A destination for all
Date Posted: 30/10/2010
Whether you’re a treasure hunter, a thrill-seeker, or simply in search of tradition and tranquillity, Staffordshire offers something for everyone.
With its tradition of world-shaping industry, heritage and natural beauty, Staffordshire is a fascinating county with a wide choice of group-friendly attractions. Centrally located in the heart of England, and easily accessible from the M6, M1, M42 and M54, Staffordshire is home to some of the UK’s finest countryside including the Peak District, Britain’s first and most popular National Park. Its range of attractions appeal to all ages and interests, with exciting theme parks for thrill-seekers, tranquil trips along the county’s long canal network, historic houses and gardens, world-famous china and glassware, factory shops and - when it’s time for some liquid refreshment - a renowned brewing heritage.
Destination Staffordshire offers a full group planning service including suggested itineraries, and special group offers and discounts at hotels, restaurants and shops. A group travel newsletter containing all the latest updates can be downloaded from the dedicated groups page on the website shown at the end of the article. In the meantime, we’ve been taking a look at what’s new for groups in 2010 and 2011.
New home for treasure trove
The Staffordshire Hoard, the most important collection of Anglo Saxon treasure ever found, is now on permanent display at Stoke-on-Trent’s Potteries Museum & Art Gallery.
Discovered on private land last summer by a very lucky man with a metal detector, and excavated by Birmingham University Archaeology Unit and Staffordshire County Council, the hoard comprises 1,800 gold and silver items, many decorated with precious stones, believed to date from the seventh century. Stoke-on- Trent and Birmingham City Council had been raising the funds to acquire the hoard, valued at £3.3 million, and the National Heritage Memorial Fund also provided a grant of £1.2 million to save the treasure for the nation.
Doors open at Shugborough
Shugborough’s magnificent mansion house will be opened up in its entirety in 2011, providing even more interest for groups. From next March, visitors will be able to wander through the private apartments of the late royal photographer, Patrick Lichfield. Previously, only the state rooms on the ground floor and a small part of the first floor have been open to the public.
The 13 new rooms include the elegant boudoir, with original silver leaf wallpaper dating back to 1794, and the beautiful bird room, which was Lord Lichfield’s private drawing room. The eagerly awaited opening is part of a largescale plan called Shugborough Revisited. As part of the project, Lord Lichfield’s private island arboretum filled with 150 species of oak tree will also be opened daily to the public, along with a new sculpture trail and nature walk. The ancestral estate near Stafford, set in 900 acres of parkland, also boasts servant’s quarters, a working farm and walled garden, all staffed by costumed characters. Special tours and activities for groups include guided garden walks; a nostalgic glimpse at estate life during the war, with the option to have a themed wartime lunch; and the opportunity for your group to enjoy a sumptuous high tea in the mansion house.
Many groups will have fond memories of the Coors Visitor Centre and Museum of Brewing in Burton upon Trent, formerly the Bass Museum, which closed in 2008. Earlier this year there was a good reason to raise glasses once again when the National Brewery Centre opened on the same site.
The revitalised attraction celebrates Burton’s proud brewing heritage and groups are transported back to a bygone era, when there were more than 30 breweries in the town and the industry revolutionised brewing techniques throughout the world. Character performers bring the story to life, and depending on the time of your visit you may also meet the centre’s splendid pair of Shire horses, Major and Trooper.
The centre has been picked to host the Brewing Industry International Awards in February 2011, which will be followed by a new Festival of Beer showcasing participating beers and regional food.
What’s new at Wedgwood?
World-famous Stoke-on-Trent pottery manufacturer Wedgwood has been appointed to produce souvenir merchandise for the London 2012 Olympics. But groups don’t have to wait that long to buy a piece of history from the company founded in 1759 by Josiah Wedgwood, the so-called Father of English Potters.
The Wedgwood Visitor Centre and Museum offers a chance for groups to immerse themselves in the heritage of the great ceramics company, and this summer a new outlet store opened on the visitor centre site, stocking a wide range of the company’s goods at greatly reduced prices. The centre is situated next to the £10 million Wedgwood Museum and both buildings provide an enthralling insight into 250 years of history, craftsmanship and creativity.
There are discounted rates for groups of 12 or more, themed group tours and a range of pre-bookable refreshment packages including morning coffee and lunch.
Trentham, five minutes from junction 15 on the M6, has a wealth of interest for groups and new combination tickets enable GTOs to book tickets for Trentham and other nearby attractions.
The jewel in the crown of the estate, the historic Italian gardens, is one of the most impressive and largest garden regeneration projects in Britain. Afterwards, groups can go for a gentle lake cruise on board the Miss Elizabeth passenger boat and explore the shopping village, where 60 individual retailers are housed in a charming timber lodge village.
Trentham offers a host of benefits for groups of 12 or more, including tickets combining the magnificence of the gardens and the magic of Monkey Forest, which is part of the estate. The Pots and Perennials itinerary links a visit to Trentham with Wedgwood Visitor Centre and Museum, whilst the History and Horticulture offer enables groups to see Trentham and Shugborough.
Stoke-on-Trent has a new website with a dedicated section for groups. It includes information on itineraries, meal stops, attractions, tours, accommodation and more. GTOs can also keep up to date with the latest news by registering for the trade e-newsletter, sent out four times a year. Log onto www.visitstoke.co.uk/groups.
Alternatively, call the group desk on 01782-232817 for help with all aspects of itinerary planning, including bespoke tours, special behind-the-scenes tours of gardens and heritage attractions, and familiarisation visits.
Ten great group attractions
1. Tutbury Castle: The atmospheric ruins of the medieval castle where Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned in the 16th century is reputed to be one of the UK’s spookiest buildings and has been featured on the television programme, Most Haunted.
2. Biddulph Grange Garden: Take your group on a green-fingered global journey at this extraordinary garden created by Victorian plant hunter James Bateman.
3. Lichfield: The heritage city is known for its distinctive three-spired medieval cathedral and museums illustrating the life and works of two of its greatest citizens, Dr Samuel Johnson and Erasmus Darwin.
4. National Memorial Arboretum: The arboretum and Armed Forces Memorial in Alrewas is a yearround centre of remembrance, providing a moving and uplifting tribute to servicemen and women who have lost their lives in war and acts of terrorism.
5. Churnet Valley Railway: The heritage railway will take your group members on a nostalgic tenmile journey through delightful hidden countryside between Cheddleton - with its grade II listed Victorian station - and Froghall, where there is a tea room that caters for coach parties.
6. Drayton Manor Theme Park: The popular attraction near Tamworth is set to open a brand new hotel next summer, enabling groups to stay overnight with additional benefits including discounts for second-day tickets.
7. Regent Theatre: Round off a day’s sightseeing with an evening at this beautifully restored Art Deco theatre in Stoke-on-Trent, which stages West End musicals, plays, grand opera and national ballet, with discounted tickets available for groups.
8. Trentham Monkey Forest: Visit the only place in Britain where you can walk amongst 140 Barbary macaques roaming free in 60 acres of beautiful English forest. There is discounted admission for groups of 20 or more.
9. Snowdome: Europe’s first indoor ski and snowboarding centre with real snow, the Tamworth attraction also stages ‘oompah’ party nights and live music acts with discounts for group bookings.
10. Alton Towers Resort: The UK’s largest theme park, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, offers group discounts for parties of ten or more.