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From Donald Trumpkin to corpse bride - it's scarecrow fun
An extra group of very special visitors has descended on a rural shopping village in the 'heart' of Staffordshire. The Heart of the Country village, which lies just off the A38 at Swinfen, near Lichfield, is playing host to a Scarecrow Festival, with a clear Halloween theme to delight shoppers and diners of all ages. The Scarecrow Festival opened at the large, open-air site on October 17 and runs until Sunday 1st November. The high standard of scarecrow entries will make the task of judging a winner all the more difficult for the Mayor and Sheriff of Lichfield towards the end of the Festival.
The various scarecrows have been dotted around the family-run shopping village which was originally opened as a farm shop nearly 35 years ago. They are the creations of the various shops and dining establishments which together make up the outdoor centre. The shopping village is open to the public from 10am to 5pm daily, apart from Mondays when it is closed. There is no fee to view the Scarecrow Festival, and there is also free parking to visit Heart of the Country. As well as the shops and cafe/restaurants, the site currently has a Green Fairy Trail which is situated alongside the large car park. The trail aims to highlight concerns over climate change and is also where visitors can meet two young rescue pigs who are always grateful for any leftover fruit and vegetables.
Heart of the Country can trace its origins back to 1984 when Lesley and Simon moved with their children to Home Farm. Lesley started a farm shop and began selling dried flowers arrangements, blue and white china and country fabrics, alongside their own potatoes and free-range eggs. Simon's mum and Lesley's mum became involved in the business and they soon came up with the name 'Three French Hens'. They began selling old pine furniture supplied by an enterprising young man called Paul Martyn who utilised an old tractor shed to open a furniture shop, doubling the number of stores to two. Over time, Simon and Lesley continued to convert their old brick and tile buildings to enable more and more stores to open - and the creation of the Heart of the Country Village which is continuing to grow and evolve.
Among the scarecrows taking guard outside the various shops and restaurants is a tribute of sorts to US President Donald Trump, which can be seen outside The Pear Tree Creperie, where my wife and I stopped for coffee and a crepe. There is also a scarecrow depicting a portrait being painted outside the village's art gallery, a scary bride promoting Charlotte Baker bridal wear shop, and a homage to The Muppets outside Allen Brown Jewellery which won last year's competition. Other stores and restaurants on the site, complete with their scarecrows, include a spooky chimney sweep outside The Fireplace & Stove Co, pirates outside Seasalt clothes store, a family of three at The Barn Cafe Bar & Restaurant, and elves beside the door of the village's Christmas shop.
Often there are workshops going on in various shops, although none seemed to be ongoing on the midweek day that we visited. There is also a specialist eatery offering South African 'street food' but, unfortunately for us, that is only open at weekends when the village is usually quite hectic.
For further information about Heart of the Country Village and the range of businesses on the site, please visit heartofthecountryvillage.com, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone 01543 481612.