Celebrating the best bits and bobs to be found while exploring Britain, Ireland and beyond. Much is inspired by real outings, whether they were walking, cycling or photographic in nature, while virtual blundering in the name of planning them has turned up some gems too. Regardless of how they were found, I hope that they keep coming so I can continue to share new things with you.
Now that Derbyshire has its own entry on here, it is the turn of other parts of the English midlands to keep their place here. While I often have commented to myself that I have neglected this region compared to its northern counterparts, it is not quite like that. Staffordshire and Shropshire have their hilly walking areas and they have drawn me while Lincoln's cathedral and castle made for an enticing weekend away not so long ago. Visits to Stratford-upon-Avon and Warwick in Warwickshire have added to my explorations for there is enough here to stop anyone thinking unworthy of such attentions. As I uncover more, it should add to what already is here.
It can feel that Hereford has to share some of its attractions with other nearby counties. Examples include the Forest of Dean and the Cotswolds but the cathedral is something that it has to itself. It is a county where I never have stopped until now and it looks as if breaking those journeys to and from the south of Wales would be no bad idea either. Apart from the Forest of Dean, Wye Valley and the Cotswolds, it also is where the rise towards the Black Mountains in the Brecon Beacons National Park begins and Hay-on-Wye is a noted book town with its own literary festival every year.
For a while I considered that this was on the Welsh side of its border with Wales until I realised the error in my thinking since it is in Herefordshire. Confusingly, the name sounds a lot like its Welsh neighbour Knighton and the Offa's Dyke Path National Trail passes nearby. This website presents the town as a centre for walking and has all the information you need to plan a stay in the place. Maybe, it's worth more than just passing through the place while walking that aforementioned long distance hike.
Here, you will find the ruins of a Tudor mansion that is associated with Lady Jane Grey, who occupied the English throne for a matter of days before it was claimed by Queen Elizabeth. The former hunting grounds also offer scope for outdoor recreation as well as events that celebrate history and nature. For nearby residents like those in Leicester, it must offer a lot for open air outings in an area that is not much associated with outdoor recreation.
Though set up as such in local democracy terms, Rutland does think of itself as a county and would be the smallest one in England at that. Oakham would be the county town and I wonder what the locals made of its inclusion as part of Leicestershire between 1974 and 1996. Since the mid 1970's, it has been host to Rutland Water, a large drinking water reservoir owned by Anglian Water that has become a nature reserve and a major amenity for the local area.
Until I discovered that Lincoln isn't so far from Sheffield earlier this year and that it is reasonably accessible from there (and hence from my adopted home town of Macclesfield in Cheshire), the idea of visiting the city or the county of which it is the principal town hadn't entered my head. Lincoln itself is a cathedral city and the county has a fair mix of countryside in the form of fens, wolds and vales to go along with its coastline. Of these, the Lincolnshire Wolds is an Area of Outstanding Beauty too. All in all, it's an oversight to think that I have overlooked the second largest county in England for so long. With the information about attractions and accommodation, maybe it's time to set matters to rights.
This collection introduces Nottinghamshire, one of Nottingham's visitor attractions and whatever woodland parks are there to enjoy. The last of these includes one associated with the legendary figure Robin Hood: Sherwood Forest. There are others though so it is best not to get blind-sided by that famous name.
These websites are probably as good as any to start when looking to learn about the attractions of Shropshire. The first one is belonged to the local tourist board and it admits that this is one of England's quieter counties but I am far from considering that a bad thing. In one respect, that sounds surprising; after all, it is not that far from Birmingham but I have never found the place overrun on my all too explorations of the area. For those who fancy peace and quiet, that easily has its attractions.
Shropshire does not have high hills but their steep sides make them look impressive to anyone passing along the railway line between Shrewsbury and Cardiff. It should be no surprise that shapely attractive hillsides attract walkers and that's why folk from Birmingham do come out to these parts. Nevertheless, you can find plenty of quiet spaces around there for anyone wanting to escape from the hurly burly of modern life for a while.
