers are advised to wear sturdy shoes and appropriate outdoor clothing. The walk, led by Alec Conan of South Telford Rights of Way Partnership, will depart from the Green Wood Centre, Station Road, Coalbrookdale at 10.30am on May 7.