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One of Britain’s best 'upstairs downstairs' experiences has lined up its biggest-ever event programme for 2013 – including a chance to follow in the footsteps of Hobbit author J.R.R.Tolkien. Journey through the sweeping grounds of the Shugborough Estate in Staffordshire and visitors can discover not only history and heritage, but plenty of myth and mythology too. And for 2013 there will be even more to explore. Shugborough, near Stafford – famous for being the ancestral home of royal photographer Lord Patrick Lichfield – will feature new exhibitions and a new-look historic Walled Gardens as well as events from open-air concerts to festivals and country shows. Much more than a stately home, Shugborough is the nation’s most complete working historic estate and offers a fun-packed family day out and a chance to travel back to a bygone age. Set in 900 acres of stunning parkland and riverside gardens the elegant mansion house, working Victorian servants’ quarters and Georgian farm, dairy & mill are brought to life by costumed characters who share their stories from the past. For fans of magic and fantasy, the grounds of Shugborough - a name derived from the phrase “meeting place of the pixies” - have mystical connections with mysterious follies… and links to Hobbit author and the father of British fantasy, J.R.R.Tolkien As the eagerly awaited first film in Peter Jackson's epic “The Hobbit” Trilogy pulls in record audiences, some of the inspirations behind the early fantasy writings will feature in a series of guided walks around the Estate and surrounding countryside. Shugborough nestles on the edge of Cannock Chase - once the hunting ground of royalty and today a picturesque area of woodland walks and wildlife – and where a young Tolkien lived after returning from serving in the First World War. It was during his time in Staffordshire that he began creating his literary fantasy worlds, taking inspiration from his surroundings. In his book ‘The Lost Tales’ the village of Tavrobel is based on nearby Great Haywood and stands by a river where two rivers meet, a clear reference to Essex Bridge on the Estate. Within the tale, a gnome called Gilfanon has an "ancient house - the house of a hundred chimneys”. Shugborough has 80 chimneys and it is easy to imagine that on a misty day in the winter of 1916, with fires lit in all the rooms, the Hall would have looked like "The House of a Hundred Chimneys” while Cannock Chase - an area of outstanding natural beauty
- has drawn comparisons to the descriptions of the green landscape of The Hobbit’s Shire. Among New Year guided walks planned at Shugborough for 2013 is the Myths and Mysteries Tour, a walk around the gardens and parkland taking in the Earl’s private Arboretum and vistas of Cannock Chase, including the aptly-named ‘Hobbit’s View’. The Mansion, Servants' Quarters and Farm re-open on 22 March 2013 and back for the new season will be 'Shugborough Revisited', a chance to explore Lord Lichfield’s private rooms and hear the stories of one of the nation’s grandest families. New features and extra activities in the Walled Gardens will offer even more to discover while the link between the historic gardens and the award winning Lady Walk restaurant will also be strengthened with more homegrown produce going straight into the kitchens. Shugborough will also play host to even more special events during the year including the Moscow State Circus (23rd - 28th April 2013), boasting some of the greatest circus performers on Earth; cool classics with The Rat Pack Vegas Spectacular Live in Concert (1st June); a Music, Food and Drink Festival (29th - 30th June) with a traditional British summer party feel and the return of Shugborough Game and Country Show (27th - 28th July). Normal ticket prices are £15 for adults, £9 for children, £12 concessions, £37.50 for large families (two adults and up to three children) and £19 for smaller families. But those looking for extra value-for-money from their day out at Shugborough can book online, in advance, at reduced prices. There is a car parking charge of £3 per vehicle, fully refunded on purchase of a ticket. For details of opening times and more information, visit www.shugborough.org.uk