HISTORY, mystery and a bit of light exercise – these are the main ingredients of Solihull Discovery Walks.
The events – which encourage people to delve into local history – have been going for several years, and continue to go from strength to strength. I was invited to join the ramblers on their recent saunter through Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens.
I arrive on a Wednesday morning and find that a small crowd has already gathered. This swells considerably over the next 15 minutes and by the time we set out there are 50 walkers in total.
Despite the name, the walks attract people from all around the region. Walking alongside me are strollers from Coventry, Warwickshire and...Cornwall. Now that’s dedication.
I’ve also been handed a guide by the group’s chairman Colin Harris. This year’s programme looks like something from the fevered mind of Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown. Templars, treasure hunts, forgotten ruins...it’s been a busy few centuries for Solihull.
“There’s a real sense of community with these walks,” said Colin. “People come on them and make very good friends. Most of our members have heard about us through word of mouth.”
The focus of this month’s march is the gardens themselves and nearby St Mary and St Margaret’s Church. But underneath the well-pruned hedges and honeysuckle, there’s plenty of juicy tales.
And that was probably the best thing about the excursion – all the little facts which emerged.
Take for instance the medieval church which was literally encased by the present Georgian building – perhaps to save on building costs. We even had the chance to go poking around the roof space and see the Middle age timbers which survived.
Then there was the hall itself – a spectacular building which is currently up for sale. It’s been through a few owners recently – including a millionaire who went AWOL for several years and a young, lottery winner who was dismayed to discover that the gardens didn’t come with the house. He didn’t stay for long.
Which brings me neatly to the lovingly-tended grounds – which have enjoyed far better luck than the hall. Overgrown for many years, the gardens were finally wrestled from the wilderness in the 1980s and have grown into a popular attraction.
All-in-all, I found out some nice bits of trivia during the walk and would recommend them to anyone who likes the fresh air or finding out more about their area.
To discover more about joining the group go to http://solihulldiscoverywalks.pbworks.com or to book a place on a walk call 0121 704.