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

 

 


Fenton House Gardens, Hampstead, London

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The disembodied female voice giving out health and safety warnings in the Hampstead tube station lift was so spooky and doom laden that it was a huge relief to emerge into the reality of the High Street. From there I climbed the steep, curving slope of Holly Lane, past the playground of University College Junior School where children were shouting and whooping , past pollarded chestnuts and roses spilling out of gardens and on up to a little Green at very top of the hill. The sun shone, there was silence and I caught glimpses of far off London in the low distance. An alley led off the lane to the Holly Bush pub and a white cottage stood on the corner , where the artist George Romney once lived. The scene was not that far removed from Leigh Hunt’s “Description of Hamspead” which he wrote in 1815. >

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Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire

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I went to Leamington Spa by train from Oxford through willowy meadows flooded with wide sheets of swan-studded water. The train follows the course of the River Cherwell and the Oxford Canal for nearly the whole journey, and at one point is joined by the M40 in an amazing intertwining of ways and methods of travel. You can see the ruined ancient manor and Georgian church of Hampton Gay close by the line, Rousham’s crenellations above the trees and the thrilling spire of King’s Sutton church soaring above its village. Then the train strikes out on a series of embankments into the heart of Warwickshire. >

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Cottesbrooke, Northamptonshire

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I came to Cottesbrooke on tracks and lanes by way of the bright gold ironstone villages of Green’s Norton, Cold Higham, Bugthorpe, Nether Heyford, Nobottle, Harlestone, Chapel Brampton, Teeton and Creaton with its wide and glamorous green and spreading chestnut trees.

I knew nothing of Cottesbrooke, but as the wide-verged road from Creaton dipped down towards a shallow and verdant hollow, the most sylvan picture of perfect pastoral England came into view.  The church of All Saints stood on a slight rise with distant woods beyond it and beside, the most beautifully proportioned 18th century rectory imaginable, built of a stone the colour of honeycomb.  The whole exuded an air of utter tranquillity.  A sign at the slow bend around the high red brick garden wall of the rectory pointed away down the ‘Gated Road to Brixworth’. >

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Bath Botanical Gardens, Somerset

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All through the 1970s, when four of our five children were having their teeth straightened by an orthodontist in Bath, I found myself with hours to spare. I wandered through leafy squares and along narrow lanes from  Bath Abbey to Beckford’s Tower, from to the Theatre Royal to the American Museum and over the months, although I was an outsider, I felt increasingly at home.  Then, in the afternoon, we collected my old friend  John Michell from his tall Georgian house  above George Street  and went to have boiled eggs and toast or sandwiches and chocolate cake in the gardens of  the Mead Tea Rooms, St Catherine’s. It was our Bath ritual. We met up with a group of Ruralist artists like Peter Blake, The Ovendons and the Arnolds and talked about ley lines while the children played by the stream.  They were perfect days.  >

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Ramsholt, Suffolk

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Australia’s famous son, the painter Arthur Boyd said that the low, tussocky expanses around his cottage reminded him of Down Under. There’s a hard, watery light here, a wide sky. Ramsholt is a dead-end and utterly isolated place, the last village in Suffolk where you could hear the purest form of the local dialect with its distinct lack of s’s.

Four stalwart Martello towers facing out to sea stand at strategic intervals from Shingle Street down to the mouth of the River Deben, and just inland across this lost, low-lying marshy country  you find the small red-brick village of Alderton, surrounded more by willows now than alders. A lane leads away to the west between sandy brown fields of young barley, destined for local maltings, and there ahead is the snaking, silver river, a mile wide, with a slow-curving sea wall protecting great stretches of bird country. Long before this marshland was drained, at the mouth of the estuary Edward III’s fleet was moored at Goseford, once a large port. Only the ghost of it remains now, like the ghost of the lost city of Dunwich up the coast where church bells still ring out from under the sea on stormy nights. >

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Sir John Soane Museum, London

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An air of strict legality hovers above the plane trees in the central gardens of Lincoln’s Inn Fields. The houses around it are reserved — until, that is, you notice Sir John Soane’s former home. The strange façade was originally designed as a loggia, which Soane later filled in with windows to give extra space within. The architect of the Bank of England and the Dulwich Art Gallery, he left his house to the nation.

