Candida Lycett Green has been writing the ‘Unwrecked England’ column in The Oldie since its launch in 1992. In her column she takes the reader on a journey through every county and reveals, often in little-known backwaters, just how wonderful England still is.
She wrote the Nooks and Corners column in Private Eye during the 1970s, covered the World Cup in Mexico for the Evening Standard, was the travel editor of Tatler during the 1980s and has been a contributing editor of Vogue since 1987.
She has written for a variety of national newspapers and magazines including The Daily Telegraph, The Times, and Country Life
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 the Cotswolds, there is a richness to Rutland which takes it into a different league and that must have something to do with the depth of the gold in its soil and its stone. >Read more
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, reed- edged ponds and quiet hamlets of modest colour washed cottages scattered sparsely around the edges of wide greens – Mill Green, North Green and Silverlace Green. In the shallow valley of the Upper Alde, Parham lay sheltered below. >Read more
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.
From Carlton Lees I walked down towards the great wide River Derwent, which winds for almost two miles through the park. Here where alders cling to the banks there is a great weir of white water falling over a slow curving bowl. The huge pool above is black like a silky sheet and almost still as it swings imperceptibly to the edge. Beyond the river the park rises up past ancient oaks to the steep heights of Stand Wood and Bess of Hardwick’s Hunting Tower, like a lighthouse on the green cliff top. Northwards the heights of Baslow Edge on which Big Moor stretches its almost pathless wastes. >
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 eccentric wooden bus shelter I have ever seen. >Read more
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 romanticRead more
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
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 but few know that it also harbours the only two known patches in the world of Weissia multicapsularis, the Many –fruited beardless moss. We didn’t find it on our adventurous expedition to St Neot as we slithered down the track and clambered over stiles, but we did spot occasional primroses along the way in late December. >Read more
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 waves and occasional Loggerhead turtles lumbering up the infinite stretches of white beach. Gated communities of dream houses – hacienda style, Carolina style, mock Tudor – mushroom on, hidden in longleaf and slash pine woods. >Read more
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 in a style intended to attract Edwardian visitors of the day – top to bottom mock tudor. >Read more
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