SHROPSHIRE AND IRONBRIDGE
Abutting the Welsh border, Shropshire is the most rugged region of the Heart of England, with impressive hills and stunningly beautiful valleys. The ridges of the Long Mynd, Stiperstones and Wenlock Edge provide excellent walking country. But the local geology and topography also combined with human ingenuity to create one of the cradles of the Industrial Revolution, this region being a repository for iron ore, limestone, clay and charcoal, and with plenty of coal to hand plus the power of the River Severn and its tributaries.
LUDLOW, SHREWSBURY AND MUCH WENLOCK
With its impressive castle towering above the River Teme, Ludlow was for centuries an important town in the Welsh Marches. Numerous medieval and Tudor-style half-timbered buildings and whole streets of fine Georgian facades add to its appeal, so much so that Sir John Betjeman described Ludlow as ‘probably the loveliest town in England’. The castle is where Prince Arthur, elder brother of Henry VIII lived with his wife Catharine of Aragon, until his untimely death at only 15 changed the course of English history. In the north lies Shrewsbury, situated on a loop in the Severn and accessed by the Welsh and English bridges. It contains an ancient abbey, a Norman castle and a vast number of historic, half-timbered buildings. It was also the birthplace of Charles Darwin. Other places of interest include Bridgenorth, also on the River Severn, its upper and lower towns linked by a tram. Like so many others, its castle was slighted during the English Civil War so that it could never be used again. Much Wenlock is home to a ruined priory and birthplace of the modern Olympic movement thanks to physical fitness regimes introduced locally by William Penny Brookes.
ROMAN REMAINS, RIVER SEVERN AND THE IRONBRIDGE GORGE
There are impressive bridges, roads and canals by the great engineer, Thomas Telford, parks and gardens by Capability Brown, and even the ruins of a Roman town, Wroxeter. Once the terminus of the famous Watling Street, today it is home to a reconstructed villa which demonstrates just how advanced Roman civilisation was. But for many visitors the top attraction is surely the Ironbridge Gorge, where glaciation and erosion by the River Severn laid bare all the natural raw materials of what was to become the Industrial Revolution. The actual Iron Bridge over the Severn was the first such structure ever built, by a family that started out making pots and pans. Museums, historic sites and even a reconstructed town tell the story of industrial development at this World Heritage Site.