Good times in England

Last updated 11:44 13/08/2012

There's a perception that England is the ugly, boring cousin to the rest of sexy Europe. But after basking in her inner beauty for the past three weeks, I can tell you she's a real doll once you get to know her. It hasn't been difficult to come up with 10 reasons to visit.

Old Hall

1. The pubs. The Lamb and Flag, Pity Inn, Ring O Bells, the King's Arms: walk out the door in your typical English village and you've the choice of at least three of these fantastically named watering holes. Most sport their centuries-old opening dates above the door, so while you're sampling the local ales you can ponder which raunchy tales the walls would tell if only they could speak.

2. The moors and heaths. The purple heather, the blustering gales (or wuthering winds if you're an Emily Bronte fan) and the winding, intersecting paths that encourage all day dalliance - what's not to love?

3. The tree-lined lanes and stone-fenced paddocks. To drive in the English countryside is to go back at least 200 years - if you pretend you're trotting along in the horse-drawn cart the roads were designed for, that is. Black-faced sheep peer through gaps in the mossy rocks as you negotiate your way along skinny lanes that struggle to accommodate today's heavy traffic. The quaint one-way bridges and bramble-edged roads help take your mind off hairy encounters with other vehicles.

Hobbit castle4. The castles. England and I get on well mainly because she is as much a sucker for a good turret as I am. Whatever your castle type, you'll find it here. For a fairytale fortress visit Cormoran the giant's abode at St Michael's Mount, Marazion, Cornwall. Explore the hills above the Mount's distant neighbour Port Quin, to discover a mini-tower fit for a rich Hobbit, and for a well preserved medieval marvel check out Skipton Castle in North Yorkshire. I reckon it's time we started banging up some fortifications on New Zealand's hills to spice things up a bit.

5. The weather. You can't be disappointed by English weather - it's hardly a shock when the rain comes down, more an excuse to loiter at the pub. When the sun comes it's a lovely treat, treasured for its rarity.

6. Literary tourism. If it's what you're into (and I am), the opportunities to visit your favourite book settings or author birthplaces are endless. Whether it's checking out Will Shakespeare's digs in Stratford upon Avon, dodging arrow attacks from Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest or wandering Jane Austen's Bath, there's something here to please every book geek.

7. Small towns. You're never far away from an English village, and like the pubs, their names range from the odd - Upton Snodsbury (an inspiration for Roald Dahl's The BFG perhaps?) and North Piddle - to the plain but elegant - Eskdale and Wadebridge. No matter how small, they all sport an inn and a post office. What more do you need?

8. The dogs. I'm no canine breeding expert but the dogs here seem so, erm, English. The spaniels, collies, terriers, bassethounds and sheepdogs that parade the parks make an art form of curling in front of the fire at their respective castles later on. Dogs here are often more distinguished than their owners, which is why they're welcomed at taverns and allowed to order their own pints too. 

Dog

Scones9. The food. Pot-pies, chips, yorkshire puddings and bangers and mash may be simple dishes, but they're delicious and oh so comforting after a day spent roaming the moors. Hello four o'clock: would I like a cream tea, you ask. Don't mind if I do.

10. The public walkways. I'm hazy on the details of the law that lets everyone walk through farmland (help me out if you know), but whoever put it in place deserves a pat on the back. What better way to experience all of the above than by wandering around the rolling hills of England?

What are your favourite bits of England? Are there other parts of the world that deserve more attention than they get?

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34 comments
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redsfan   #1   11:47 am Aug 13 2012

The football

gazza   #3   12:00 pm Aug 13 2012

I agree that NZ could use a few more castles...would make for great attractions.

Dan   #4   12:13 pm Aug 13 2012

Public footpaths and bridleways in the UK - as well as the Right to Roam - are things which I took for granted until I emigrated to the recreational prison of NZ.

Every weekend I would take my dogs and walk miles across farms, fields, forests and past lakes and reservoirs, invariably stopping en route at one of those fabulous pubs you mention for lunch. The dogs, of course, were welcome in the pub rather than being treated like livestock as they would be here.

I had no idea that NZ farmers had been allowed to exclude the majority of the public from their land and it really is something that should be tackled so that the countryside is not a privately owned fiefdom. Kiwis often make rude comments about English landowning nobility yet they allow far more public access to their land and estates than any NZ farmer ever does.

In around 1998, a law was also enacted giving right of public access to all areas of upland private land. This would mean that here in NZ, almost the entire South Island would be open to pubic access.

JCC   #5   12:16 pm Aug 13 2012

The people are pretty nice too, especially to kiwis. And someone always has a cousin/aunty/neighbour who's visited NZ and raves about it.

Lived in a village near oxford for a couple of months, only a pub/inn and church, no post office even! Amazing the history which is all around, and how people live there 'because we always have'.

viffer   #6   12:43 pm Aug 13 2012

@Dan #4 - Good points, Dan. I wish we could take our dog more places here - at present, apart from certain beaches and parks (and then only not during summmer or outside of daytime hours), there are few places we can take our dog, such as dog-friendly cafes and bars, and then only to the outside parts. He's house-trained, doesn't bite, is well trained, and attracts people of all ages because he's so friendly and cute, so he's not at all a menace.

Carolyn Deverson   #7   12:46 pm Aug 13 2012

We love England, though we do have a son living there with his family and my husband was born there, so have more reason than some to like it.

We were amazed at being allowed to walk on other people's property, and despite my son saying it was fine, when I saw a man on a tractor coming towards us I expected him to growl at us and for me to be embarrassed. And it felt very wrong to walk through someone's sheds and animals to get to our wanderings. I'm still not totally comfortable with this idea. And it can lead to awkward assumptions that people have the right to squat, and can be quite officious and legalistic about it.

We love the country houses, the gardens, the stone houses, the up-to-date cities, and my husband just loves driving on the motorways (I live in fear and terror on them, especially if I am driving). Pub meals were very good, though lacking in vegetable variety. But mostly it's the history that is so striking all over Britain. Little surprises like the remains of a small stone castle on private property in Yorkshire, or a toll road (for 10 pence) in the absolute middle of nowhere, but signed on the map (I though it was an odd name for a village) and manned by a very young teenager. The placenames. Dozens of little things.

I don't much for the heat of their houses - had to go outside to cool off in one on Christmas Day (snow outside, smothering heat inside). And I like the way we keep our animals outside here.

russell   #8   12:48 pm Aug 13 2012

Having lived in England and Ireland for 4 years I agree but you forgot the waterways and there Narrowboats

mary   #9   12:59 pm Aug 13 2012

Yup, let's have public access for walking through the countryside here, too.

If Labour got off their backside and promised to extend public access to significantly scenic land and/or publicly owned leasehold land, I'd ignore the shape they're in and vote for them.

Or I would if their promise-keeping record per electoral cycle sat at more than 20%.

Dani   #10   01:22 pm Aug 13 2012

@Dan #4 Oh so true! I lived in England for 10 years (from Germany) and just LOVED the footpath system and I still miss it after 12 years here now. We took our dogs to NZ and I was quite shocked at the limited exercise and walking options in a virtually empty country! (Unfortunately the dogs in NZ are more menacing though, so many square jawed, aggressive dogs here :( )


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