Written by Carolyn Ward
(One of two winning entries in the City, Town or Village Writing Competition, which included both fictional as well as factual articles.)
The village of Castlecroft is a delightful little hamlet on the south-western corner of Wolverhampton. It is unusual in that the whole village is surrounded by a crenelated wall dating from 500AD. At each corner there is a full tower, and the only entrance to the village is via a drawbridge.
All of the towers are accessible to the public, and owned by the RSPB. Many unusual birds can be viewed from the tops, along with the spectacular views. Please note that the drawbridge is raised every third Sunday. Car-parking in the hamlet is free and plentiful.
Within the epic surrounds of the village lie many attractions. A circular willow wood, with a spiralling path is an unusual if dizzying treat for any walkers. There is a large maze in the village’s eastern quarter, which is free to enter. The centre of the maze has a delightful visitor shop and tea rooms, for much needed refreshment after your ‘a-mazing’ experience.
A vintage play-park is a must-see for any families, so why not make a day of it and enjoy the world-class facilities.
Further fun includes a stunning lido, a thrilling hidden rollercoaster, and the haunted diamond mine. These discreet attractions are impeccably maintained and are literally the jewel in the crown of the West Midlands.
Diamonds from the mine were used in the Crown Jewels, set by local jeweller Augustus Crombie. The largest diamond ever found in Europe also hails from the Castlecroft Mine, the Dauntless Lady, which is on display in the high security cage at the bottom of the mine.
The mine also boasts an underground lake, where a floating orchestra puts on a musical experience that will never be forgotten. The haunting sounds of the violins are said to entice the ghostly miners out to dance before the audience.
The local businesses enthusiastically welcome visitors. If you show your out of town credentials you qualify for a free indulgent picnic hamper from Poxtons Luxury Grocer, and even a free glass of your favourite tipple in the local pub, a pretty inn with a famous barbeque every weekend through the summer months.
The Fish & Chip Bakery has recently achieved its second Michelin star, and the Ragiani family love to impress with their deep fried lobster, and ‘chip butties’ on freshly baked artisan bread.
For ladies who visit there is a medieval health spa, which uses the healing power of ancient underground hot springs. The famous massage team are supremely talented at fixing bad backs and relaxing tense muscles. Please note that visits to the spa need to be booked well in advance.
The above-ground Crystal Lake of Castlecroft is a protected wildlife heritage site. It lies around the south side of the village, and is home to several very rare species. Adjoining the lake is a well-equipped visitor’s centre to encourage beginners in the art of ‘twitching’. This area attracts visitors from all over the world to catch a glimpse of the miniature grey deer which teeters on the edge of extinction.
Beside the lake you will find the blue flag beach, with its tropical sands and palm trees. By an odd quirk of nature, that side of the hamlet receives a desert wind, meaning the temperatures in that small vicinity are approximately 10-15 degrees higher than the rest of the UK.
This phenomenon has been extensively studied, yet is still little understood. The villagers are thrilled to share their little piece of heaven, where free sunbeds and simple yet clean changing facilities are available. A party atmosphere can be found in the Beach Bar, where coconut rum cocktails are the speciality.
The village has one hotel, the world-famous Home From Home, run by the Hobson family. A beautiful old manor house, the rooms are large, yet quirky. The hotel boasts two fabulous restaurants and a huge indoor swimming pool.
The gardens include the mysterious Owl Wood, and the oldest tree in England, the Double Fruit Spectacle. This amazing tree grows both apples and pears. The hotel brew a specialty ‘Cyder’ from these – which we must warn you is extremely warming!
Finally, there is the animal rescue sanctuary and exotic petting zoo, where retired racehorses, greyhounds, and even Hettie the guard-chicken can all be found. We challenge you to leave without cuddling one of the cutest donkeys, or even adopting a greyhound!
Castlecroft is literally the village that has it all. Come and join us throughout the year at Crystal Beach, and don’t forget your bikini!
(NB Castlecroft is in reality an attractive suburb of Wolverhampton, but not quite exactly as described above. So before visiting, please get more information about it! )
Posted 28th May 2015 by Steve Hanson on behalf of Carolyn Ward. One of the photographs was supplied by Carolyn Ward after the Writing Competition had been judged. Some of the other photographs were provided by STE’s Photo Editor, John Esser.