One of the nice things about friends is that they usually have a car and in return for a days cruising on the canal they took us cruising the countryside. After 5 months afloat we don’t miss the Tarmac but it was good to cross the county boarders into Shropshire to visit Ironbridge and the surrounding area with them.

The 30m Iron Bridge spanning the River Severn was built 1779-1781 by Abraham Darby III. His Grandfather, also Abraham Darby, had worked out how to smelt iron using coke rather than coal making it a lot more economical. They also built the hotel as the place attracted visitors right from the start.

A few miles down the road/river is Coalbrookdale where the Coalport Museum is. Another fascinating place brought alive through the guided tour that we took. I’d never stopped to think about why bone china was called bone china, but there is a fairly obvious reason, it is 50% crushed bone mixed with China clay and Cornish stone. The industrial revolution was now in full steam. The convergence of a canal to deliver coal for the kilns and the river to bring the clay and stone from Cornwall led to Coalport being able to make tableware economically and more available to everyday folk.

What we saw as a fascinating peaceful place was probably far from it in the 19th century.

We got very excited seeing the canal terminus, but alas it is now only a short length and cruising to Ironbridge by canal or river isn’t feasible although next week we do plan to cruise downstream from Stourport on the Severn.

We did do and see a lot lot more with our friends but perhaps that had better stay off the blog. Sadly I was engulfed in a fit of the giggles when the tour guide showed us the sagger maker’s bottom knocker so no more photos.