We woke to a cold 45º Fahrenheit. It was raining outside but warm and comfy in the Earthroamer. After a quick breaky of bacon, eggs and toast, we moved down to the bowser to purchase fuel at 94.9p per litre.
We then dropped down to Iron Bridge Gorge. It is described as the Silicon Valley of the 18th Century. We had been here before some years ago with Hayley and Jenny. It is the home and birthplace of the Industrial Revolution.
There are wonderful heritage sites. The Iron Bridge itself crosses the river Severn. It was designed by Abraham Darby III and is made of cast iron – all interlocked together.
The Iron Bridge Gorge owes much of its success to the achievements of the three generations of the Darby family, who pioneered the technique of smelting iron ore with coke in 1709 – paving the way for local factories to begin mass production of iron wheels, rails and locomotives. Abraham Darby II invented the forging process that allowed for the production of single beams of iron (thanks to Lonely Planet for this information).
We parked the Earthroamer and walked up and down the gorge. The sun was trying to peep through.
The roads are extremely narrow but it was wonderful that we could get the Earthroamer through. There was not much traffic. The British seem to concentrate their holidays and visits to places like this to the sunny and warm part of the year – we were probably considered to be quite eccentric.
We walked past the youth hostel on the Severn River, and the old china making buildings. The tar tunnel (where tar oozes out of an old mine) was closed, but above it was the extraordinary railway line lift, which was designed to lift barges from the Severn River to a canal some 80 metres or so above the river.
We moved to the west, along the Severn River, and parked beside the abandoned “Bedlam Furnaces”. We walked in light rain, with our umbrellas, to visit the Museum of the Gorge. There was a wonderful model of the Gorge in the 1700s. You can see why it was the home of the Industrial Revolution. There was ironstone, limestone, coal, clay and water all handy – everything for china making as well as iron smelting.
After a couple of hours visiting the Gorge, we headed north to the Telford Retail Park, to the Maplin Electronics store. It is sort of an equivalent to Dick Smith Electronics. We bought TV aerial parts. Our television aerial had not worked since it was fitted in Denver. It is a new rotating one, and we were not to find the problem until we arrived in Scotland.
Everything in the UK is expensive compared to Wal-Mart in the USA, or even Australia. For example, one simple TV aerial that would sit on a TV set was £9.99 – equivalent to about $25 in Australia. I’m sure the same thing would be available at Wal-Mart in the USA for $5.
After leaving the Maplin store we headed west towards Shrewsbury. At least it is a little warmer – now 50º Fahrenheit – but still grey outside.
We are now heading into Wales. You know you are in Wales because virtually all of the signs are in Welsh with unpronounceable names, as well as in English.
Just after entering Wales we made an error and instead of turning left on the A5 towards Llangollen, we went straight ahead. This was fortunate because in correcting ourselves we came through the town of Garth and ended up on the wrong side of the village of Llangollen, at the Canal Exhibition Centre and beside the steam railway station. Unfortunately the steam trains were not operating.
Llangollen is the most beautiful little town on the River Dee, in a steep sided valley. We could smell coal – not only from the steam engine that was shutting down, but from many of the small houses. Llangollen is the permanent venue of the International Eisteddfod, which attracts over 2,500 participants in the celebration of global song and dance.
In talking to the locals and looking at signs, we soon realised that just below the town, only a 10 minute drive away, was Telford’s extraordinary 38 metre high Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Dick loves canals nearly as much as steam engines, so we quickly drove back down the A5 – the part we had missed out on – to the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.
It is on the Llangollen canal, and allows the canal to cross the River Dee. It was designed by Telford and built between 1795 and 1805. The iron troughs look as if they have been cast. Each one is 11’10” wide and 5’3” deep, and they make up a 1,000 foot long aqueduct. The total cost was £47,000.
We walked across the aqueduct to the Trevor Basin. The whole of the aqueduct has been reconditioned in the last decade and is in an excellent state – considering that it is now over 200 years old. We decided that we would like to come back in the warmer period, hire a boat and take it on the canal and across the aqueduct.
We jumped back into the Earthroamer and headed towards North Wales, to the Snowdonia National Park and the small town of Betws-y-Coed. This is a town that Dick had been to in 1966 with Tony Balthasar when climbing Mount Snowdon.
It was nearly dark when we arrived at 4.30pm. We followed the signs to the Riverside Caravan Park, but a small sign stated that it was closed until 14 March 2007 – not much good for us. We turned the vehicle around in a very narrow area and parked in a street near the railway line. It was a very secure place to spend the night and we could walk across a railway bridge into the town itself.
We popped into the Cotswold Outdoor store and bought a map of Snowdonia. Dick also insisted on buying a freeze-dried packet of Spotted Dick and custard – a local delight he reckons.
We walked back to the Earthroamer. Pip spent time downloading her pictures and copying them to discs, while Dick turned on the TV and watched some really good British shows. We were warm and snug inside. We even got out some Lindemans wine. It was a wonderful day with incredible scenery. We were so fortunate that we went the wrong way and then found the Telford canal.
171kms Today 13,964kms Total