Sunday, 26 May 2019

Hawkstone Park

In the mid 18th century Sir Rowland Hill utilised the existing sandstone boulders and cliffs on his estate to create a naturalistic landscape. The School of Naturalistic Landscaping, called the 'English Style' sought to imitate nature by incorporating different natural features and displaying them to their best advantage. It rejected the straight lines and geometrical approach that had previously been the accepted rule when laying out gardens and grounds.
Sir Rowland began the process by creating trails and building follies, but it was his son, Sir Richard Hill, who eventually took over and completed the bulk of the landscape in 1783. By the time of its completion, Hawkstone Park was the most visited landscape in Britain and recognised as a masterpiece. 
In the first image you may have noticed a substantial patch of blue staining on one of the rocks. This has long been considered to have been as a result of copper mining during the Roman occupation in Shropshire which lasted for almost 4 centuries.
2000 years ago, following the defeat of rebellious local tribes in the area, the Roman army founded a settlement that they called Viroconium which became the fourth largest Roman City in Britain. Today it is better known by the name of the small village called Wroxeter  that now occupies a corner of what was once the Roman city. 
Californian Redwoods
Sir Richard had walkways built around the cliffs, and carved narrow tunnels and caves into the sandstone. He created follies, and had interesting bridges erected to continue the walkways over from one cliff to another. Many indigenous trees were planted along the tops and sides of the cliffs, and he also incorporated several newly discovered trees from around the world. 
Chestnuts, Spruce, and Scotch Pine all sat alongside Chilean Pines (Monkey Puzzles), Californian Redwoods and Rhododendrons from Tibet.  
Today the Rhododendrons have grown to be almost as large as the trees that surround them.
A substantial part of the walk in Hawkstone Park is very high enabling wonderful far reaching vistas, but parts of it can be quite challenging, and not for the faint hearted. You need strong legs, and good knees as there are lots of steep slopes, narrow walkways, and flights of steps encountered along the journey. 
This is just a small section of a long flight of steps. It curves on much higher up than can be seen, and there are still more steps to negotiate downwards. Our leaflet informed us that this was the easy route!
A typical Swiss style bridge would have been a familiar sight to many of the 18th and 19th century visitors. It is something that they would have encountered whilst travelling through Switzerland to Italy on their 'grand tour'.
The bridge traversed a vertiginous ravine and was narrow to navigate.


No 18th century landscape would be considered complete without it's very own hermit and this is the Hermitage where Father Francis would spend his summer months. Bare footed and aged about 90 years old, he would engage in conversation with the visitors about Life and Mortality, and recite to them from "Momento Mori". 
This Monument was erected by Sir Richard in 1795 to commemorate his ancestor Sir Rowland Hill, who was the first protestant Lord Mayor of London in 1541. It is reputed that on a clear day you can see 13 counties from the top. However, I decided that it was a step too far for me as we still had plenty of Hawkstone Park to walk before finally arriving back at the car.

47 comments:

  1. That looks wonderful. I can't believe that I have never heard of it having spent so much time around Welshhampton, Wem, Loppington, and Whitchurch. It is not that far away.

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    1. The park fell into decline at the end of the nineteenth century, and it was 100 years later that it was finally restored and reopened in 1993.

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  2. Hawkstone Park looks quite the adventure to visit, and very dramatic too in its scenery and diversity. The Swiss bridge looks daunting, but is probably very safe though strangely narrow. The little hermitage is very pretty, and looks more comfortable than a cave in the wilderness. I had to Google to find out where you were, and the village of Wroxeter popped right up. Sometimes modern technology is so handy :)

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    1. Swiss bridges are often very narrow. They use them on mountain passes where there is usually very little room for a bridge rather like the confined area seen at Hawkstone Park where it stretches from just one sandstone boulder across to another.
      Did you find the post I did about Wroxeter from the link that I gave?

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  3. A fascinating, though physically demanding, place to visit. It would be quite something to have trails like that in your garden; perhaps with my greying beard I could apply for the post of resident hermit??

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    1. Probably quite nice to be a resident hermit on a day like the one when we visited, but can you imagine how awful it would be stuck up on top of that cliff on a cold, wet, windy day.

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  4. Hello Rosemary, What a magnificent space to explore--my favorite combination of ruins and nature. Was there a house that went with this park? It reminds me a little of the Metroparks in Cleveland. The park board wisely bought up huge tracts of land surrounding the city, and preserved the natural areas. There are gentle trails, but also steep ravines and more wild terrain for those who are up to it. You are extremely lucky to have those redwoods and the other rare trees--what a time that was for exploring the world and gathering its treasures--in this case, no "pillaging" was even involved!
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - the hall is now a very fine hotel, and part of it also houses a golf club. Yes, you are right no pillaging was involved, in fact, I understand that the redwoods, the monkey puzzles, and the rhododendrons were all grown from seed.

