Four nights: Monday, July 16 to Friday, July 20
Sticking with the approach of choosing a base town from which we could explore a larger area, we next headed to the Shropshire town of Church Stretton. Originally, we were thinking of doing day trips to Wales (perhaps Snowdonia National Park), Chester and the Ironbridge Gorge area. However, due to the questionable “summer” weather, we ended up staying a bit closer to our base and skipped Wales and Chester.
One of the main attractions in this area is the great variety of walking trails. On our first full day, we struck out on a nine mile loop walk from Church Stretton to the village of Cardington and back. The marked trail was quite scenic, cutting through farmland, pastures, wooded areas and up fairly substantial hills which afforded great panoramic views. I was also looking forward to hitting the village at the halfway point and enjoying a pub lunch. Being lazy (we’re on vacation after all!) we got a late start and made it into Cardington around 2:45. This was bad news as it turns out the pub closed after lunch at 2:30! Dejectedly, we trudged on for the remaining 4.5 miles – though the views were still enjoyable, even as it started to rain…
The next day had a forecast full of rain, so we planned to drive into the nearby larger town of Shrewsbury to get lunch and perhaps catch a movie. However, once there, the weather seemed to be holding up, so we headed into the center of the old town to see the sights. It turns out that Shrewsbury is where Charles Darwin was born and grew up, so there were quite a few Darwin-related locations. We enjoyed following the Darwin-centric walking path we found in a brochure, plus we got to check out some of the old city walls.
Finally, on our last day, we headed to the Ironbridge Gorge historical area. It consists of a cluster of related sites that are collectively a UNESCO World Heritage site due to their contributing role in the Industrial Revolution. The key contribution was that this is where coke was first used to smelt iron, resulting in an economical way to produce large quantities of the metal, thereby enabling the Industrial Revolution. An interesting site was the namesake Iron Bridge, which was the first bridge constructed of cast iron. We also checked out the Museum of Iron, which provided further context on life and industry in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.