Visit Hagley: The friendly village brimming with character
Mark Andrews visits Hagley in the latest of our Down Your Way features.
When David Vaughan is not behind the counter of County Sports Hagley, he is rubbing shoulders with the stars.
David, 37, is a regular fixture at some of Britain's top tennis tournaments, where he will re-string the racquets of some of the most famous players in the world.
"I have strung them for Maria Sharipova, Naomi Osaka, Caroline Wozniacki, Angelique Kerber, and Simona Halep," he says.
He was on duty at the Nature Valley Classic tennis tournament at Edgbaston's Priory Club, and may be on duty at Wimbledon.
While there is not much money to be made from such events, the kudos they bring makes it all worthwhile.
"Stringing for the top 10 female players in the world looks pretty good," he says.
Hagley is four miles from Stourbridge, and just eight miles from the middle of Dudley.
But the village has always taken pride in its independence and individuality.
Its tranquil location at the foot of the Clent Hills, coupled with easy transport links, have long made it a popular choice for commuters.
But equally, its wide range of specialist independent retailers means that not only is the community largely self-sufficient, but it also attracts many people visitors looking for the kind of goods and services that are hard to find elsewhere.
And David's sports shop is a case in point.
"If you look around there's not many sports shops left," says David, who has kept the business for five years.
"Kidderminster had about four shops specialising in different areas, but you don't see that any more.
"A lot of people come from outside Hagley, and we are quite central for a lot of different sports clubs."
Historically, the village centred around Hagley Hall, home to the Lyttelton family since 1709, and St John the Baptist Church, which is home to the oldest parish register in England, dating back to 1538.
But the arrival of the railways in 1852 led to a shift in focus to the area known as West Hagley.
Modern Hagley now revolves around a 500-yard stretch of Worcester Road, from St Saviour's Church at the top to the junction with the A456 at the bottom.
Julie Leddington, who keeps Flowers of Hagley towards the top of Worcester Road, says she has never looked back since opening her shop five years ago.
"It's a lovely place to have a shop, the people are lovely," she says.
"The people will shop in the local businesses here. I think Hagley has very good shops, you have got everything you need.
"A lot of old people live in the village, there are a lot of retirement places, and the people there like to shop in the village. They do support the local shops.
"The one thing I would like to see here is a bakery, that would be great.
"I have been a florist all of my life, and I'm lucky to work in a lovely area."
But there does seem the one bugbear in the village is the lack of parking spaces.
Julie feels a lack of enforcement, coupled with the recent introduction of pay-and-display charges at the nearby railway station, is exacerbating the difficulties.
"It's supposed to be three hours on the main car park, and two hours in the street, but it is not enforced and people park all day," she says.
"Since they introduced the charges at the station, it's been putting pressure on the streets around it as well, which people aren't very happy about."
Ed Stringfellow, 33, has kept a hairdresser's in the village for six years, but recently expanded to open a cafe on the ground floor. His next plan is to add a micropub to his small but stylish shop.
"It's a pleasant, friendly place, the people who live here are nice," he says.
Ed also cites car parking as a problem, and says there has also been a spate of thefts of high-end cars.
Gurdip Trehan is the owner of Happy Families, an eclectic shop selling greeting cards and gifts on the ground floor, with ladies' clothing upstairs.
The 69-year-old grandfather has kept the shop for 12 years, although the business was there for many years before that.
"Everybody knows everybody, I know all the traders here and everybody gets on with each other.
"In a busy area there will always be some shops that sell similar things to others, but competition is always a good thing."
Good schools are also an attraction, says Gurdip, adding that there is also a feeling of peace and safety in the village.
"The area has everything the people require, we have the all the local shops which are very good, and the King Arthur pub opened a couple of years ago which gives people something to do at night."
Four doors away, an A-board outside Lily Blue's gift shop declares 'shopping local is always a good idea.'
Angela Jones has kept the shop for six years, but lived in the area for 11 years before that.
"It's a great place to live," she says.
"There's a real sense of community, people are friendly and they look out for each other.
"Generally people are polite, people still do that 'good morning', even when it's to somebody you don't know."
She says one of the things that makes Hagley a pleasant environment is the way that people look after their village.
"I think people realise we are lucky to live in such a nice place, so we take care of it as well," she says.
"If I'm walking to work and I see some litter, I will pick it up. I don't want to see litter around."
An example of this is the Jubilee Garden at the top of Worcester Road.
Originally created in 1977 by a local gardening club top mark the Queen's Silver Jubilee, it had become neglected in recent years.
Then, in May last year, the garden was given a makeover by volunteers from Life Central Church, with Webb's garden centre donating more than £100 worth of perennial plants.
Sharing the same building as Lily Blues is The Hagley Cafe. The cafe serves as one of the village's many vibrant meeting places, the walls are adorned by paintings by artist Bob Berry which are available for sale to the public.
Manager Julia Richardson is Hagley born and bred, and returned to the village to bring her children up after living in a few different parts of the country.
"I wanted my children to go to the same school as I did," she says.
Colleague Sally Roberts says many of the families in Hagley have lived there for generations.
Like most of the people in the village, she says parking is the main concern.
"We get a little bit of anti-social behaviour occasionally, but not really very much. It's parking that most people talk about," she says.
Across the road at the Deli in the Village, 27-year-old Lois Unitt is preparing the hand-made sausage rolls.
Lois lives in nearby Blakedown, but says Hagley is a great place to work.
"It's very friendly and laid back," she says.
While the village is popular, there are some who consider it to be a victim of its own success, particularly with regard to demand for houses.
The new development off Cavendish Drive went ahead in the face of bitter opposition from the parish council in the 1990s, and in 2013 350 villagers marched on Hagley Hall in protest at the Cala Homes scheme at Wychbury Fields.
But some things never change.
The village's famous railway bridge, immortalised in a scale model by train-set manufacturer Hornby, looks the same as it always has done, and the famous Wychbury Obelisk was restored in 2011.