Thursday, 26 May 2016

The Witch Ball and more of Tilstock

  (DISCLAIMER: As an overall nice human being, I do not force entry, vandalize, steal, or disclose means of entry or location if it isn't obvious. I do this to protect locations and respect them. Trespass without forced entry is a civil offence rather than a criminal one, which isn't worth acting on unless one causes damage, steals, has ill intent, etc. I simply photograph and leave everything as I find it. I do not condone breaking and entering, and I do not condone what I do. I'm a danger to myself and a terrible role model. )

On the non-disclosure of access, if you're looking to check out the Cherry Tree Hotel near Whitchurch and you can't figure out the way in, then you're probably at the wrong place. In its current state, anyone can stroll in, although it is a couple good thunderstorms away from being a pile of rubble so if you do go, please be careful.

I went here once without a camera, and I've been here twice now that I have a camera because it happens to be right next to Tilstock airfield, and also due to the fact that I find the building to be really pretty.

On my last visit, over a year ago, the sign still hung here, but now it has fallen off and been taken away.

While it's commonly known as the Cherry Tree Hotel, the building used to go by a much cooler name, The Witch Ball. I don't know why this particular place was named that, but in the 17th and 18th centuries a witches ball was a hollow glass sphere hung in the windows of houses to drive away evil supernatural forces. Prior to that, the origin of the concept and name actually comes from the mundane world of fishing, when spherical buoys would be attached to a net to prevent it sinking. They were called Witch Balls because of their buoyancy, as a reference to the common belief in trial by water. A suspected witch would be thrown into a body of water and if they floated then that was confirmation that they were a witch, and they were then dragged out of the water and killed.
Quite how the Witch Ball made its transition from fishing nets to window decoration is anyones guess but modern Witch Balls are really pretty!

Photo stolen from Google. Don't they look awesome?

As The Witch Ball, this place was popular with the army guys in the 1940s, due to its proximity to Tilstock airfield. In particular the Americans stationed there took a special liking to it. And yet after that there's very little on the place. It boasted an impressive function room and a now filled-in swimming pool, but when it opened and when it closed are lost to me. At some point in the 1980s the building came under new ownership and the name changed to The Cherry Tree Hotel. The swimming pool was actually converted into a fish pond, and a fountain was installed in the bar area. The pub was visited by Michael Cain whenever he was in the area visiting his daughter. But in the late 20th Century, either the 1980s or the 1990s, it closed down, was boarded up and then was consequentially plundered and trashed.

Slipping inside, one comes immediately to the old bar area, which now lacks a bar but is cluttered with the remains of the seats.The fountain, sadly, is long gone, but I bet it would have been fun to photograph if it was still here.

I've seen a few very old pictures of this place when it was first explored, and a lot of what now clutters the floor used to frame the windows, fireplace and doorways, and was painted with these little swirly lines by local trespassers who seemed to be using it as a little secret hangout. This group, from what I gather, was responsible for a lot of the older graffiti there, including writing Cheery Tree Party on the door. They spelled Cherry wrong, but who cares? It's nice to think that even as an abandoned property, this place had its glory days before it reached the point it's at now.

 Onto the function room. It's lovely and vast, and has varying levels of graffiti between my two recent visits, but I actually kinda like it.

 There's a very intriguing ceiling hatch but no ladder. Who knows what could be up there?

 I actually really like this graffiti. It's fairly new but it adds some colour to the place. If all the walls were painted like this, this place would look amazing.

Welcome to the haunted hotel. Sadly I found no supernatural entities.

 And here you can see the tag "The Untouchables" is getting slowly vandalised and mocked. I love the "Aww scary" remark there. This is probably the badass name of a group of urbexers. Some people do describe me as an urban explorer, which is what Urbex is abreviated from. But I don't tend to mix with the "Urbex Community" simply because when I originally tagged things as Urbex on Twitter, Instagram and whatnot, the only people who followed me were grown ups in balaclavas and gasmasks sticking their middle fingers up at the camera in selfies, boasting about stealing cans of carling from their local off license, and calling themselves ridiculous things like The Untouchables. Whereas I like to fill my social circles with positive people, because positivity is equally as contagious as negativity, so long as one allows the positive influences to outweigh the negative. So I stopped tagging my things as Urbex. I correct people when they refer to me as an Urban Explorer or Urbexer. Some people call me The Adventure Guy. Some people call me the Brat Prince of Shropshire. My Mother calls me a mistake. All this is preferable to being called an Urbexer. There's just too much negative attachment to that term now, and a lot of my blog posts, like The Cave and the Hole in the Wall, all require me to get permission to photograph their awesome bits. Say that you're an Urbexer and that's an instant red flag to a lot of people.

My favourite nickname so far is That Explorer Person. It's gender ambiguous and suggests with the use of the word "That" that you should have heard of me. I love it. But having said all this, I suppose that ultimately, as long as I can define myself as happy then I guess it doesn't matter how others define me. And am I happy? Yes. If wealth was measured in happiness and not money, I'd be loaded. And a large part of that is surrounding myself with the right people.

This put a smile on my face! I have no idea who Pig is but the way they turn the G in Pig into a little pig face in all their wall scribbles was really adorable.

I wish I was as awesome as Pig.

 The oddest find was this almost immaculate cigarette machine still fixed to the wall, untrashed amongst the wreckage.

