Hawkstone Park and Follies gears up for a busy summer of staycations

A Shropshire tourist attraction is gearing up for another bumper summer as families look for 'staycation' ideas and days out close to home.

Operations manager Howard Fox at Hawkstone Park and Follies
Operations manager Howard Fox at Hawkstone Park and Follies

Hawkestone Park Follies, near Weston under Redcastle, opened its 100-acre grounds last month under step two of the government's easing of restrictions.

Now it is preparing for Monday's step three easing, which includes larger groups being able to meet outdoors.

Staff at the follies are also planning an adventurous wilderness week during half term, May 29-June 6, when children will be able to explore caves, find trolls, cross bridges, climb towers, build dens, spot wildlife and let off some steam.

Howard Fox at Hawkstone Park and Follies

The Grade 1 listed parkland was a tourist attraction more than 200 years ago - one of Britain's most visited landscaped in the 19th century. In its original heyday plants from across the world were taken to its arboretum and herds of Eland, a type of antelope, roamed the ground. It was even home to exotic birds and monkeys at one time.

Visitors were taken on guided visits of the follies and grotto - a complex of caves carved into the sandstone - and were given lemonade and gingerbread in a special Gingerbread hall, still on site.

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But when the last member of the Hill family that owned Hawkstone was declared bankrupt, the landscape became overgrown and forgotten, known only to locals.

That was until 30 years ago when a multimillion pound restoration project took place which led to its reopening in 1993.

Howard Fox, the manager of the follies, said staff were expecting a busy year.

"We opened the park under the government's restrictions on April 12 and it has already proved very busy," he said.

Howard Fox at Hawkstone Park and Follies

"If anything good has come from the awful situation that we have been in it is that it has made people look at and appreciate what is around them and enjoy the outdoors.

"We were busy last year and expect to be busy this year.

"We have wide open spaces at Hawkstone, ideal for social distancing and we will continue to limit tickets so that people can still feel safe."

Mr Fox said people were naturally nervous of venturing out after lockdown.

Howard Fox at Hawkstone Park and Follies

"I was very nervous when we opened in April but it is so good to see people come here and have a good time."

"It will be nice from next week to see larger groups of people able to meet up outside and enjoy being together in a safe environment."

"We are still not going to open our tea rooms yet and we actively encourage people to bring along picnics that they can enjoy, on the go."

Visitors are recommended to wear sensible footwear, take torches with them and are warned that the follies area is not suitable for wheelchairs or pushchairs. These can use only the entrance area and grand valley.

Howard Fox at Hawkstone Park and Follies

"People should also dress for the weather. We have found visitors come whatever the weather, children love splashing in the puddles in wellingtons and waterproofs," Mr Fox said.

As well las being able to explore the park with the help of a map visitors can book a guide or use the safari transport at extra cost.

They must book tickets in advance so ensure entry numbers are limited. Booking can be done through hawkstoneparkfollies.co.uk

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