Today was a bus day. We wanted to go to Blists Hill and visit the Victorian Village. We had already been there but then had only a relatively short time to spend, not enough really to get to grips with all there is to see.
We checked the bus timetable and found that a bus should leave Telford at 9:34 and take us all the way to Blists Hill. The departure time came and passed with no sign of the bus. I enquired and found that the timetable we had consulted was valid only for weekends and bank holidays. This was not made clear on the timetable itself. Unfortunately, this sort of problem is likely to arise when you reply on public transport. We found another bus that took us to the gate so in the end we were only delayed by half an hour or so.
Blists Hill museum has existed for about three decades and has been continually growing. Apart from paid staff in the cafes, there are two sorts of people operating on site. Firstly, there are those who have special skills such as blacksmithing, wood turning, horse handling or leather work. These are often men and women who have exercised these crafts in their working lives and now continue them here in the Victorian Village.
The second group and more general volunteers who take charge of the various houses, shops and other institutions and explain them and their operation to the public. These rotate among the various posts. All of these people dress in costume of the Victorian era and engage in various appropriate tasks, such as running shops, making artifacts and so on.
Near the entrance is a Lloyds bank where you can, if you wish, exchange modern decimal currency for facsimile coins of the Victorian era. All prices are posted in both “new” and “old” money and either coinage is accepted.
Some of the buildings were already on the site when it began operations. These include some of the heavy industry such as the blast furnaces and associated railway tracks. Others have been brought from other places, being dismantled and lovingly rebuilt in the village.
The result is not only picturesque but also educational. The role players are very knowledgeable and can tell you a lot about the period and the people they represent. I learnt quite precious details both on this and our previous visit.
What strikes you is the evident pleasure that the enactors derive from this activity. Several we spoke to have been pursuing this activity for 30 years. This all helps to create a very positive atmosphere.
It is like a meeting of two eras. The inhabitants of the village are ready to explain but without being aggressive. They converse and do not talk down to you like lecturers. They listen to what you say and answer your questions willingly.
Getting away from Blists Hill proved even more difficult than getting there. We found that by the time we were ready to leave, the bus that had brought us had ceased operating for the day. (Shades of Cornwall.) We decided to walk down into Coalport where, we thought, there would be more choice of buses and perhaps somewhere to wait, such as a cafe. In the event, both hopes were dashed.
In the end, we went into the YHA in Coalport and asked if they had any information about buses. The lady at reception was very kind and helpful. Unfortunately, the news was that we would have to walk back the way we had come and continue past the Victorian Village to Madeley. This would have been possible but it would have been a long walk on top of another long walk on top of a day spent walking about so, when the receptionist offered to call us a cab, we are happy to agree.
The cab took us to Madeley where we were able to take the 44 bus back to Telford bus station and change there to a 481 that carried us to Telford Central station and our hotel.
All in all this was a good day, despite the problems with transport, and it was good to renew our acquaintance with the Victorian Village. We have “passport” tickets that give us access also to the other museums in the Ironbridge group, so we have plenty of reasons for returning to Shropshire in the future.