Nestling in the beautiful Shropshire countryside, this is a rambler's and hiker's paradise. A relaxing country retreat to escape from the hustle of city life or for a quiet romantic weekend.
Shropshire has some of the most dramatic gardens in England and is a gardeners dream whether you're an amateur or a horticulture specialist. These are all ideally placed near spectacular historical Halls and dramatic Castles.
For the more adventurous there is also plenty; whether you want to skydive, have a hot air balloon ride or simply feel like trashing your car around a rally track, surprisingly, that's all here too. There is definately something for everyone. If anyone claims "there's nothing to do"...well they're wrong.
Sport and Leisure
Think you're the next Nick Faldo? Scotland may have invented the ancient game of golf. But it's in Shropshire, arguably, that the game can be played at its best. Hawkstone Park was voted as one of the best courses in the world, and it's here that many well-known wielders of the club, such as Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam, honed their skills.
Shropshire has over 30 golfing venues including:-
Three championship courses
18 hole parkland courses
18 hole hillside courses
9 hole courses
Gold driving ranges
For a list of all the golf courses click here.
As for those who bleat plaintively about being 'golf widows', there is an equally wide range of quaint market towns to stroll around and plenty of shopping to be done.
North Shropshire has it's very own 'Lake District', full of glacial meres, with so many pools, rivers, streams and canals to choose from you may need to make a weekend of it. With more than 10 still water game fisheries offering brown and rainbow trout and carp, and miles of canals, several Meres and the Rivers Severn, Perry, Tern and Teme you certainly won't be short of a choice of venue.
Just down the road from us is the 'Hodnet Angling Club- Prees Wood Pool', for which you can purchase day passes for around £3. Their website can be found here.
A 15 minute drive away is Andy Nicholson's Chequered Lake, a Journalist who runs the Angling News website and has made many films and documentaries on angling. A day pass here is £5.
The West Midlands Shooting grounds are located only 1.5 miles away. The ground itself has the appeal of the finest golf course; a maze of beautifully maintained paths lead you to the 80 plus stands, boasting over 200 clay pigeon traps of the finest sporting targets on offer in the UK today. 'For their website and prices, click here.
Gardens and Halls
Located literally across the road from us, these gardens have been here since the 11th century. There are 60+ acres and are renowned for being amongst the finest gardens in the country. The Heber-Percys still live at the Hall and own most of Hodnet's buildings, including The Bear.
Down the road is Wollerton Old Gardens and Hall, it features several different gardens and being set in 4 acres it's slightly easier to navigate than some others.
Just down the road near the Hawkstone Follies, the Hall is open to the public on set days. It has been described as the 'secret Jewel of Shropshire', but we think that's actually The Bear...
An absolutely breath-taking magical place just a 5 minute drive from The Bear. Used as the back-drop for the Narnia films, Hawkstone Park is a maze of caves, tunnels, bridges and ravines. All with amazing views of the Shropshire and Cheshire plains, so on a clear day you can see all the way to the distant Welsh mountains, where our Landlord and Head Chef were dredged up from.
For more gardens and inspiration click here.
The Wrekin is perhaps Shropshire’s best known landmark, a curious legendary hill that, from this way it looks like a mountain, and that way, it crouches low. From the top you can see fifteen counties.
It was also the inspiration for Tolkien's Middle Earth in the acclaimed series of books - The Lord of The Rings. Tolkien used to live nearby and drew inspiration from the magnificent Shropshire landscape.
The thing we built to keep out the Welsh, keep them in? Or was it to keep the English out? The debate goes on. Essentially a big linear earthwork, built as a barrier between kingdoms. In some places it reaches 65 feet wide and 8 feet high.
There are so many market towns in Shropshire; each couldn't be more different or distinctive. Real shopping in proper shops, lively street markets, antique markets, specialist food shops, art and craft galleries - all give retail therapy Shropshire style.
Shrewsbury is not just your average shopping town, it is full of historical buildings, castles, cobbled hidden alleyways with odd names- The Bear steps- being our favourite. The individual independent shops still outnumber the chains.
There's a market hall at the base of the big clock tower; one part farmer's market, one part grand bazaar - with stalls selling local arts and crafts, out-of-print books, vintage vinyl and all kinds of curios curios (it's open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, with a small selection of stalls open on Thursday mornings).
