Ironbridge cooling towers: Nothing to see here, not now

No cheers, no tears.

The scene of destruction. Pic: Sam & Ed Bagnall
The scene of destruction. Pic: Sam & Ed Bagnall

Even as a huge pinky-brown pall of dust hung in the air, some of the crowd was starting to stream away. Nothing to see here, not now.

But as a brisk wind gradually pulled the dust and smoke back like a curtain, and the buzzing drones began to land, a new vista was revealed. The nothing to see here was actually the thing to see – a view of the Ironbridge Gorge that nobody younger than their mid-50s had ever seen.

In the end it was all over very quickly. Old and tired, the cooling towers crumbled without a fight. Hundreds watched from the surrounding hills and other vantage points, some with dogs, some with buggies, and many, of course, with cameras.

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Among the spectators was Jenny Heath, who had come along from Great Bolas with her boys Thomas, aged four – he missed it as he was looking the other way – 11-month-old Gregory, and other family members.

"We were surprised by how fast they came down. They were gone in 20 seconds," she said.

See a video here of the demolition and aftermath, supplied to Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service by Sam and Ed Bagnall:

With the imposition of a wide exclusion zone, I had thought it prudent to start looking early for a suitable place to watch and, turned away from the Buildwas road, headed for the hills, following a gaggle of people who seemed to know where they were going.

What a magnificent spot!

John Smith was already there, one of the first arrivals soon after 9am. He had come all the way from Pelsall.

"This is a first time experience for me. Billy is my neighbour and used to live over this way. He told me about the towers. I didn't know they were coming down.

The scene of destruction. Pic: Sam & Ed Bagnall

"We were amazed that there was no one else here. We thought there would be crowds."

That neighbour Billy Desborough said: "I used to live in Pant. When the girls were young the power station had an open day and we had a walk around here. I thought it would be nice to see the towers come down."

Meanwhile putting their equipment through its paces in preparation for the big moment were photographer Dave Mullany of Dudley, of Motion Click, and Lauren Taylor, of Wheaton Aston, from Taylored Photography.

"It's a shame to see them coming down," said Lauren.

The scene of destruction. Pic: Sam & Ed Bagnall

"Me and my dad run around here. He's John Taylor, and is quite well known among fell runners."

"We have all the toys so may as well use them – cameras, drones, everything," said Dave, as he tested his drones in the breeze.

Suddenly there's a hushed cry from someone. "Get down! There's an argument on top of the hill and lots of high-vis up there, although we're well outside the exclusion zone."

Soon the yellow vests arrive. "If you stay here it won't happen," says one. "Standing here, you are trespassing."

Well, I didn't know. We, including the man from the BBC (John Bray, formerly of this parish), are moved on to an approved viewing area.

Pippa Albutt of Horsehay is with her children Jasper, seven, and Isabella, aged five. "I didn't want to come. I'm scared of loud noises," said Isabella.

The scene of destruction. Pic: Sam & Ed Bagnall

Luke Timmis and his partner Nicole Watson from Donnington have brought along their 18-month-old girl Ember.

"You're never going to see it again, are you?" said Luke.

"He dragged me along, but I didn't mind," said Nicole.

Having their picture taken before the about-to-disappear scene were a little group, comprising Jenny Wear of Albrighton, Liz Perry of Coalbrookdale, Jane Field of Coalbrookdale, and her daughter Harriet Field.

"It's very sad, an end of an era," says Jenny.

The scene of destruction. Pic: Sam & Ed Bagnall

Jane, it turns out, has just moved to Coalbrookdale – about 200 yards or so away – from Wellington.

Why did she move to Coalbrookdale?

"For the towers!" she says, amid laughter.

Then when the deed was done, everybody streamed away on muddy paths.

And in Coalbrookdale, the church bells were ringing in joyous peals.

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