Whether you’re an energetic and inquisitive 7-year-old like my son Freddie, or a maturing adult still reluctant to grow up, we all love a good theme park right? But have you ever wondered what one was like over 200 years ago?
Author: Greg Rees
What is Hawkstone Park Follies
Hawkstone Park Follies in Weston-under-Redcastle, near Market Drayton in Shropshire, was one of the first and most original – and following almost a century of neglect, this magical Georgian attraction was lovingly restored and reopened in 1993.
It was originally created as the lavish and indulgent gardens for nearby Hawkstone Hall by the Hill family, but the Grade 1 Listed version of today is some 100 acres of stunning scenery filled with a series of extraordinary monuments, or follies, around every corner and is a fantasy landscape full of bridges, towers, cliffs, crags, caves, walkways and deep woods to explore.
Indeed, it was used to represent parts of mystical Narnia in the BBC’s TV adaptation of C S Lewis’ books The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian.
It takes a solid three hours to see and experience it all (although you can easily do shortened versions) so a reasonable level of physical fitness and mobility is required as there are many steps, ascents and descents – but it is definitely well worth the effort.
Plus, with the new enchanted trail there is a little bit more of an incentive for tired little legs to find the next clue – from den building, giant telephones and trolls hiding behind rocks, youngsters can collect leaves and ingredients for a magical spell that culminates in finding the pot of gold from the end of the rainbow.
Review of Hawkstone Park Follies
We began at the Visitor Centre (aka The Greenhouse) and strolling past the Grand Valley began our ascent up through the trees to the Gothic-style and octagonal White Tower (originally a summerhouse for the Hill family) which is actually red brick with the original lime wash long since disappeared.
Continuing through the Rhododendron Jungle and the Woodland Walk – including some seriously impressive Californian Redwoods – we then couldn’t fail to be impressed by The Monument, which stands over 100 ft high and was built to commemorate Sir Rowland Hill who was the first Protestant Mayor of London.
The shaft of the column contains a narrow, stone spiral staircase (we counted 150 steps) and at the
Next up is the quaint and enchanting Hermitage, which was once a hut with rubble stone walls, heather thatch and a stable door and the home of a hermit preacher called Father Francis.
This then leads onto the Swiss Bridge – so called because it resembled a little slice of Switzerland – which is a thin (but perfectly stable) rustic wooden structure perched over a rather deep chasm, but maybe not one for the
Approaching the top of the park now – and certainly our favourite section – you pass Gingerbread Hall, which used to be known as the Temple of Patience as it was where visitors would wait for the guide. It’s also where the emergency telephone is located just in case modern mobile signals fail.
Then you take The Cleft pathway that meanders between two steep cliffs (careful, it can be slippery when wet) and narrows into a dark and mysterious tunnel that leads into Grotto Hill, which is thought to have originated from a 5th-century copper mine.
Inside are a series of caves and passages excavated from the soft white sandstone cliffs and the result is a magnificent, ancient Grotto labyrinth that really is a sight to behold. Circular window openings have been cut into the outer face and let light in, but they do recommend you use a torch – your own or available for purchase in the visitor centre.
And, last but not least, the splendid Gothic Arch atop Grotto Hill is another eye catcher, through which can be seen far-reaching views of the golf course directly below plus Cannon Bank, Elysian Hill and The Citadel.
We had our lunch here, taking in the spectacular vistas on all sides, but there are picnic tables and seats dotted all over the park where you can stop for a bite to eat, drink, or reflective rest. Suitably refreshed we then headed back, but with Freddie’s legs tiring we took the shorter and lower pathway instead, under Weston Arch, and sauntered down the peaceful Grand Valley route right back to where we started.
Much more than a day out, Hawkstone Park Follies is a picturesque and panoramic land of mystery, suspense and adventure that transports you back in
Sensible footwear is essential because parts of the park and the main walking routes contain several flights of steps, some natural ones carved into rock and some man-made wooden ones.
Dogs are welcome, but must be kept on their leads at all times, while due to the hilly terrain wheelchair and pushchair access is limited to the visitor centre and Grand Valley areas. However, Silver Safari trips are available for the less mobile by pre arrangement,
There is free car parking for visitors and although we didn’t use it Caspian’s Tea Rooms is open for refreshments and light snacks and it looked smart, spacious, well stocked and reasonably priced.
2019 opening times: 10am-5pm daily (last admission 3pm), 16th February – 3rd November.
Prices – 3s & Under FREE / Child £5.75 (4-15yrs) / Adult £8.25 / Concessions (Students & 60yr+) £7.50 / Family 4 £25.00 / Family 5 £28.50 / Family 6 £31.50.
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Disclaimer: Greg and his son received complimentary entry to Hawkstone Park Follies for the purpose of this review. All words and opinions are his own.
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