5 minutes away, this is the home of gingerbread. It still has one of the busiest markets on a Wednesday when whole streets are closed to make-way for market vendors with everything from damsons, to fresh fish.
Numerous small specialty shops stocked to the gunnels and bursting with delights. Wem also has one of Shropshire's best delicatessens and that's a reference in itself.
Within the town the sweet pea was first commercially cultivated, under the variety named Eckford Sweet Pea, after its inventor, nursery-man Henry Eckford. He first introduced a variety of the sweet pea in 1882, and set up in Wem in 1888, developing and producing many more varieties. Each year, the Eckford Sweet Pea Society of Wem hold a sweet pea festival.
There's about 32 castles in Shropshire, but as Hodnet is Northern Shropshire, it's a 10 minute drive to cross the border into South Cheshire where there's a least 3 castles within a 30 minute drive (conveniently along the same road, the A49) which makes it harder to get lost.
Stokesay Castle is quite simply the finest and best preserved fortified medieval manor house in England. Set in peaceful countryside near the Welsh border, the castle, timber-framed gatehouse and parish church form an unforgettably picturesque group. Includes a moat walk and beautiful gardens.
Moreton Corbet Castle is a magnificent and unusual, ornate ruin that is, disturbingly atmospheric. The ruins of the medieval castle and Tudor manor house of the Corbets are dominated by the theatrical shell of an ambitious Elizabethan mansion wing in Italianate style, which was devastated during the Civil War. Fine Corbet monuments fill the adjacent church.
The strikingly picturesque and romantic ruins are steeped in much history, tales of bitter border warfare, romance and legend. The castle is the only in the UK owned and run by the local community.
The romantic castle - a product of the early 19th century - stands on a high rise above a lake. The castle is surrounded by sweeping lawns and the gardens themselves are their own attraction. There is a children's play area, picnic site, farm animals including llamas and African pygmy goats and aviary with many varieties of birds. (Cheshire)
This 'Castle of the Rock' is famous for its spectacular views, which take in no less than eight counties on a clear day. From its lookout point at the top of a mighty crag, you can see from the Pennines all the way to the Welsh mountains. There is also a legend that Richard II buried his gold here which historians to this day have tried to discover. (Cheshire)
This castle is a little different from a lot of others. It has been part of a multi-million pound restoration, bought by a couple that married there, and is now a wedding venue, conference centre, restaurant, hotel and spa. It does a variety of activities on site including off-roading in its own fleet of Land Rovers. (Cheshire)
Legends, Ghosts and other Nonsense
Some historians believe that King Arthur (of the round table variety), was actually from Shropshire. Apparantly he was 'Owain Ddantgwyn'- or his battle name 'The Bear' (we like that), a great king from the dark ages who ruled his kingdom from Wroxeter, near Shrewsbury. There is evidence to support this theory and many books have been written about this idea. There is a King Arthur Trail around Shropshire, which if nothing else, provide interesting insigts into the history of the area and shares some really nice walks. Just don't ask about the Holy Grail.
Also mentioned in the History of Hodnet, there is a relation between St Luke's church in Hodnet and the legend of the 'Holy Grail'. The church apparently held a clue in it's stained glass window.
The Holy Grail is said to have been kept in the chapel of Whittington Castle and historic Hawkstone Park and Follies in Weston-Under-Redcastle also has legendary associations with King Arthur. In 1920 a small stone cup was found hidden in the base of an eagle statue that then stood in the Grotto. It was identified as an early Roman scent jar, and recent research has suggested that it may have been the vessel that inspired the medieval Grail legend.
There are apparently 500 haunted sites in Shropshire and Shropshire tourism even offers Haunted Drives around the county. If this sort of thing interests you then you don't have to travel far as The Bear Inn, is reportedly one of them. We have a famous 'friendly' ghost referred to as Jasper often written about in ghost blogs and websites.
The bar has a good choice of local real ales, a new wine list reveals sensibly priced and eclectic wines with many available by the glass.
My eyes were drawn to a top shelf above the till with possibly the best selection of Cognacs, Armagnac and Calvados in Shropshire!!
We have eaten there a couple of times now, for a starter you must try the Charcuterie sharing platter, served on a wooden palette brimming with quality meats, even smoked pigeon and home made piccalilli, balsamic pickles and pate, humous & grilled artichokes and more- osojolly