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
On the very edge of England, in the sort of perfect pastoral country that you think only exists in dreams, Llansilin lies on a gentle slope, the chief village in this remote valley of the River Cynlleth. Whitewashed or silver stoned foursquare houses with black paint work and slate roofs, some with ivy clad walls or privet topiary in their front gardens, cluster around a small triangle of green. It is like many unspoilt villages in Wales with its black and white painted pub, its 1920s snowcemmed school and school house, its half timbered village hall advertising indoor bowls, girl guides, keep fit classes and whist drives, its reserved Bethsheda chapel dated 1832 and its half crescent of good looking (apart from the plastic windows) colour washed council houses. >Read more
Beside the village of Houghton, where Arthur Rackham lived during the 1920s, the South Downs way dips down from the wooded heights of Houghton Forest to cross the wide river valley of the Arun and rises sharply again towards Amberley Mount. Reedy, ditched water meadows with clumps of yellow flags in spring stretch either side of the river as it loops on down through Arundel to Littlehampton and the sea. Wigeon, teal, redshanks and snipe live here. If you stand on the long stone bridge and look down stream you will see North Stoke, centre stage, on a chalk promontory above the first extravagant river bend –as though it were an island. >Read more
After the small fields of County Letrim the country around Florence Court grows bigger and bolder. The long road from Eniskillen to Sligo winds on between silver birches, sudden outcrops of bungalows like randomly scattered igloos on the emerald fields and one street villages with rainbow colour washed houses. Nearer to the house the signs of expensive husbandry begin – tall trees rise from the hedgerows around the entrance lodges and the drive leads you into one of the most magical landscapes in the world. >Read more
When the first breath of virtual summer blazes over England on an early spring day, I head for a river. My nearest good river country is around the western hem of the Cotswolds where the upper reaches of the Thames wind down from Inglesham, and rivers like the Coln and Leach wander through willowy meadows, affording brilliant bathing places. It’s much too cold to swim, but just right for sitting on the banks of the river Windrush at one of my favourite pubs in the land with friends at my side, the sun on my back and a glass in my hand For me its as good as England gets. >Read more
We took the night sleeper from Euston toInverness. The fact that we were jolted awake at dawn just short of Killiecrankie by a boulder colliding with our engine which caused the brakes to lock on violently, only served to heighten our sense of adventure. Having been shunted into Blair Atholl, we changed trains and chugged on through the gloomy looking Cairngorms, rising brown against the steel grey sky and arrived in Inverness in time for a full Scottish breakfast in the Station Hotel – a glorious building with wall to wall tartan carpet and willowy waiters straight out of a Noel Coward play. We then travelled onBritain’s most northerly railway, begun in 1861 when the Ness Viaduct was built. Another world unfurled as we passed along the shores of Beauly Firth to Muir of Ord, a century ago the cattle centre for Scotland. >Read more
In an ideal world this is what you should do on a Thursday evening in high summer. Take the footpath in the shelter of fern stuffed Cornish “hedges” , up the long slow hill from Port Quin, leaving Varley Head and Reedy Cliff to be battered by Atlantic waves and the lichen-encrusted farm buildings of Roscarrock settled on the slope above you. From the edge of a cornfield, a mile or so on towards Port Isaac, the first magical view of the coast unfurls from Delabole Point to Tintagel Head. Over a slate style, the trickle of a shale-y, sandy path way leads down to a stream dark in the shade of oaks and then up between blackberry bushes to the trig point. The last slithery descent under a tunnel of evergreen oak and hazel, stunted by storms, has been worn deep by centuries of travelers and cattle and opens out high above the sheltered harbour of Port Isaac , sandwiched between black cliffs. >Read more
As children we used to call it “ Kingston Bagpipes” : I never knew why. Lately I found out that there had been an airfield here during the Second World War and that the ground crew who occupied a mass of nissen huts in the Park of Kingston Bagpuize House were Scottish. The wailing of their bagpipes echoed all down the village.
In this flat uneventful stretch of Oxfordshire the airfield has long since been ploughed over, the nissen huts razed to the ground and a new avenue re-instated in the park . The long straggling village, which used to straddle the main road between Swindon and Oxford is bypassed now, and although the orange light of the huge new roundabout nearby gives off a false sunset all through the night, the place is peaceful. >Read more
Alton Priors and Alton Barnes are really one village; a straggle of thatched cottages, a manor farm, a 1953 village hall and two churches set in a loose circle around willowy meadows. They lie in the Pewsey Vale which divides the barren uplands of the Marlborough Downs from the immense loneliness of Salisbury Plain. Woodborough Hill, sculpted with strip lynchets, guards the Altons from the south-west wind while to the north, a chain of voluptuous hills, Golden Ball Hill, Knap Hill, Walkers Hill and Milk Hill, rises in an undulating wave from sloping pastureland. >Read more
Five years ago, I was one of a motley gaggle of writers keen to ply their wares at the Althorp Literary Festival and lucky enough to be asked to stay in the house itself with the Spencer family. This was wish fulfilment indeed. Several years before I had ridden on a horse around the outskirts of Althorp’s vast estate when journeying from Wiltshire to Nottinghamshire. At the edge of a dark wood beyond Nobottle I remember catching a fleeting and tantalizing glimpse of Althorp’s chimneys in the far distance. Had I dared, I would have ridden the long length of the drive to get a closer look – what more fitting way after all than to arrive at a stately home on a horse? >Read more
The British public may have been seduced by the great glass domes that are the Eden Project but the palm house at Bicton still remains one of the most remarkable and beautiful glass buildings in the country. Its curvilinear trefoil shape is spectacular. Built around 1818, the technology of its construction was so advanced for its time that even today, the glass firm of Pilkintons are hesitant to take on its restoration. “If anything went wrong or got damaged, we just wouldn’t know how to put it together again,” they said. >Read more