I’ve lived in Ironbridge for four months and as beautiful as the Shropshire landscape is, this tiny community nestled in the Ironbridge Gorge next to the River Severn, is telling me a different, more engaging story than the hills and sunsets for which this area is justly renowned.
The traces of the industrial revolution are everywhere in the woods surrounding Ironbridge, I’ve walked many miles now exploring the paths which thread through the forest, frightening the odd deer into crashing through the undergrowth, and very rarely meeting any other human beings. The paths close to the river follow the old railway line that used to bring fuel to the power station. Along this track I have found the remains of old Lime Kilns used to convert the Limestone of Lincoln Hill into Quicklime for use in agriculture. A quarry, once used to supply the stone with which Buildwas Abbey is built, is now completely reclaimed by nature.
The story here is one of regeneration, I recall my friend Dana Wiehl telling me about the hills of New England, completely denuded of trees by the industrialists of the North, providing building materials and fuel for the civil war. Now unrecognisable, cloaked in some of the most beautiful forests I’ve seen. The Forests here remind me very much of that part of America, dense and sprawling, spilling over the edge of the Gorge onto the Shropshire plain. Yet here, Ironbridge Power Station nestles into the valley bottom supplying electricity for Birmingham. A strangely beautiful juxtaposition of ancient and modern.
There’s a theme beginning to emerge, it’s not the theme I had in mind when I moved here, but I’m finding traces of industry in these hills and forests, not just the industrial revolution, but modern artefacts. Satellite dishes and power stations. The contrast between the uniformity of the things left here by humans and the apparently timeless landscape with it’s rivers, woods and plains is fascinating and I’m finding myself photographing it more and more.
It’s the beginning of a new project and as usual I’m filled with optimism and not a little trepidation. I’m looking forward to the Autumn and even the Winter, because the land and the light will change, offering new perspectives and fresh challenges.