Magical entries win short story competition at Painshill

Crystals in Crystal Grotto

A monster, a witch, a fledgling bird, and magical pixies all featured in the winning entries for a short story competition run by Painshill Park in Surrey to celebrate the 250th birthday of its dazzling crystal grotto.

Painshill invited budding writers to pen a 250-word story inspired by the unearthly beauty of the enchanting manmade feature at the award-winning 18th century landscape garden.

Stories were judged by a panel of experts including Lorraine Piddington, author of children’s books The Aliens Who Loved Lemon Curd and Pete from Pluto and his Perfect Pies, and Painshill director Paul Griffiths.

The winning entries were written by Theodor Ridgwell in the 12 years and under category, and Virgina Vivian and Courtney Roast in the 18 and over category. Each winner received a year’s membership to Painshill.

The Rainbow Grotto, by three-year-old Theodor Ridgwell, tells the tale of a monster who has lived alone for 100 years until his world is brightened by the arrival of a friendly witch who turns his cave into a dazzling crystal grotto.

In Virginia Vivian’s The Grotto of Enchantment, a mother sees the magical grotto through the eyes of a child, and Courtney Roast’s spellbinding tale reveals the pixies who work hard each night to polish and shine the sparkling crystals.

Painshill director Paul Griffiths said: “Entrants were invited to submit a 250-word story inspired by the enduring appeal of our beautiful crystal grotto, which is 250 years old this year.

“We wanted to be enchanted and dazzled – just as the grotto has been dazzling visitors since it was created by designer Joseph Lane in the 1700s.

“The entries we received surprised and delighted us. They were all of a very high standard, and the three winners really captured our imagination with their vivid story-telling.”