Candida Lycett Green wrote the ‘Unwrecked England’ column in The Oldie since its launch in 1992. In her column she took the reader on a journey through every county and revealed, 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 was a contributing editor of Vogue.

She wrote for a variety of national newspapers and magazines including The Daily Telegraph, The Times, and Country Life.

 

 

Click here to view an index of all “Unwrecked” posts

 

 


Rural Coverage

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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

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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

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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, ugly love, ugly furniture, ugly houses… The human soul needs actual beauty even more than bread.’ But this stalwart, unselfconscious county is full of hidden beauty, take Southwell for instance: there could be no more perfect small town in all England. >

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Ravenscourt Park, London W6

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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 set among their steadings and trees. Places called Toad Hole, Snout House, Spout House, Cowl House, Cow Syke. Stork House and Bog House cling to the winding lanes in this, the remote head of the dale, surrounded by high, looming moors and cut off from the world in winter. >

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Montacute House, Somerset

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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 it for 500 years. The local vicar’s son was appalled. “I do not think any occurrence I have observed in my life has given me sharper understanding of the insubstantiality of all temporal values than the separation of this house from the Phelipses.” Perhaps he didn’t take into account the ruthless ways of Edward Phelips, who built Montacute in the 1590s, nor the decadent ways of his Victorian descendant, William who brought about the family’s financial downfall. >

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Daresbury, Cheshire

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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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Around Minions, Bodmin Moor

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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 has distinction. Now a quiet market town set in steep clefts of the hill it is dominated by a large 13th century church and a Victorian Italianate Guildhall with a tower sailing above the slate- roofed houses. Looking southwards out across the Looe valley and over the railway viaduct are fine Georgian and Regency stucco houses with gardens full of hydrangeas. >

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Cranborne, Dorset

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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. One nearby clump of beech on a hilltop (or ‘hat of trees’, as they are known locally) is called ‘Bloody Coppice.’  The village of Cranborne lies in a hollow beside towering beech trees. It has a sleepy, small-town air with its square and its ordered streets of redbrick and whitewashed houses and jumble of tiled roofs. In Castle Street red geraniums swing in hanging baskets outside the village stores, and along Church Street sedums and fig trees flourish against the thatched cottage walls on the way to the churchyard. >

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Stow Fair

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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, makes the traveller feel that life is still worth living.’ >

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