Welcome to week four of my 30 Days Wild T5F series – super duper late as it is almost Saturday, whoops!
I had a bit of a solo wild adventure today exploring one of our local wild spots and it was an amazing day so I think this post is going to be a bit of a highlight reel! Hawkestone Park Follies is beautiful and if you remember the 80s/early 90s BBC TV adaptations of the Narnia books, it featured as some of the settings. So I spent the day in the Narnia I grew up with. That never stops being exciting even though I’ve lived within a stone’s throw of it for the last 20+ years of my life.
As well as this, visiting and climbing the monument and crossing the Swiss Bridge was one of my 30 Things Before I Turn 30 challenges. So I got to tick that off too! (Only a few days to go!!!)
Here come my TOP 5 THINGS IN HAWKESTONE PARK FOLLIES, SHROPSHIRE!
5. All the trees!
The follies are full of incredible trees – especially pines of all types, planted by the family over the years. Some of them are said to be the tallest of their types in the UK – and when you are walking beneath them, you can well believe it!!
THe variety of trees, the different shapes and textures and colours that surrounded me as I walked – from the towering pines with fuzzy bark to the twisty maze-like rhododendrons – was awe-inspiring and I kept stopping to look up, crouch down and peer through branches and reaching out to stroke the bark.
I firmly believe trees are an old kind of magic and they soothe the soul.
4. The Enchanted Walk
Technically the kids’ trail – you could buy maps and they had rewards I think – but the little additions along the walk really made me smile. From ducking through pixie gates to balancing along a snoozy dragon – I loved how the trail worked with the natural environment and created a magical little adventure. I think there were letters to collect as well but I didn’t have the proper map to know for sure – I just enjoyed playing on my way around. I was the only car in the car park when I arrived and it was over an hour before I saw another soul anywhere – I could play as much as I liked without having to wait my turn or worry about looking like a fool.
3. The Monument
This 100ft tower was built in 1795 and features about 40,000* steps to get to the top (*150) – I’m not a fan of spiral staircases or small spaces. This is a narrow tower formed of a sandstone spiral staircase, but I faced it and you know what? It is worth every leg-quivering second of the climb for the views at the top. Those towering fir trees? You look down on them. It’s amazing. Apparently you can see 12 counties from the top – it was such a clear day I must have seen them all but my geography is awful so who knows what they were and where! (One is Shropshire and that was the immediate area!!)
Breath-taking and terrifying.
2.Tunnels, Caves & The Cleft
There is a cave network in the cliffs at Hawkestone, called the Grotto, and I once went at Hallowe’en when there were people lurking in the dark dressed as vampires and things and it scared the bleep out of me. It’s amazing. They are dimly lit, cool and slighty unnerving when you are entirely alone in there!
As well as those, there are a few unlit tunnels to get from place to place which are super exciting as you find your way through with a torch (or your phone light) – it feels like a proper adventure when you’ve fumbled your way through a tunnel through a sandstone outcrop.
The Cleft is just that – a cleft between great rack faces – one of the tunnels led into it and you have to walk/clamber your way up it back into the light and the trees. Dark even on a gloriously sunny day, damp and eerie – it was really like being in a different world as I made my way up. All I could hear was bird song, soft dripping from water somewhere on the walls and my own footfalls and breathing. Such a contrast to the slightly-too-warm weather everywhere else, it was a dark, cool micro-climate all its own.
1. Peregrine Falcons!
My favourite bird of all is the Peregrine Falcon. It has been ever since I read about it being the fastest when it dives down from the sky – the thrill of the speed they can reach (200mph top speed!) captured my imagination and my heart and has never been beaten yet.
So imagine my thrill when I got to the top of the follies, was looking out over the view from Raven’s Shelf and suddenly realised there was a Peregrine sat eating its breakfast on a ledge just across from me.
I stood there for ages watching it eat, then it spotted me and moved breakfast a bit further away, glared at me a bit, had a bit of a preen and then swooped away.
There was nobody else with me. It was like I was the only person in the world and at that point my world was zoomed in on that one, incredible, bird.
It has made my week. My month. My 30 Days Wild highlight without a doubt.
And it is SO CLOSE to home. Even closer to my parents’ house – they live so close they are potentially in its hunting grounds! This is a very exciting discovery.
(It has moved further away in the second shot, to the shadow of the rocks next to the small stunted tree and is just flying off in the second shot.)
If you are wondering why the cliffs are blue, it is because they are naturally rich in copper – copper mining may explain all the caves. But nobody seems entirely sure.
If ever you are in the area, Hawkestone Park Follies are well worth a visit. Wear decent walking shoes or trainers and bring a torch and have an adventure in Narnia – it is amazing.