Photo by: The Halfway House (c 1903) with Donkeys in situ

The Halfway House On The Wrekin

For generations of visitors to The Wrekin, the opportunity to take a well earned pit-stop on their way from the Forest Glen to the summit was something they perhaps took for granted — for not one but two catering establishments once offered much needed sustenance for weary travellers. Until recently, such luxuries had become something of a distant memory, with even the public toilets disappearing from this ever busy visitor attraction! Now, thanks to a hard working team dedicated to restoring some much needed balance, the situation is finally changing for the better.

Occupying a promontory roughly equidistant from the base and the summit, the Halfway House on The Wrekin is aptly named. It appears to have been serving tea and refreshments since at least the late 1800s, although it’s possible the Victorian era cottage stands on a site that has been welcoming hungry passers-by since the days of the Wrekin Wakes. This one-time annual event began as a festival of religious observance every four Sundays in May but had transformed into a very different spectacle by the Victorian era. Writing in 1873, one observer described the hill as being ‘covered by a multitude of pleasure seekers’ enjoying ‘all the etceteras of an English Fayre’. The grand finale involved a mass battle between local ‘colliers and countrymen’ for possession of the hill but the hedonistic pleasures of the Wakes were by then very much at odds with the prevailing mores of the day and the event was eventually curtailed by the local landlords of the hill.

As the Twentieth Century dawned, the entertainments on offer at the Halfway House were far more sedate but no less gratefully received by the local public. Donkey rides, swing boats and Saturday night dances in the pavilion all formed part of a thriving scene that helped to define the local picture until the 1970s, when the property entered what appeared to be a terminal decline. Its loss was felt even more keenly with the demise of the Forest Glen Pavilion in 1993 and, save for the occasional appearance of a mobile catering van, the facilities on offer for the estimated 100, 000 annual visitor to the hill remained woefully inadequate as the Millennium approached.

The Halfway House (pictured around 1903) with Donkeys in situ

Fortunes Revived

Happily, the Twenty First Century has witnessed a revival in fortunes for this once fabled visitor attraction, as successive owners have devoted themselves to restoring the Halfway House to its rightful position as the first port of call for those walking the hill. Recently, these aspirations have received another shot in the arm with the complete overhaul of the facility. The fabled kiosk is now open again, serving refreshments between 11-3.30pm (its hours are updated weekly, and can be found by visiting: www.halfwayhouseonthewrekin.com) while the Pavilion has been fully refurbished to stunning effect, and can once again be hired for events and private gatherings.

However, even greater ambitions to make the Halfway House much more than just a place to drop-in for refreshments or a bite to eat are unfolding. In 2019 alone, willowcraft workshops, children’s bird activities, woodland art sessions, broom-making Halloween workshops, and visits to Father Christmas have all been arranged by Jenny and her hardworking team, providing the kind of community asset those who seek to frame the future of the hill have been hoping would arrive for many years. Evidence of this new approach can also be found in the creation of a pollinator garden on the site, which speaks of a future for the Halfway House that also encompasses it becoming a destination or those interested in discovering more about exploring the natural heritage of this regionally important forest landscape. For those of us who care deeply about the future of the Wrekin Hills, this cannot come a moment too soon.

The Newly Restored Halfway House (Gordon Dickins)

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