Hike Northbound through Britain with Daryl May
Click for Southbound hike
DN21 Author at Iron Bridge
Days N15 - N24                                                                     English Midlands
Day N21 - Bridgnorth to Telford
Day N20                       Telford and my boots                            Day N22
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Southbound Home
Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Time of departure: 8.15 am
Time of arrival: 4.30 pm
Place departed: Bridgnorth, Shropshire
Place arrived: Telford, Telford and Wrekin

Miles: 16.6
Cum miles: 345.5
Percent complete: 37.2

Bed sign Grove House, St. Georges, Telford  *****
Cost for bed and breakfast: 30 ($60)
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DN21 Richard Baxter
DN21 Iron Bridge tolls
At the top of the page is the Iron Bridge, the world's oldest - and beside it a 63-year-old hiker. Above right is the table of tolls for the bridge on some unknown date.  The bridge is now open only to pedestrians and bikers. Richard Baxter's home (above left) in Bridgnorth for the one year stated is neither flippant joke nor tragic biography - Baxter was a well-known theologian, writer, minister and activist in his 1615-1691 lifetime
The approach to Telford was a pretty, minor road that followed a ridge to the west of the Severn, with big-sky horizons muted by the overcast. 

Telford, the man, was an inspired civil engineer and architect, one of the giants of the industrial revolution. The city bearing his name has a gorge with museums and exhibits that depict the industrial revolution. It’s now recognized as a world heritage site.The Iron Bridge itself, made of cast iron in the late 18th century when formerly bridges were either stone or wood, revealed itself to me as I walked down the steep hill from Brosely.

Telford, the city, sprawls across many miles; the town center is five miles beyond Ironbridge, the area around the Iron Bridge itself, which marks the southern end of the town.  Then the town extends a few miles north of its center, to St. Georges where I stayed, and beyond. I had expected the city to be a grimy relic of the industrial revolution, but it is not. Fine parkways with bike and walking trails are set in woodland surroundings that showcase "newish" subdivisions. Telford is what the British call “a new town”.  And yet, because "newish" means, in this case, the 1960s and 70s, it is aging too. It must be a difficult task renewing cities without at the same time bringing about a relic of their age some years later. This isn't perhaps as much of a challenge when growth and renewal occur gradually. 

My Telford visit was dominated by my boots. Nice folks at the Tourist Information Centre located a real cobbler for me at Madeley Shopping Mall, to which I duly hiked. There, with my boots off my feet and on the counter, I asked John Cartright if he could add more depth to the heels, pointing out that I'd reached him before the rubber was worn through.  I hoped he could do the professional equivalent of gluing on a new heel. If this enabled me to get some decent additional mileage out of these boots, it might enable me to buy only one new pair of boots later.

John concluded that he couldn't do anything that would last.  I believed him then, though I had a pleasant surprise many miles later in Lancaster. But here in Telford, my strategy shifted to walking the existing boots into the ground and then buying new ones.

So I continued my trek north, trying to get as much of Telford behind me as I could, so as to have a shot at arriving at Market Drayton next day. The cobbler hunt had wasted some time, and I wasted more by having to sidestep a couple of miles to get to a B&B with space. A sprawling new town is not a “natural” as far as finding accommodation. Far better are the towns with a more defined and older town center.

All in all, I covered over sixteen miles today.  But because of my detours to the cobbler and the B&B, it wasn't very satisfying as far as miles "made good", which is a sailing term for miles to the destination notwithstanding the longer distance actually covered.

My knees gave me no trouble at all today, even going downhill, and I'm still off all painkillers. That seems indicative of muscle development, which is the nicest way to get around a torn meniscus, a loose joint, and arthritis.  But my shoulders still ached from my backpack.  What a pleasure to walk around without it after getting to the B&B at night!

There are, of course, a number of ways to do a long-distance hike.  By far the easiest is to have an accompanying support crew.  In this mode, your spouse or friend(s) drive a vehicle with your backpack, and arrange accommodation to which they drive you at the end of each day. Doubtless, they are also skilled at massage, sandwich-making, and route planning, and show up to wipe your brow just as soon as you summon them on your phone.  In some cases, a camper is used so the accommodation is right at hand.  With this type of support, and especially without a pack on your shoulder, I think I would have covered three to five miles more each day for the same effort.

I preferred to set a requirement of carrying the load I needed to.  Besides, I hadn’t got a candidate for support crew!  But there are others whose hiking mode makes them carry much more than me – the campers.  Those who camp have to also carry at least a sleeping bag and some shelter, a minimum of five extra lb.  I decided that was too much.  A further escalation in backpack weight then arises on trails where you have to carry your own food.  Then, too, some people take along a dog, whose food you might also have to carry - and dogs eat a greater proportion of their own weight each day than do humans.

What all this adds up to is a vast difference in effort between a hiker with a support crew and one who makes his own arrangements and carries his own pack with camping gear and food.  My case lay between the two extremes.

My accommodation tonight was at the best-run guesthouse of any I've stayed, in the more-than-capable and gracious hands of Jane Woodhall at Grove House in St. Georges, Telford.  I know that Jenny would like to stay there, so it went on my "future visit" list as well as earning my five stars. Dinner was across the road at Dave Chiu's Chinese place, quite adequate though lacking in ambiance and a smile.  In the morn, Jane served a great breakfast in the sunroom overlooking her garden, and generously packed a lunch for me too.  I set out on the morrow as if I had a following breeze.
Day N20                                2007 and 2008 Daryl May                                Day N22