Thursday, August 28, 2008

Birthday at The Follies.....

...or, the 'two-for-one' voucher strikes again. The answer to 'what do you want to do on your birthday?' was 'what, if anything, can we afford to do?' which doesn't give many options but remembering our voucher book, used earlier in the year at the Dorothy Clive Garden, I delved in to see what there was and found a 'two- for- one' voucher for the Hawkstone Park and Follies. So this morning, after opening cards and presents, answering phone calls and logging-on to read birthday e-mails we set off with Paul's specially prepared picnic, towards our destination. We'd visitied before at least ten years ago and knew that we should wear sturdy footwear and that the route was quite arduous in places and little had changed on that score. So here we are at the entrance. When we first visited there was a sign saying something along the lines of if you found it difficult to walk up to the entrance you may not be able to walk around the site. That had gone but it does still apply although there are easy routes added in some areas.

Created in the 18th century by the Hill family, the park is now recognised, according to the leaflet, as 'a masterpeice of the School of Naturalistic Landscape' and is Grade I listed by English Heritage.

It embodies all the eccentricities of both the Gothic and Romantic ideals of the age; and even though it is very strenuous it is great fun. When Samuel Johnson visited Hawkstone in 1774 he described the follies as having 'striking scenes and terrifick grandeur'.

Above, along Reynard's walk, you can see the recess in the red sandstone rock called Reynard's Banqueting House. There were steep pathways and steps and hidden nooks.....

places to hide, amongst branches.....

.....and roots
in the Dragon Wood whose paths led to

the Monument, which Paul climbed but this time, I declined and sat amongst the trees whilst he surveyed the landscape. The monument was erected in 1785 by Sir Richard Hill to comemorate his ancestor Sir Rowland Hill, first protestant Lord Mayor of London. It is 100ft high and from the top there is a panoramic view of all the surrounding counties.

We clambered over the Swiss bridge, trying not to look down........

then under the Swiss bridge, were we really up there? ...

and into the grotto. You need a torch! We didn't have a torch! If you go, take one, you won't regret it.

In the grotto you will meet, Arthur King of the Britions and read the tale of the silver chalice found in the 1920s. Grotto Hill was thought to be a 5th century copper mine which was turned into a place of wonder by Sir Richard Hill with shell decoration and false stalactites.

Once you are in the grotto there are windows to light your way

to the outside where you will find the Raven's Shelf up above

the awful precipice, but the most spectacular feature for me was on the way up to the grotto.

The Cleft runs under the Swiss bridge and is a deep chasm between two rocks which is the stuff of both dreams and nightmares. Damp, mossy green and lichen coated walls and slippery steps.

It was like a living illustration from the fairy tale books I read as a child, or the ideal venue for the start of an adventure for The Famous Five or The Secret Seven.

Did I have a good birthday? Yes, it was magical, but now it is back to reality and work next week - oh, and my knee didn't start to hurt until the very last bit of the walk.


  1. Happy Birthday! What a lovely, magical place to spend your day! It looked a bit spooky but enchanting too.

  2. Happy Birthday Rosie!! What a lot of walking you do! You are making me think about getting out there. Now if only we had some of the beautiful longstanding attractions for destinations that you have shown us in your blog.
    Hope you had a nice day.


  3. This looks like the most wonderful birthday imaginable! As I myelf tend to "embody all the eccentricities of both the Gothic and Romantic ideals of the age", I know this is someplace I would absolutely adore. Thanks so much for sharing your birthday trip with me...I'll add this to my list of must see British wonders.

    And, a very Happy Birthday wish to you! From Edward, too!

  4. Happy Birthday- as was, Rosie! You are very brave tackling the Swiss Bridge.

    This is yet another destination that we have driven past many times and thought "we must do that one day".

  5. Happy B day my dear, and so nice of you to share your beautiful day...I also read the books of the famous five when i was about 10,now i am 51,and you know, our birthdays are very close. This weekend i cellebrate with my family..have a wonderful weekend and i wish you many many happy years to come..

  6. Hope you had a very Happy Birthay and what a lovely way to spend it. It shows you don't need lots of money to enjoy your special day. I am amazed how many lovely places you keep finding to visit. Where are we off to next I wonder?

  7. Happy Birthday Rosie, hope you had a great one. It certainly looked like a fabulous day out.
    Rosie x

  8. Thank you all for your lovely comments and kind wishes :)