If you’re looking for an off-beat tourist attraction to build your next UK staycation around, I’ve just the thing: these two abandoned Rock Houses at Kinver Edge in Staffordshire. They were abandoned by the last residents in the 1960s,until National Trust took them in hand and restored them.
They look like something out of a story book, don’t they? Funny that, because rumour has it that these rock houses inspired Tolkien’s Hobbit holes, although he hasn’t confirmed this. But he did live in nearby Birmingham… so who knows.
Kinver Edge is a 250-million-year-old sandstone escarpment with a network of cavernous houses carved into its three rocks – Holy Austin, Nanny’s and Vale’s – and an iron age hill fort. At one point, these cave homes were home to 44 people – around 11 families – until the 1960s when residents were persuaded to swap their caves for local council housing, leaving their legacy behind.
It’s thought the first inhabitants stumbled on it in the early 17th century, though official records date from 1777. appearing in a book with a very long-winded title, Letters on the Beauties of Hagley, Envil and The Leasowes with critical remarks and Observations on the Modern Taste in Gardening, by Joseph Healey, who discovers the homes after getting caught in a thunderstorm.
He describes the homes as well-furnished, “curious, warm and commodious and the garden extremely pretty”. Joseph also notes that the residents had access to water and were extremely welcoming, and proud of their homes, delighted even to recount the stories of their ancestors who had built them. He also knowns that apparently, when it was a community, residents would welcome visitors and serve refreshments like an unofficial café, right in their living room or in their front gardens with views of the English countryside.
The National Trust restored two cottages in Holy Austin rock using early photographs, postcards and records to re-create the details. Even the landscape around the cottages has been transformed. It features a little meadow of grass and wildflowers, an orchard of apple and pear trees, whose fruits the Kinver cave dwellers would have made into jam. There’s also a little hillside allotment where peas, pumpkins and cabbages are growing, similar to the one created hundreds of years ago by the farm labourers, hawkers and gamekeepers who lived here self-sufficiently.
Find out more here.