 The toilets have seen better days.

 And yet they're still in better condition than some of the toilets you see in pubs and clubs.

 The hand dryer is still fixed to the wall.

 The kitchen area still retained much of the fancy wall tiles that give it a feel for how it would have looked back in the hotels glory days.

There is a small cellar, with a metal door propped open by the remains of a chair.

 The safe is empty. Nearby was a small drawer with fireworks in it!

The cellar feels remarkably sturdy. Upstairs, however, is barely holding together.

 As you can see, there isn't much of a floor. The ceiling was also damaged in places, and flapping about in the rafters I heard the woefully familiar sound of pigeons.

My arch nemesis, forever plaguing me.

I know, I know, Gravity is meant to be my arch nemesis. But pigeons seem to attack me more, whereas Gravity often comes in useful.

 There were a number of bathrooms, some ensuite to the bedrooms and some not. The bedrooms themselves were barren and being clawed back by nature.

 A broken mirror. The upstairs of this place had quite a few broken mirrors mounted on the wall, no doubt victim to countless intruders.

 The shower curtain is in the shower.

 The newspaper is dated 2000, perhaps an indicator of when this place closed down.

 In one room there was a snippet of wallpaper showing vintage vehicles.

 But most bizarre of all our discoveries were these vintage sanitary towels. The packaging boasts "Every Lilia sanitary towel now has a protective backing marked by a blue thread. Please wear blue thread away from the body."

 The sanitary towels had safety pins on them. I'm not sure of the age of the product, and I'm no expert on them, but I'm fairly certain they've advanced considerably since this design.

 An old toothbrush holder.

And that was the Witch Ball, better known in later years as the Cherry Tree Hotel. It's clear from whats left that this place that it used to be really pretty, and the exterior is still very welcoming to this day. But the place is unfortunately trashed. I do, however, have hope for it. Sure, it probably costs more to fix it up than to actually buy the property, so it will probably remain abandoned for a long time. But when I saw the new graffiti down in the function room, I realised how amazing this place would look if it was filled with art.

Following our little stroll around the hotel, we checked out the ruins at Tilstock airfield again, this time going slightly beyond the typical buildings that I've shown before, such as the car wreck and the Enquiries sign, and that wonderful pitch black labyrinth. And we solved a major criticism with  my last Tilstock blog. Some people did write in and say that a military base of this size would have way more than just two air raid shelters. And they were right.

Beyond this deliciously intimidating sign were a plethora of military buildings, including several air raid shelters. The threat of canine companionship did little to persuade me not to have a nose around.

Here are some air raid shelters. Back in World War II, the goal was to not be seen from the sky. Bomb shelters didn't need to be subterranean, like your modern nuclear bunker, because this base was constructed before everyone had nuclear missiles. Of course, a well targeted bomb would take out these air raid shelters, but from the sky they'd be difficult to spot.

 The shelters were unfortunately filled with junk, unlike the two open air raid shelters that I showed in the last Tilstock blog. It's a massive shame. I know this is on private property and what the landowner does is their own business, but come on! If you own a chunk of land that has several air raid shelters on it, do something awesome with it!

 Most of the ruined buildings were locked up tight but I could still wander around them, and see the interiors through the windows. Sadly they seemed largely barren.

 But this is a nice little detail! Here on the footpath are two large footprints. I'm size 12 and my feet fit nice and snugly into them. But I did have to take quite the stride to get my feet into both footprints at the same time! Which is saying something, seeing as I stand at six foot two.

These buildings opened in 1915 as a military training base, so these footprints could be over a century old! That's so awesome!

And lastly, we found some more of these roofless brick mazes. I find them in most military bases that I explore, and I'm still not sure what they are! They're too low down to have once had roofs, and the pattern and rooflessness is repeated in each and every one. Surely if they once had roofs, some of the ruins would still have them.

My theory at this point is that they were defence trenches or training trenches, or both. But really, I need some military insight. If anyone out there knows what these are, please tell me.

But that's all I've got today! As always, find me on Instagram and Twitter, and feel free to get in touch! One can never have too many friends! If, however, you only ask me how I get to certain places, I'll either ignore it or not take it seriously.

My life is far too important to be taken seriously.

But if you can spare the pennies, please click on the donate button at the top. That's my adventure fund! All proceeds go to equipment that helps this blog. My camera and gorilla-pod came from that, and I love you all for it. But the more money I can put towards the blog, the better this blog will be.

On that note, I recently went on another adventure which is totally on my to-do list. But if you want to see it, I went on this adventure with fellow Shropshire Blogger, Mike, of Moments With Mike, and in typical blogger fashion he's already written about it! You can click here to see his take on our adventure. He has a go-pro. Imagine how awesome my blogs could be with a go-pro! Check out his blog!

But if you can't spare the money then no worries! More important to me is that you're all just awesome to each other. Go out today and turn a day around, make someone happy. Compliment the shit out of the human race! Bonus points if you get a hug!

Thanks for reading. Stay awesome!


  1. Those strange mazes are blast shelters, like a safety trench for people to run to and protect them from side blasts. Hence the reason for the "maze" like layout. I'd say they are the most common type on any military establishment from WWII.

  2. So sad to see the Witch Ball in such a state! I spent many happy times there back in the late 70’s ! Swam in the out door pool and had my 21st Birthday in the Function room !