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  5. That is amazing. I am surprised I have never heard of it. The cliffs look just like the romantic engravings of the 18th century.

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    1. I thought exactly the same as you when I saw the photo for the first time on the computer.
      It appears that a lot of people have never heard of Hawkstone Park. I learnt about it from my parents who went there for a golf tournament situated in part of the grounds below the landscape.

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    2. I have found the Minoan tomb photo. Have a look on mine.

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  6. It may have been hard work but I love places like that yet I've never heard of it until now. And I cycled through Shropshire years ago, staying in various youth hostels, and no one mentioned it or I would have visited. What a place. Great post.

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    1. I depends on how many years ago you are talking about Bob. The landscape was neglected for nearly 100 years, and only reopened in 1993 after it was restored.

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    2. Yes, it was before that. late 1970s, then late 1980s/ early 1990s.

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    3. Perhaps you could return again sometime Bob.

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  7. . . . . and do I spy someone waving whom I had the great pleasure of meeting recently?

    Great place, and your story and photos, as always, just so lovely. Imagine a garden such as this constructed without power tools, just manual labor of unimaginable proportions! Those trees - magnificent.

    Off to Ireland Tuesday - taking non-slip booties for the Giant's Causeway, and rain jacket of course!
    Hugs to you both - Mary

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    1. We both (you are correct) enjoyed Hawkstone Park very much. We visited about 20 years ago, and had forgotten how challenging it can be in parts. It was a lovely sunny, warm, day, and we enjoyed a leisurely picnic once we had reached the top.
      Will think about you on Tuesday - have a great time - you will love the Giant's Causeway - it is a great photo opportunity. Try to visit the rope bridge too at Carrick-a-Rede which not much further along the same bit of coastline.

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  8. How beautiful and thank you for sharing! I just mentioned it to John and he says we should visit. Neither of us have heard of it. Best, Jane x

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    1. It wouldn't be too difficult for you to visit Jane - straight down the motorways for probably about 100 miles. Hope that you manage a trip, but preferably wear some good stout shoes or boots.

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  9. What a beautiful place! That first shot is a showstopper.

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    1. That first photo reminds me of some of the romantic landscape paintings from the 18th century.

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  10. What a gorgeous place. The landscape is stunning.

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    1. Pleased that you enjoyed seeing it Loree.

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  11. Beautiful pictures and information.

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  12. Dear Rosemary - Breathtaking landscape on the cliff! Walking around the Hawkstone Park when the greenery is beautiful (as is shown in your photos) would be rewarding even if the walk looks strenuous. I’m interested in the Swiss style bridge high and steep and the Father Francis’ hermitage but I’ll need courage to enter that narrow rock tunnel. I imagine rhododendron growing so wild to make a jungle as I have seen in the mountain temple in Nara.

    Yoko

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    1. Dear Yoko - we had a little torch with us which was perfect for lighting up the tunnels and also the caves. You are correct about the rhododendrons as some of them were so large and their stems formed such a dense network that it did feel like being in a jungle.
      I saw a programme about Japanese wildlife on the TV a few days ago and it showed Nara along with the lovely deer that you have shown us too.

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  13. I've noticed Hawkstone Park on signposts and always thought about visiting, but I had somehow got the idea that it was a modern tourist attraction. If I am in the area I will make the effort to go and see.

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    1. It is over 200 years old Jenny, and should you go take good stout shoes or boots and a pair of strong legs!!!

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  14. Looks like a fabulous place to visit and get a little exercise in the process. I have no trouble going up, but coming down sometimes gives my knees a little grief. Getting old is not for sissies!

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    1. Going down is worse for me too and that is why I disliked that long flight of steps with absolutely nothing to offer any support.

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  15. Discovering wonderful gems in England thanks to your posts !

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    1. I have only been to Hawkstone Park once before and it was a very long time ago.

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  16. Dearest Rosemary,
    What a wonderful garden this Father & Son team has gifted so many visitors afterwards!
    Love the Swiss wooden bridge and would love to walk across it.
    So many people are afraid of heights but that never has bothered both of us, luckily.
    Thanks again for sharing your lovely photos.
    Hugs,
    Mariette

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    1. Dear Mariette - it has always been the same for us too - I love being high up and seeing the wide vistas. Glad you enjoyed seeing the photos - thank you.

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  17. This park is new to me and you have captured it beautifully.

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    1. I have only been there once before myself Janey and that was a long, long time ago. Thank you for your kind comment.

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  18. Looks like a wonderful place to visit and certainly to get a good physical workout. A new place to add to my ever growing list! B x

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    1. If you're in the area and feeling energetic, which I know that you are, then it is well worth a visit.

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  19. Really nice! What a lovely nature...
    Warm hug from Titti

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    1. Thank you Titti - it is a very dramatic landscape which we enjoyed walking through.

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