Shropshire Hills - The Wrekin and Ironbridge Gorge

The Wrekin and Ironbridge Gorge - By Alan Garner

Seek the spiritual heart of Shropshire and you'll find the Wrekin. The Wrekin plays an important role in Shropshire folklore.

Visitors, pilgrims, honoured guests – we give you the Shropshire toast. “All friends round the Wrekin”. The Wrekin is perhaps Shropshire's best-known landmark, a curious legendary hill that, from this way it looks like a mountain, and that way, it crouches low. From the top you can see fifteen counties. It was also the inspiration for Tolkien's Middle Earth in the acclaimed series of books - The Lord of The Rings. Tolkien used to live nearby and drew inspiration from the magnificent Shropshire landscape.

It dominates the view of Telford and Ironbridge being 1335 ft tall and who would have guessed that Shropshire folklore tells us it was built by a giant who took a dislike to Shrewsbury. The Giant in question was a Welshman who dug a spadesful of soil and planned to dump it into the River Severn, flooding the town.

However, whilst slogging across the Shropshire hills, this giant lost his bearings and having only got as far as Wellington stopped for a rest. Sitting on the roadside he called out to a passing cobbler trying to find the direction to Shrewsbury. He told the cobbler he was going to flood the town. The cobbler, a quick-thinking businessman, thought for a moment and realized if the giant flooded Shrewsbury, he'd lose all his customers.

The cobbler quickly emptied his sack of worn out shoes onto the roadside and told the giant that he'd worn these shoes out himself coming from Shrewsbury. The giant, thinking better of his plan then decided to forget about Shrewsbury and go home instead. The Giant dumped his spadesful of soil on the roadside, and then scraped his boots clean with his spade. The mound of earth became the Wrekin and the smaller hill where he scraped his boots became the Ercall.

Our walk begins at the entrance to the Wrekin – on the road from Wellington to Little Wenlock – generally there is plenty of parking.

The Wrekin hill rises out of the Shropshire lowlands close to the River Severn on its journey from Shrewsbury to the Bristol channel.

The first part of the walk is an ascent to the trig point at the highest point on the hill. The path is broad and easy to negotiate- at sometimes of the year and day – it will probably be crowded as its  a popular exercise place as well as an excellent exercise work out.

Once you reach the summit, continue over the top and then you have a short but challenging descent to Little Hill. In bad weather – this may not be a good idea as it can be slippery, and the alternative is shown later.

You are following the Shropshire Way and indeed this long-distance path is your way marker for most of the walk.
Again, descend Little hill and reach a lane.

Turn left onto this quiet lane- called Spout Lane – proceed for 1.5 miles, undulating until you reach a small lane coming in from the right.

Just beyond this – the path carries on to the right- through fields until it reached Little Wenlock- by the church.
The Huntsman’s Inn is close by – take a left for 200 yards.

Little Wenlock is a village and civil parish in Shropshire, England. The population of the civil parish at the 2011 census was 605. It was mentioned in the Domesday Book, when it belonged to Wenlock Priory. Ancient habitation is attested by the discovery of two caches of Bronze Age weapons.

The village is situated two miles west of Dawley, a market town now part of Telford.

The village features a public house (the "Huntsman Inn"), village hall, playing field and church of St Lawrence.
For many years there was small scale mining in the parish, for coal, limestone and fire clay.

To continue the walk – turn right at the junction with the road and keep right where the main road goes left.
In half a mile the path goes off left and over Braggers Hill, make for the pylons and bear slightly right then diagonally across the next field to the left of the large house and onto a track.

You reach the Coalbrookdale road, and where this road crosses the ravine of the main road to Telford from Much Wenlock and Ironbridge – turn sharp left.

Approach and bear right past Leasows farm and you enter a wooded area at the head of Loamhole Dingle

The path drops down and has many steps which take you through the upper part of the dingle by the Loamhole Brook.

You have a choice when you meet a path coming up to a stile from the dingle below. Carry on along The Ropewalk- on a level gradually descending to the viaduct that caries the rail line to the now defunct Ironbridge Power station. OR take the descending steps into the bottom half of the dingle and along board walks and with steps – make your way to the same point inn front of the viaduct.

Here you can divert into the Museum of the Iron- see the original iron furnace – fee – avail your self of the tea rooms or visit the museum of the Iron. This area is Coalbrookdale.

Coalbrookdale is a village in the Ironbridge Gorge in Shropshire, England, containing a settlement of great significance in the history of iron ore smelting. It lies within the civil parish called the Gorge.

This is where iron ore was first smelted by Abraham Darby using easily mined "coking coal". The coal was drawn from drift mines in the sides of the valley. As it contained far fewer impurities than normal coal, the iron it produced was of a superior quality. Along with many other industrial developments that were going on in other parts of the country, this discovery was a major factor in the growing industrialisation of Britain, which was to become known as the Industrial Revolution. Today, Coalbrookdale is home to the Ironbridge Institute, a partnership between the University of Birmingham and the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust offering postgraduate and professional development courses in heritage.

At the viaduct- turn right and ascend along the coach road – for about 500 yards- see a small footpath on the left – this goes into the Greenwood centre- and here you will find the Greenwood café and Small woods area.

The Green Wood Centre is based in Coalbrookdale just a short way from historic Ironbridge and provides an innovative headquarters for Small Woods set in the woods of the Ironbridge Gorge.

Greenwood Centre promotes sustainable living through a wood-based economy by running courses and events in sustainable woodland management, coppicing, crafts and related activities. Our activities at the Centre include woodland volunteering projects, fun family sessions and woody events for the whole community.

The Green Wood Café - Open for business!
Set amongst the coppiced woodland and old buildings of Coalbrookdale’s former railway station, home of the Small Woods Association and its Green Wood Centre, sits the charming Green Wood Café. Please come on down for a bite to eat or a slurp of delicious fresh coffee.

Eventually you pass under the rail line -still descending slightly and meet the main road.

Turn left cross the road and pass the Museum of the Gorge, on your right You are now in the Ironbridge Gorge with the River Severn on your right.

In 500 yards – you arrive at Ironbridge village and the Ironbridge itself.

Refreshments here at several tea rooms and pubs.

11.5 miles 300 metres of ascent and 400 metres of descent to the Ironbridge Gorge from the top of the Wrekin.

Alternative to avoid the steep descent from the summit of the Wrekin to Little Hill.
Reverse your walk and when you each the café – Halfway House – just below this excellent refreshment spot- at the sharp left hand bend- take the right hand path- near an old piggery small holding. Follow this path for two miles as it wanders under the Wrekin summit then over a couple of fields before another broad path leads you to Spout Lane. Turn left and joi8n the original route

The Ironbridge Gorge

The Gorge is now a WORLD HERITAGE SITE
The Ironbridge Gorge is a deep gorge, containing the River Severn in Shropshire, England. It was first formed by a glacial overflow from the long drained away Lake Lapworth, at the end of the last ice age. The deep exposure of the rocks cut through by the gorge exposed commercial deposits of coal, iron ore, limestone and fireclay, which enabled the rapid economic development of the area during the early Industrial Revolution.

Originally called the Severn Gorge, the gorge now takes its name from its famous Iron Bridge, the first iron bridge of its kind in the world, and a monument to the industry that began there. The bridge was built in 1779 to link the industrial town of Broseley with the smaller mining town of Madeley and the growing industrial centre of Coalbrookdale.
There are two reasons the site was so useful to the early industrialists. The raw materials, coal, iron ore, limestone and clay, for the manufacture of iron, tiles and porcelain are exposed or easily mined in the gorge. The deep and wide river allowed easy transport of products to the sea.

The Iron bridge