Ironbridge is an odd place. The gorge is supposedly the cradle of England’s industrial revolution. Today, it seems a cross between an arboretum and a Dickensian movie set. It has no fire in its belly and certainly no dirt. In 1779, Abraham Darby decided to advertise the versatility of his iron by building a bridge made of the material over the gorge.

It was to be the first iron bridge to be built anywhere. The project soon overran its £3,000 budget and left Darby in debt for the rest of his life.

The gorge was created relatively recently, some 15,000 years ago in the last Ice Age, when an ice lake to the north began melting. Upstream is a remarkable sight, the cooling towers of the

Ironbridge power station, peering round the corner of the gorge like giants in Lilliput. Beyond is a glimpse of the upper Severn valley

Extracted from ‘England’s 100 Best Views’ by Simon Jenkins, to be published by Profile books in October 2013 (£25 hardback)

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