If you enjoy walking or cycling there is a great route that runs between Bridgnorth and Ironbridge that follows the river Severn. The route is a disused railway line that begins near the golf course just north of Bridgnorth and runs 7 miles to Woodbridge in Ironbridge Gorge. From here you are able to use the many paths and cycletrails that form the Silkin Way to explore the gorge proper including the Ironbridge, Coalbrookdale, Jackfield and Coalport all worth visiting for their museums and industrial heritage. The great thing about this trail is that it's flat so its not a hard slog to walk or cycle. The scenery along the trail is beautiful with sandstone outcrops, woods and meadows everywhere and the hugely impressive Apley Estate and Apley Hall just over the river (note, the hall is a private residence and not open to the public but you can view it well enough from the river, see also http://www.apleyhall.com/). You have the option of walking along the old railway or on the Severn Way that runs alongside the river just a few yards away from the railway.
When you get to the end of the trail there is a welcoming pub in Woodbridge, imaginatively named The Woodbridge, where you can enjoy a drink and something to eat.
Note, in the winter and after periods of rain it can get quite muddy.
Allow a day.
About 2 miles south of Bridgnorth is Daniels Mill. An old water mill that dates originally from the 15th century although the building that stands there today is more likely 19th century. That was when the current wheel was installed anyway.
The mill is very picturesque and the tour is interesting, you get a good demonstration of grinding wheat to flour using the natural power of running water that turns the wheel that in turn rotates the huge grinding stones.
The mill is open from easter through to October and there is an admission charge of £3 for adults and £2.50 for kids as at 2009.
For steam train enthusiasts the Severn Valley Railway passes above the mill on large viaduct which can give some great photo opportunities.
There are some nice walks through the woods too.
People come from all over the country to visit the SVR - one of the longest steam railways in Britain. The platform is a hive of activity throughout the summer months. There is also a pub on the station that happens to be my local and I enjoy sitting on the platform with a pint of Guinness watching the steam trains on a summer evening.
At certain times they also run "specials" like a Thomas the Tank Engine weekend and a Santa Special. The railway is run by enthusiastic volunteers and benefactors so all the revenue from tourism is greatly received. After all, its the one thing that puts Bridgnorth on the map.
On a nice summers day drive to low town and park by the river and take the funicular railway (entrance opposite the bridge over the river) up the cliff into high town where there is a pleasant walk around castle terrace that culminates in castle park. The park is an old fashioned park of lawns and flowers with an ornate bandstand in the middle. Also in the park are the castle ruins - not much survives after the castle was blown up in the civil war. One tower remains and it leans at a more acute angle than the tower of Pisa. From castle park you can continue into the town centre or turn right to see the Georgian style church designed by Thomas Telford.
Every year on the late May bank holiday (Whitsun) Bridgnorth hosts its annual walk. If you are a keen walker this is for you. The walk starts in the high street and goes out to the top of Brown Clee hill some 11 miles away and then returns via a different route to finish in the high street. The route is 22 miles and there are a maximum of 1200 people allowed to enter.
You must raise sponsorship for a registered charity and show that you have collected the money and paid it to the charity of your choice.
There is also a junior walk that goes for 7 miles and is open to 300 youngsters aged 10 to 13.
Over the years the walk has raised over £1,000,000 for charity and I'm proud to say I finished third one year, not in the walk but in the fund raising, and was presented with a trophey by the town mayor.
If you want to do it get your entry in early.
Follow the web link below for more details.
Bridgnorth has a very unusual town hall. The bottom half is open and until the 1990's traffic used to pass underneath. Now it is sealed off from traffic but it still acts as a market area on Saturday mornings where local farmers sell their produce. The town hall dates from 1652 when the building, then a barn, was donated to the town. It was much restored in 1887 and it is pretty much unchanged since then. Entrance is free and you can inspect the council chambers. The building is also open Saturday and Sunday. There is now a small cafe selling fair trade coffee and postcards etc in the upper part of the building.
At the north end of the high street is the Northgate, originally part of the towns defenses and now home to a little museum dedicated (mostly) to local history.
The museum is free to enter and the people running it are very helpful and informative.
Visitors from America will be interested in the local story that saw 4 young children packed off on the Mayflower as orphans even though they had parents. An intriguing tale of landed gentry protecting their heirs!
There is a great view of the high street from the top of the museum steps as well.
You have to hand it to the victorians, if they saw something they liked they would replicate it. They had a strong liking for gothic buildings and so a lot of the gothic styles you see in England are actually Victorian gothic revivalism.
Here in Bridgnorth we have something fairly unique ourselves. The Market Hall is an Italianate style building complete with a campanile more reminiscent of Florence than an English market town.
Built in 1855 it must have looked quite stunning when complete. The trouble is that now it really could do with a bit of TLC, a makeover or at least a damn good clean.
I wish they'd either restore it or knock it down but to see it gradually look more and more run down every year is quite sad.
It's one of our famous landmarks and we should treat it with a bit more respect.
Bridgnorth has a few really good antique/brik-a-brak shops that are worth visiting if you like poking around after a bargain. The two biggest are the Smithfield Antique Centre in Whitburn Street, high town and Old Mill Antique Centre in Mill Street, low town.
Bridgnorth can't hold a candle to its Shropshire neighbour Ludlow for antique and junk shops but it's still pretty good.
For a fairly small town Bridgnorth has a healthy selection of pubs to choose from. At the last count we had 27, not bad in the current climate. No doubt helped by the number of visitors the town gets our pubs seem to thrive. I'm not going to make recommendations here as all the pubs serve a selection of beers and nearly all do food. Of course if the one you choose isn't to your liking you have another 26 to try!!
Here's a selection to whet your appetite.
Bridgnorth is really a town of two halfs. High town up on the cliff and low town down by the river. Because of this somewhat disjointed position Bridgnorth has a lot of passageways and steps linking the two halfs of the town.
If you like walking and enjoy keeping fit then walking the steps of Bridgnorth is better than an hour long workout at the gym.
To my knowledge there are at least seven sets of steps that connect the two halfs of town, the steepest being the Cannon Steps at over 180 from top to bottom.
If you don't feel like taking the climb then you can always pay and take the funicular railway.
Severn Park is a large park in the Low Town area that is very popular during the summer months especially with day trippers. There is a large car park (with a charge) and plenty of room to spread out and let the kids kick a ball around or walk your dog.
There is a path that follows the riverbank and leads to the Low Town Bridge where there are shops, pubs and the funicular railway connecting hign town.
Also at weekends throughout the summer there are organised events such as a visiting fair, a regatta, steam engine rally and so on.
The riverside is very popular with tourists and day trippers during the summer. They are not so extensive and can be walked easily. The best sections are the paths that extend from Severn Park to the Low Town Bridge and the area directly opposite where there is a pleasant quay to sit and enjoy the river.
Just 4 miles south of Bridgnorth on the road to Kidderminster is the hall and estate of Dudmaston. A 17th century mansion that was once the home of Abraham Darby who is one of the founders of the industrial revolution that took place in nearby Ironbridge.
The estate is now owned by the National Trust and is open from April to September.
Inside there are many paintings and objets d'art including sculptures by Henry Moore.
The gardens are extensive and there is also a large pond.
Being a National Trust property there is an entrance fee (£5,80) for adults as at August 2009.
It looks a lot better than my old photo too!
Originally there were five fortified gates in Bridgnorth, the North Gate is the only one to survive. It houses a fantastic little museum which is positively brimming with artefacts and interesting archeological finds from the surrounding area. Admission is free.