Courtesy of Author and Blogger Pete Jackson
Being a regular walker up the Wrekin and over Maddock’s Hill also an avid reader of George Evans’s famous ‘kilo verbs’ I thought I would put together 1000 words on the project to renovate the Halfway House.
People who use the Wrekin will know that the Halfway House, located roughly halfway up the steep trek to the summit has been a favorite resting place for generations of walkers visiting Shropshire’s most famous landmark.
The Wrekin Cottage
So, it was a great privilege to meet local resident Jenny Joy who became involved with the project to restore the site initially as a local Wellington resident and who is passionate about the place, like so many of us.
Jenny told me
“Having walked up or round the hill most days since 1990, two years ago I became aware of rumours that the current owner (Sean Saward) was thinking of selling it and I did not want it to be lost to local people.”
So rather than walking past Jenny went up and introduced herself, as all good friends around the Wrekin do and to cut a long story short Sean, gave Jenny the chance to make it work.
Jenny became involved with managing the Halfway House in July 2018 (despite having no prior experience in building, providing visitor services etc) but with a passion for the hill, the people that use it and the ambition to turn it into the best visitor centre ever, totally sympathetic to the environment in which it sits. Jenny currently works as a Regional Conservation manager for Butterfly Conservation and is a Trustee at the Shropshire Wildlife Trust and therefore totally understands the importance of its environment.
Being such an iconic and unique location means nothing is simple and there are numerous challenges as Jenny explains for example
“We have a private water supply which runs out from time to time (sometimes for long periods). We cannot therefore yet use any of our own water in the kiosk/café so must bring bottles of water up the hill and we cannot use our private water supply for toilets. When the original toilet block was opened in 2017 our water ran out within two weeks. We are also surrounded by SSSI (Site of Special Scientific interest) so cannot risk our septic tank over-flowing and contaminating the SSSI. Currently we therefore have two portaloos up there.”
What the portoloos might look like
“We now have planning permission for two very modern portaloo equivalents, which would not need such regular weekly emptying, and which would look great up there. Finding the funding for these is going to be an issue”
“It is difficult to find staff, contractors, stock suppliers to work up there (as you need a four-wheel drive to get up the track). Jenny currently has to arrange for all stock to get a lift up the hill. “Our ice-cream delivery comes once a week when needed but it takes a special white van driver to want to get his van up there in all weathers!”
Recently Jenny and Sean have obtained planning permission to turn the old pavilion back into an indoor seating area.
“We hope the work will start in the next few weeks (mid to late March 2019). It will include putting in windows at the far end, so you can see the amazing view while sitting inside, and putting in folding doors at the end closest to the track.”
This means people will know they have somewhere to shelter and enjoy the view and will transform what they can offer.
“We are currently trying to find the right people to run the kiosk/café for us and open it 5-7 days a week.”
They have received very welcome support from CJ Wildlife in the form of bird feeders and food.
“Thanks to CJ Wildlife we are also going to install webcams on the feeders and on a nesting box which will stream into the café, so people will be able to watch the wildlife”.
Both CJ Wildlife and the Shropshire Wildlife Trust are providing information boards to go into the pavilion. These will show the local birds, as well as a selection of old postcards of the Halfway House, the Ercall and the Wrekin.
Swings on the Wrekin
“They are fantastic old postcards, many of which were obtained from Bob Coalbran Wellington Walkers are Welcome– who has an amazing collection – when I first went to see him and his postcards I thought I would stay an hour, but I stayed for three!”
But Jenny is not content to stop there and sees the Halfway House acting as a resource to support people who use the Wrekin for many and varying reasons.
“We are an information provider to the walkers, we have supported people raising money for charity by offering free water, which is not free for us! and have acted as a base for them, we are hoping to install a pollinator garden this summer underneath our bird feeders to make our outside area even more visually attractive and we hope to run a series of events up there later this year including further craft sessions for children.”
The Pavilion in its hay day
“Additionally, if the restoration of the Pavilion goes to plan we will be able to use it for so many things such as regular yoga sessions, events and private hire. We hope to use part of the house for Airbnb, the living room inside the house (with open fireplace) and part of the garden for private events like picnics and hog roasts.”
Jenny’s enthusiasm and passion to make sure the Halfway House continues to act as a resource and focal point for the users of the Wrekin is plain for all to see and hear.
“We would like to set up a Friends of the Halfway House group to help with the garden, the bird feeding, the litter on the Wrekin and the re-cycling, we would like to install a defibrillator up there – the list is endless, but it is one step at a time.”
Let all us ‘Friends around the Wrekin’ help make sure we don’t just walk by and like Jenny stop off and say hello and while there enjoy some well-earned sustenance – whatever form that might take.