Splendid Shropshire

Val Baynton reports back from a busy Readers’ Weekend in Shropshire.

In October, 22 GTO readers and guests thoroughly enjoyed the two-night Splendid Shropshire weekend discovering the heritage of the county and the excellent group visit offers at the World Heritage Site of Ironbridge, Severn Valley Railway, RAF Museum Cosford and Weston Park.

Based at the comfortable 114-bedroom Telford Hotel & Golf Resort, readers were impressed by its location close to a variety of attractions. After welcome drinks and an excellent dinner, Gillian Crumpton, the Curator of Collections at Ironbridge, spoke on the history of tile-making within the Gorge and the collections at the Jackfield Tile Museum.

On Saturday, we visited the newly redisplayed Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron and The Museum of the Gorge where, led by David de Haan (volunteer guide and retired director of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust), we learnt why and how the Gorge became the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. We drove past the historic Ironbridge on the way to Blists Hill Victorian Town. Here, we stepped back in time to the late 1890s visiting shops such as the chemist, bakers and sweetshop, and enjoyed a traditional fish and chips or vegetarian pasty lunch.

The Severn Valley Railway runs for 16 miles from Bridgnorth to Kidderminster and our afternoon journey took us halfway to Highley. The restored carriages and stations brought back the nostalgia of steam travel and at Highley we were able to get up close to locomotives at the Engine House Visitor Centre, including a special tour of the Royal Carriage, commissioned by King George VI to allow him and Queen Elizabeth (the late Queen Mother) to travel around the UK during the war years. We discovered they travelled some 65,000 miles and the carriage is the heaviest that’s ever been made as it was armour plated! Delicious homemade cakes and tea were served in the Flag & Whistle Food Stop, which overlooks the railway track.

That evening, we were treated to a delicious dinner at the Best Western Valley Hotel in Ironbridge. This historic house, now a 44-bedroom hotel with walking access to Ironbridge and some attractions, has a groups’ coordinator who can help with itinerary ideas for stays in the area.

Sunday started with a guided tour of the free-to-enter RAF Museum Cosford. Volunteer John Parsons shared insights into some of the 75 aircraft on show at the historic airfield in three wartime hangers as well as introducing the National Cold War Exhibition. Highlights included the only surviving example of a Bristol Type 188 aircraft made entirely from stainless steel, the world’s oldest Spitfire and the sole remaining Kawasaki Ki100.

Our final visit was to Weston Park, an elegant home with gardens landscaped by Capability Brown, and dating back to the 17th century. Furnished with paintings by Stubbs, Constable and Gainsborough, fine furniture, rare ceramics, stunning silver and a tailor-made set of silk and wool tapestries made at Gobelins in Paris in 1766, we were guided around the house by curator Gareth Williams. We learnt stories of the families who had lived at Weston Park, about links to the English Civil War and met a yellow parrot – the gift of former Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli!

All attractions offer bespoke packages including guided tours and catering for groups of all ages, and events take place throughout the year – providing additional reasons to make a trip to Splendid Shropshire!

“What a wonderful weekend we had! The hotel, the visits, the food and the organisation were superb. The team representing the various venues were charming and helpful. Although I was born in Shropshire, the venues were all new to me and so I learnt a great deal about my native county. Everything went like clockwork and the weather was really good.  Who could ask for more?”

Reg, Kineton Regent Club, Warwick

“The weekend could not have been better and we will definitely be arranging group outings to most of the places visited. Information for the weekend was very good and meeting up and sharing ideas with other readers was extremely useful. Thanks must go to all concerned for arranging all the fabulous guides, who were so enthusiastic about their sites. We were well looked after at the hotels during our visit. A definite EYE OPENER.”

Frank & Pat, Sainsbury’s Veterans, Derby

 

For further information:

IRONBRIDGE GORGE MUSEUMS

SEVERN VALLEY RAILWAY

RAF MUSEUM COSFORD

WESTON PARK