Posts Tagged Shropshire

Messing about in a coracle

If you’re looking for an August bank holiday outing, Ironbridge Coracle Regatta, held between 12 noon and 4pm on 29 August, looks like a lot of fun.

The event takes place along the picturesque stretch of the River Severn at Dale End Park, Ironbridge, and is free to watch. Food and refreshments will be available, plus a variety of shore-based activities and arts and crafts stalls to browse and buy.

The event attracts coracle makers and paddlers from all over Britain who participate in madcap races, team games, coracle polo matches and other fiercely contended competitions.

Novice paddlers can have a go in the water for free using traditional coracles handmade by the Green Wood Centre charity, or anyone with their own coracle can bring it along and join in the races (life jackets provided).

Used for thousands of years, coracles are flat bottomed boats made from woven wood covered in animal skins, or more often nowadays, canvas sewn on and waterproofed with tar or bitumen. They are light and roughly circular, making them ideal for shallow water and carrying overland, but hard to control. They were used for fishing, ferrying and – commonly in Ironbridge – for poaching. Before the advent of the Iron Bridge, they were also used to ferry people and goods from one side of the River Severn to the other.

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Ironbridge celebrates

The Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site in the heart of beautiful Shropshire will be celebrating its 25th anniversary this year with a variety of events and exhibitions. In the lead-up to the 2012 Games, the area will also be marking its connection with the modern day Olympics, which were inspired by a local Much Wenlock surgeon who created the first Wenlock Olympian Games back in 1850.

Ironbridge Gorge was the birth place of the Industrial Revolution around 300 years ago. Heavy industry has long disappeared from the valley and the ironworks are silent but the stunning Severn river valley is still impressing visitors today with its iconic Iron Bridge and ten museums, which reflect life in the Gorge over the centuries.

An exhibition to mark the 25th anniversary will take place from 1st July to 30th September in the Footprint Gallery at Jackfield Tile Museum, with displays featuring historic images and community memories of the Gorge. It will also be celebrated at the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Festival on 24th September.

Several events are to be staged in the run up to the 2012 Games to celebrate the region’s links. The Shrewsbury Olympian Festival three-day extravaganza on 17-19 June will be based on the Olympian Games held in the town in 1864; the 125th Olympian Games will be held in Much Wenlock during the second week of July and the Ironbridge Gorge Museums will be hosting a series of events, activities and exhibitions as part of the West Midlands’ Cultural Olympiad, with the support of Renaissance West Midlands.

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The Olympics are coming home – to Shropshire

Picturesque Wenlock by Michael Maggs

Picturesque Wenlock by Michael Maggs, Wikimedia

While gold will be handed out in London in 2012 for being ‘swifter, higher, stronger’, there is a need to look to the history books – and to the picturesque Shropshire market town of Much Wenlock, 150-miles away – to see who won the very first modern Olympian medals.

Shropshire may appear an unlikely place to find the origins of the modern international Olympic Games, yet it was here, in 1850, that Dr William Penny Brookes first thought of reviving the ancient games and founded the Wenlock Olympian Society. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the acknowledged founder of the modern Olympic Games, later wrote “and of the Olympic Games, which modern Greece has not yet revived, it is not a Greek to whom one is indebted, but rather Dr W. P. Brookes”.

The town’s role in the Olympic revival has been recognised in the choice of ‘Wenlock’ as the official London 2012 Olympic Games mascot, to the surprise of townspeople.

The Wenlock Olympian Games are still held in July each year, attracting athletes from all across the UK.

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