The magic of the Mandrakes café in Ormskirk
PUBLISHED: 00:00 09 December 2019
Witches and wizardsbare heading to the pretty little market town.
You have to feel sorry for Professor Argeel. She's a flying instructor with a fear of flying. It was brought on by a bad bout of witch flu and she's now grounded. But her loss is Ormskirk's gain and she's using her time on terra firma to help her friend Madame T Tempore spread a little magic.
The pair run the Mandrakes café which opened in the summer and saw queues of eager witches and wizards snaking down the street. The demand has hardly waned since and the pair are now planning a second, bigger, café in Liverpool city centre which they hope will open in the spring.
Visitors young and old have been spellbound by the café on St Helens Road, near Ormskirk town centre. Broomsticks hang from the star-spangled ceiling, there are magic potions, mysterious jars and magical items to be found on shelves around the café - and they're official suppliers of Harry Potter merchandise.
Gail Usher is Prof Argeel - as a girl growing up in Northern Ireland she was known as 'Our Gail' which sounds in a Belfast accent like 'Argeel' - and she opened the café with her friend Aileen Piper who is tea leaf reader Madame T Tempore (which translate as Mrs T Time).
Gail said: 'We knew Ormskirk needed a little bit of magic and we knew families would love this, but what has surprised us has been the appeal it's had for adults. We've had three generations coming in and finding it a magical experience. We expected to host children's birthday parties, but we've also had wedding parties and engagements. That's been really nice to see.
'We can cater for about 35 people at a time and on a busy day we'll serve up to 150 people. We could have squeezed more tables in but we wanted visitors to enjoy the experience and what's here. We like it when they look round and explore and take photos.'
And Aileen added: 'We didn't want to create a coffee shop, we wanted this to be a tourist destination and we know that people come from all over the country to visit us. Ninety per cent of our customers are from out of town and we make a point when they're here of encouraging them to explore Ormskirk.
'If we're busy when people arrive, we will take their number and suggest they look round the town and we'll call them when there's a table.'
And there's lots more to see with a great range of independent stores and well-known high street names along wide pedestrianised streets which radiate out from the clock tower.
There's plenty of places to eat and lots of reasonably priced car parks, although I'd recommend you get there early if you're visiting on a Thursday or Saturday - the popular market attracts large crowds of shoppers.
And if you need to escape those crowds, head to one of Ormskirk's green spaces. There's glorious countryside around the town and lovely walking routes to explore, including the fascinating War Horse route which traces the role the town played in sending more than 200,000 horses and mules to active service during World War One.