Rural Coverage


The other day the district nurse who lives across the stream from me was complaining about the lack of rural coverage on the BBC. “It’s almost as though life outside London doesn’t exist,” she said. And it’s true. Considering that over 95 percent of Britain is farmland, woodland, mountain or moorland and that 12 million of us live in it (while many millions more value it for all sorts of reason), it seems odd that the BBC provides such scant rural coverage.

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Tregardock Cliffs, Cornwall

Tregardock Cliffs are terrifying, inhospitable and tremendous. They lie on the windswept eastern side of the parish of St Teath (pronounced to rhyme with death), where only a few scattered farms hang well back from the edge and brave the sea gales. This particular stretch of coast between Port Isaac and Tintagel is bleak, inaccessible, little developed and rife with centuries of calamitous shipwrecks. ‘From Padstow Point to Hartland Light / Is a watery grave by day or night.’

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Southwell, Nottinghamshire


Nottinghamshire remains relatively unnoticed and unappreciated by travelers speeding through it on the Ml or the train. Though it is revered by cricketers for its hallowed ground at Trentbridge and romantically lodged in our imaginations through Robin Hood, it has never been part of the tourist trail. Factories and pit heads, power stations and pylons have sprouted amidst farms and villages, mild manors and ducal estates. D H Lawrence, Nottinghamshire’s famous son, accused the Victorian promoters of industry of condemning workers to ‘… ugliness, ugliness, ugliness: meaningless and formless and ugly surroundings, ugly ideals, ugly religion, ugly hope, . . . → Read More: Southwell, Nottinghamshire


Ravenscourt Park, London W6

Ravenscourt Park, well hidden from the world, lies between the Goldhawk Road and King Street. It is worth every step of the way to visit on a crisp December afternoon if you can spare the time to travel on the tube one stop west of Hammersmith. The train comes out into the air here and strikes across the southern tip of the park on a viaduct, trundling and clacking over the car workshops in the arches beneath.

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Helmsley, Yorkshire

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Venture up Bransdale and you will find unadulterated Yorkshire. First through a straggling little village called Carlton, whose yellow-stone cottages with red, pantiled roofs, have low-walled gardens and straight, flower-lined paths to their front doors. Then, down over a gill up past a strange, dour chapel sitting among Scots pines and on past oaks and strange mounds until the long, purple- heather horizon of Pockley Moor is before you. Eventually, a slow descent takes you past some gloomy fir plantations and the emerald oasis of Bransdale appears in the valley below, criss-crossed with walls and hedges and sprinkled with farmhouses . . . → Read More: Helmsley, Yorkshire


Montacute House, Somerset


Montacute is probably the most romantic Elizabethan house of all. Firstly it is built of the glowing honey coloured stone which comes from the steep wooded hill close by – the mons acutus from which the village name is derived; secondly William Arnold, the local master mason gave the house an individual beauty which renders it a work of art; and thirdly, the gallery which stretches the length of the top floor is one of the wonders of Somerset.

In 1915 Knight, Frank and Rutley put Montacute up for rent on behalf of the Phelips family who had lived in . . . → Read More: Montacute House, Somerset


Daresbury, Cheshire


Cheshire is a surprisingly varied county. From the wild uplands of Macclesfield Forest to the bare hills of the Peaks; from the lush and rolling countryside of the Cheshire plain, where huge lakes lie hidden like Combermere and Tatton and old families linger in vast estates like the Cholmondeleys of Cholmondeley and the Grosvenors of Eaton, to well-hedged hunting country merging into the wooded hills of Shropshire and Wales. But Daresbury – pronounced to rhyme with raspberry – is my favourite Cheshire because it is stalwart and strong and not soft at the edges.

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Minions, Bodmin Moor


The bleak eastern end of Bodmin Moor offers unrelieved remoteness. It can be frightening if a mist comes down and you don’t know the moor well, particularly if you believe in the existence of the escaped panther, known as the Beast of Bodmin.. As a child I once found a large patch of the carnivorous plant, Venus fly-trap  but I’ve never been able to find it again.

Liskeard is not a moorland town but if you come by train its station lies closer to the moor than any other. Once prosperous when the Caradon copper mines were working, it still . . . → Read More: Around Minions, Bodmin Moor


Cranborne, Dorset

By yew trees scattered among the hedgerows and beyond the near-perfect village of Martin, the rolling chalk uplands of Cranborne Chase stretch to the skyline. May and nut bushes grow on patches of tussocky sheep pasture between the wide expanses of oatmeal-coloured plough. Once mostly forest, these chalk uplands lay bare their ancient earthworks – barrows, castles and dykes. By the 1820s the hunting rights on the Chase and the restrictions they imposed on private property made the laws almost impossible to enforce and resulted in pitched battles between keepers and poachers, encouraged and sometimes joined by the local gentry. . . . → Read More: Cranborne, Dorset


Stow Fair

Stow on the Wold where the cold wind blows’ is nearly 800 feet up in the Cotswolds and all roads seem to lead to its airy height. High roads and low roads from far off Cirencester. Gloucester. Tewkesbury, Evesham, Warwick. Banbury and Burford, and from nearer encircling golden-stoned villages, like Upper and Lower Swell. Upper and Lower Slaughter, Evenlode and Adlestrop, whose station platform was immortalised in Edward Thomas’s poem. In Highways and Byways in Oxford and the Cotswolds (1919) Herbert A. Evans writes: ‘There is something in the very names of the villages which, as was once felicitously said, . . . → Read More: Stow Fair