Hillarie Belloc described the Midlands as “sodden and unkind”. There may well be swathes of claylands here but the golden ironstone belt which runs through Rutland renders it one of the most beautiful counties of all. I came in the early autumn, around the anonymous hinterland of Corby and down through the village of Rockingham with its picture- perfect castle. From there Rutland’s ravishing landscape rises before you on the other side of the Welland valley: a patchwork of little hedged fields – half bright brown plough, half pasture- and in amongst them, russet coloured copses and woods. Compared to . . . → Read More: A Corner of Rutland
Much of Suffolk feels remote. Once one of the most densely populated counties in England, its present emptiness seems all the more affecting. When the great prosperity created through the wool and cloth trade in the middle ages began to fall away, Suffolk’s rural population dwindled accordingly: its glorious “wool” churches were left soaring above shrinking communities, its old moated farmsteads lay stranded in fields.
But the village of Parham is still redolent of Suffolk’s vanished glory days. We came on it by chance through gently sweeping landscape on a road which looped like a river past deeply ditch-ed fields, . . . → Read More: Parham, Suffolk
The Peak District is a country of mountainous hills, dark peaty moors, of waterfalls and caverns, zigzags of loose grit stone walls, and deep and dramatic valleys. ‘There are things in Derbyshire,’ wrote Bryon, ‘as noble as Greece or Switzerland.’ Chatsworth lies in the heart of the Peak, its own kingdom with its own palace and when you cross the cattle grid into the park, London seems a thousand miles away. The pride of Derbyshire, the place appears to belong to all the local people, who come to walk here from Buxton, Chesterfield and Derby, from Matlock, Baslow and Bakewell. . . . → Read More: The Stand Wood, Chatsworth
I went to look for the ghosts of my forbears in a far flung village. “A forgotten place in Biscestershire hunting country” was the one line description in Murray’s Buckinghamshire Guide (1948). Chetwode still feels lost and remote. The meandering, single- tracked roads all around it, edged with oak and ash and voluptuous hedges, are completely empty. I came over a blue brick bridge across the deep cutting of the old Great Central Railway line – (axed by the dastardly Doctor Beeching in the 1960s) – past a short straggle of sixties housing, a Victorian village school and the most . . . → Read More: Chetwode, Buckinghamshire
Late winter is the season to stoke up the spirit of melancholy. Winding up the river-like Harrow Road towards Wembley, or stepping out from Kensal Green Underground station, where the gasworks fill half the south-west sky and the shop windows of monumental masons flaunt polished granite headstones and grave dressings of bright purple gravel, you will find a stately Greek triumphal arch heralding the most romantic
. . . → Read More: Kensal Green Cemetery, London
Woods get forgotten. They are places of mysterious beauty. Each wood has its own character and its own ancestry and, in the right circumstances, an awe-inspiring permanence — the Burren in Ireland has looked just the same as it does today for eight or nine thousand years, and parts of Wayland Wood in Norfolk, the supposed setting for ‘Babes in the Wood’ are truly primeval, but the tiny Wistman’s Wood, laced with local legend, is perhaps the strangest and most mystical of all – a vestige of the offspring of prehistoric woodland.
. . . → Read More: Wistman’s Wood, Dartmoor, Devon
There is a luxuriance to Cornwall. Nowhere else in England feels quite so exotic. The rivers were in spate when we went – white water torrents, swelled by myriad streams ribboning off the hills, roared down over boulders into soft wooded valleys. In places it felt like a South American rainforest. Ferns lined the deep cut track leading off Bodmin Moor while moss smothered the ancient granite “hedges” and every inch of the fallen trees in the woods beside. Mosses thrive in the warm wet climate of the south west: Cornwall may be famous for the rarity of its choughs . . . → Read More: St Neot, Cornwall
Jacksonville is now the USA’s largest city. Over the last few decades it has spread along North Florida’s Atlantic coast and the banks of the wide rivers which loop back into cypress groves. Slowly it has sprawled inland across the swamp land to cover nearly a thousand square miles. Between fingers of land, alligators slide in and out of the khaki coloured lagoons and up the bayous, pelicans sit on the small boat quays which jut out into the water and perfect emerald golf courses stud the city. There are whales spouting water on the sea’s horizon, surfers sweeping the . . . → Read More: Unwrecked England (in America): The Cummer Gardens, Jacksonville
Woodhall Spa is Lincolnshire’s answer to the Wentworth Estate in Surrey. Designed to be a cut above its neighbours the village lies in the sandy, gorse-y, heathery country of “blown sand” on the wide plain between the Wolds and the “Cliff”, a limestone ridge which eventually joins the Cotswolds. Woodhall is the polar opposite of the bucolic villages of the chalk uplands nearby and has remained what it was laid out to be – a world apart: a planned spa for the well to do in a woodland setting of silver birches, rhodedendruns and towering scots pines. It was built . . . → Read More: Unwrecked England: Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire
We came to Barrington by grass middled, muddy lanes across the shallow valley of the River Isle. Just north of the village the long abandoned Westport canal – one of the shortest-lived working canals in the country (1836-1875) – strikes out across the levels of Westmoor. Brunel was the engineering consultant, but the canal company began to lose money when the new local railways stole its trade. A consortium of Barrington villagers whose businesses depended on the canal opposed the closure in vain.
. . . → Read More: Unwrecked England: Barrington, Somerset