Lots of good things happened 50 years ago. We got the Countryside Act 1968, the Ramblers’ Isle of Wight Area was formed (where I am going for the celebrations next weekend) and Telford new town was created, with a development plan which aimed to preserve green networks and heritage sites.
It was to commemorate the last that a consortium of organisations created the Telford T50, a 50-mile route around the town, within the Telford and Wrekin Council area.
The consortium consists of Telford & East Shropshire Ramblers, Wellington Walkers Are Welcome, Walking for Health Telford & Wrekin, the Ironbridge Gorge Walking Festival and the Long-Distance Walkers’ Association. A grant from the council’s 50th anniversary legacy fund and from EnviroGrant, which is run by Veolia working with the council, enabled the route to be waymarked and supported by leaflets and a website.
The project was started by the Ramblers and Wellington Walkers Are Welcome and was achieved in a matter of months, by dedicated and hard working volunteers.
The walk is an inspiration, it links many of the green spaces in and around Telford, people can join it at any point, and it enables them to enjoy countryside close to home. It is in seven sections and the clockwise route is marked with bright pink waymarks.
I was pleased to have been invited to launch the route on 16 June.
I arrived the day before and was met at Wellington station, north-west of Telford, by Eve Clevenger, chair of Wellington Walkers Are Welcome. She showed me the new visitor centre at the station, with its many leaflets about walking in the area.
We met James and Tania Baylis of the Wrekin News, which is based at the centre, and James took a photo. It was a very warm welcome to Wellington!
The launch was the following morning, in Telford Town Park. There was quite a gathering. The mayor of Telford & Wrekin, Raj Mehta, the leader of the council, Shaun Davies, and I spoke before we unveiled the notice board about the route.
I used the opportunity to stress how the route will increase enjoyment of the green spaces (which it is vital to protect), contribute to people’s health, and help the local economy—an example already being set by Wellington Walkers Are Welcome which encourages people to stay in the area. I urged the council to invest in its paths because of all the benefits they provide. The council did an interview with me which you can watch here. There is also a video about the route here.
In fact, it would be a good celebration of the joint fiftieth anniversaries of Telford and the Countryside Act for the council to get all its signposts in place. The Countryside Act introduced a duty on all highway authorities to signpost paths where they leave metalled roads—I have two missing signposts to report following my visit.
There was a choice of walks from the venue, and one group of long-distance walkers were going to do the whole 50 miles!
I set off on a walk led by Anne Suffolk, the energetic chair of Telford and East Shropshire Ramblers. She was doing stage 1, the ten miles to Ironbridge. We walked part of the Silkin Way, which was opened in 1977 in honour of Lewis Silkin who inspired the new towns. The 14-mile route follows dry canal beds and disused railways lines. We followed a stretch of disused railway past the old Dawley and Stirchley station.
We came to Madeley Court, a sixteenth-century manor house which is now a hotel.
We walked through woods, and after a while came to Woodside, on the southern edge of Telford, where Eve and I left the group. One walker had explained to me that the Woodside Estate was built on the Radburn layout whereby the backs of the houses face the streets, and the fronts face smaller walkways, thus separating cars and pedestrians.
I was sorry to leave the walk early and hope to return to walk the other sections. The T50 trail takes in the best of the region, including the Wrekin, the Ironbridge gorge, nature reserves and industrial heritage. It is a fine achievement and a great memorial to Telford’s 50 years. The consortium has done a great job.