Soane was a genius. His architecture was miles ahead of its time and annoyed the purists. It combined a slow-arched elegance with amazingly modern details such as recycling the wasted heat from chimneys through the passages of a house. The son of an Essex bricklayer; he was born in Goring-on-Thames and started his life as an errand boy. He entered the office of the architect George Dance the Younger and later of Henry Holland. His talent at drawing was soon recognized. He won the Royal Academy Gold Medal for a design of a triumphal bridge. Sir William Chambers saw it and introduced him to George III and his career began its meteoric rise. His house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, which he combined as a home, a studio and a gallery, encapsulates his brilliance. >

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Rame, Cornwall

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If you approach Rame, Cornwall along the wooded valley of the River Liner and dip and twist through the village of Millbrook, you can take a narrow lane  by way of the tiny hamlet of Wiggle. From hilltops and at the end of sudden valleys are glimpses of the sea. Ivy hangs from holly trees in the hedges and acres of bracken, brown in autumn, tumbles down the cliffs. You pass a farm where a hanging sign sticks out into the road saying ‘Rabbits — pet or plate’ and travelling on up the cow-muck-spattered lane past Rame Barton in its jumbled yard, there is a  wonky rubble wall  full of ivy-leaved toadflax and  a gate  leading to the Saint’s Church which serves the tiny hamlet and parish of Rame. Cornwall feels apart from the rest of England, cut off from the Saxons — Celtic though and through. >

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Coleshill, Oxfordshire

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On the very edge of the Cotswolds, where chalk and brick changes to golden limestone, are two of the greatest architectural wonders of England – Great Coxwell Tithe Barn, my favourite building of all and the unbeatable gate piers of Coleshill House. A deep cut lane leads away from the barn between high hedges and up onto the well wooded ridge road to Coleshill. Tumultuous Downs come halfway up the sky to the west and the wide vale of the infant Thames spreads eastwards into the distance. A thick belt of trees enclosed by a long curving park wall denotes the possibility of a great house and then there they stand, the two majestic and gigantic stone gate piers topped by two swagged urns. They lead the eye down towards the ghost of Coleshill House, whose noble chimneys exactly echoed these gate posts in height and elegance. Designed by Sir Roger Pratt in the l650s, the beauty of the house was unsurpassed. >

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Sledmere, Yorkshire

Sledmere House

The wide chalk uplands of the Wolds are crossed by open roads edged with wind-bent hedges, giving views to bare, sweeping horizons and glimpses of distant blue country. Sometimes there are long dark woods and coppices, half-hidden in hollows, or small villages set in shallow valleys lying low against the ever-bracing winds. If there are clouds, more often than not they are scudding fast, but on some days a sea fret comes in from the coast and obliterates every feature with a thick mist.

‘Sledmere may be considered the ornament of that bleak hilly country,’ wrote the author John Bigland in 1812, ‘In summer the waving crops in the fields, the houses of the tenantry elegantly constructed, the numerous and extensive plantations skirting the slope of the hills and the superb mansion with its ornamental ground in the centre of the vale form a magnificent and luxuriant assemblage…’ Over 150 years later Sledmere still shines out as an exemplary kingdom,  well loved and well cared for. >

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Ledbury, Herefordshire

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We had gone to look for Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s childhood home, Hope End.  Hidden deep among small hills at the bottom of a steep, snaking drive, we found all that was left of it – a strange Moorish- looking cluster of enormous rounded gate piers, stables and out buildings. Beside it was the site of the now vanished house which Elizabeth’s tyrannical father, Mr Moulton Barrett, had built in an exotic eastern style at the beginning of the nineteenth century. A high rock cliff, now smothered in ferns, had been cut back to give a better view down the narrow valley towards the line of  Malvern hills which, when we visited, appeared to rise halfway  up the sky as though we were suddenly in Switzerland. The Barretts’ picturesque trees, shrubberies and ponds remain but it’s a sad feeling place and we were happy to leave it. >

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