AN IRONBRIDGE CIRCULAR WALK
Distance: 7 miles.
Time to complete: 3.5 - 4 hours.
1. The walk begins at the Iron Bridge, built by Abraham Darby III in 1779 (the world’s first bridge constructed from iron, spanning 37 meters [120 feet]). Follow the River Severn towards the Ironbridge Visitor Centre. Turn right into Dale Road where there are views of the famous Wrekin Hill (407 meters [1,335 feet]) high and continue past the Youth Hostel and Holy Trinity Church, built 1850-54; past the Aga works on the left to the Museum of Iron at Coalbrookdale.
2. Follow the road round and pass under the railway viaduct, turning left along Coach Road where there are Ramsons growing along the roadside. At the steps to Captain’s Coppice, turn right into the road rising towards Westminster Farm. Continue to strethill Lodge on the left and take the path ahead on the right.
3. Where paths cross, go through a gate and walk along the edge of the field to go through a second gate. Walk towards the pylon and beyond it there is a stile entering the wood [conditions here can be very muddy]. Walk down the slope and follow the stream and go through the gate at the roadside. Cross the road and after 50 meters turn left onto the footpath leading towards the familiar brown flow of the River Severn once more.
4. On the bank, turn right and follow the river. When you get to the bridge you will notice that the toe-path beneath the bridge is no longer in use so you will have to go onto the road and continue around the bridge to enter the riverside walk on the other side. Go through the gate into the field and leave by another gate; turn left on the road to cross the River Severn via the bridge. Further on the right are the ruins of Buildwas Abbey, founded by Roger de Clinton, Bishop of Coventry and built in 1135 as a Savignac Monastery. In 1147 it became a Cistercian Order and in 1342, the Abbot was murdered by a fellow monk named Thomas Tong, who evaded arrest. The Abbey was closed on Henry VIII’s orders in 1536.
5. Double back to where the disused railway line is visible and walk down the minor road beside them, turning right by the fence. Continue straight with the power station on the left until you reach the Camping and Caravan Park with its chalets. Enter the park, staying on the road straight ahead, uphill and aim for the pylon at the edge of the wood where there is a gate nearby. Go through the gate.
6. Follow the steep pathway uphill [conditions here can be extremely muddy], bending right into woodland. There is a sharp left turn rising uphill and then bear right onto the next gate and continue towards Benthall Hall farm, appearing on the left. Shortly you will notice a little graveyard on the right. And soon on the left is the beautiful little church of St Bartholomew, built in 1667 and beyond, from the churchyard can be seen the elegant stone frontage of Benthall Hall, which dates from 1535-1583. The Hall was given to the National Trust in 1958 and there are some beautiful gardens designed by Robert Bateman, a former owner of the Hall from 1890-1906.
7. Leave the church and go through the gate on the left, entering a field where there is yet another excellent view of the Hall. Continue to another gate and follow the edge of the farmed field, passing under power cables that seem to sing as you go through a swing gate near a larger gate.
8. Turn left and go between hedges across farmland. The path soon becomes tree-lined and enters Benthall Edge Wood. Turn right past a small limestone cliff where if you look carefully you can find some small fossils in the cliff and the loose rocks. Follow the path, keeping the mighty River Severn on your left; where the path turns right, go left onto a smaller pathway and walk down the wooden steps, of which there are many! Into the Severn Gorge.
9. At the bottom of the steps, go right with the River, keeping it on your left. After about a mile the Iron Bridge comes into view. Cross over the bridge and you will notice the welcoming sight of the Tontine Hotel, where the walk ends.