Shropshire's county town mightn't come up too high on anyone's list of desirable destinations but it deserves better than that. There's a good collection of architecture that possesses a solid feeling of antiquity. Not only that but there are associations with Charles Darwin too with a statue of the great biologist next to the town's library. The place needs more than the short spans of attention that it has received from me until now.
Coalbrookdale is the first place in the world where a cast iron bridge was built and it hints at an industrial past on the banks of the Severn.There are plenty of museums in the area these days to attract the visitor and these websites try to tell you about the delights that await in this part of the world.
It has been its hosting of part of the Peak District National Park that has drawn me into the part of the county that surrounds Leek, Rushton Spencer and Biddulph, known as the Staffordshire Moorlands. Some of those incursions have been muddy too but there's more to the county than that so highlighting much of what is on offer is what this website sets out to do. It does so in an inviting way too so I must spend more time on it myself. After all, Staffordshire is adjoining Cheshire, where I live, and is not that far away from me.
While Stoke-on-Trent wouldn't have struck me as a visitor destination, it does have one trump card: its industrial heritage. The city isn't nicknamed "The Potteries" for nothing and many of the famous names in fine chinaware are associated with the city and still have retail outlets there. For those seeking older history, there's the Staffordshire Hoard, a collection of unique Anglo-Saxon gold and silver objects. Then, there's Alton Towers and Trentham Estate for those fancying more current exploits. After that, there's plenty of walking and cycling by the city's canals and there's more in the surrounding countryside with Staffordshire's portion of the Peak District National Park not at all being far away either. When you recount all of these, it does seem as Stoke-on-Trent is not as lacking in attractions as it first may appear.
It may be upstaged by Stoke-on-Trent but this still is the county town of Staffordshire. Naturally, the good people who live in the town and its surrounding area want to attract visitors and that is what this website sets out to do. Not only does the town retain parts of its heritage but there's Cannock Chase nearby too for those seeking a bit of outdoors recreation.
If it weren't for the effects of industrial pollution, things might have turned out very differently for the Trentham Estate. What was loved and cherished became loathed thanks to the impact that Stoke-on-Trent's potteries were having on the river that gave it part of its name. That has meant a chequered history for much of the last century and that much of the hall got demolished after Staffordshire County Council decided against taking up the offer of taking it over from the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland.
These days, we have greater environmental awareness and the estate now is a visitor attraction open all year round apart from Christmas Day. There's a lot to see too with woodland walks and Italian gardens to savour. They are the attractions but there is a shopping village, Barbary macaques and other more manicured offerings. There certainly is an effort being made to entice families and other visitors so it's worth a look for the longer summer holidays.
Until November 2015, my encounters with Warwickshire have been limited so far to a showery Easter Sunday spent around Stratford-upon-Avon, a job interview in Coventry (a city having an unusual cathedral with poignant signs of World War 2 destruction) and various journeys by train to and from Oxford. The November 2015 weekend trip included a day around Warwick Castle and a return visit to Stratford-upon-Avon but there is more like the Tudor World museum and Compton Verney art gallery & park to see there yet.
It isn't easy to go poking around Warwickshire without encountering the legacy of a certain William Shakespeare from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. After all, this what took me to Stratford-upon-Avon in both 2001 and 2015. From what is to be seen at the properties owned by this charity, another visit would not see a shortage of things to see.
Along with the likes of Staffordshire and Shropshire, Worcestershire is one of West Midlands' rural counties. For those seeking outdoor escapes, it features an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and plenty of other places to walk and cycle. That is not all for there are several museums in the county like the Tudor House Museum and the Broadway Museum & Art Gallery. Also, Worcester Cathedral looks worthy of a visit and more than compensates for the production of Royal Worcester away from where it all started.
Worcestershire shares this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with the neighbouring counties of Herefordshire and Gloucestershire. It was founded in 1959 and usefully offers walking and cycling opportunities not only to its immediate vicinity but also to the residents of the likes of Birmingham too. The Romans were hereabouts too so there is some history to the place.
Apparently, Queen Victoria once called this north-west Worcestershire town "my little town in the orchard" and they have kept the moniker ever since then. It also tried branding itself as a spa town when such things were desirable and after a mineral spring had been uncovered.