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March 2017: The Vale of Evesham

September is surely one of the best times to see the Vale of Evesham. Given that the area is often dubbed ‘England’s fruit basket’ it ...More
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Time out in Rutland

Rutland is a landlocked county in central England, the smallest in England in terms of population and only the City of London is smaller in area. Despite its diminutive size, Rutland is packed with attractions for visitors to appreciate. Rutland Water , a man-made lake, is by surface area the largest reservoir in England and is an important leisure attraction in the county. Many people enjoy a variety of pursuits ranging from sailing, walking and cycling to bird watching and fishing.

However, Rutland has far more to offer the visitor than Rutland Water alone. The county is home to the delightful market towns of Oakham and Uppingham . Oakham is a typical and picturesque English market town, presenting a charming mix of busy urban activity with the charm of a rural English town. The historical market town is rich in heritage, boasts plenty of attractions and yet is just 100 miles north of London. It is conveniently situated near to the Great North Road, otherwise known as the A1 trunk road. Oakham’s Market Place is full of activity on market days, which in Oakham is on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The busy market is packed with the best local produce including bread, cheeses, eggs, fruit and vegetables and meats. On the third Saturday of every month the Farmers' Market sets up in the town’s Gaol Street where traders sell produce direct from the farm. This helps to assure quality and reduces food miles as the produce all originates from within a few miles of the town. Ancient punishment stocks and the town water pump can be found beneath the ancient Butter Cross. Oakham's parish church dates mainly from the 14th century, although the oldest parts were built in the early 13th century, and features an impressive spire which dominates the surrounding countryside. There was once a Norman castle in Oakham but now only the Great Hall survives, although it is still surrounded by steep earthworks which mark the inner bailey. The late 12th century hall features a unique collection of horseshoes, evidence of a 500 year-old tradition that any royalty or peers of the realm who pass through the town must pay a horseshoe in forfeit. Counter to usual superstition, the horseshoes hang upside down which is usually considered unlucky. But in Rutland it was believed to stop the devil from sitting in the hollow of the shoe. Rutland County Museum displays the history of the town and features many unusual exhibits which include a set of gallows. The stunning architecture of Oakham School makes the building a major landmark in the town. The ancient school was founded in 1584. Rail enthusiasts are drawn to the Oakham Signal Box, which was used by Airfix as the template for all their model signal boxes. The Catmose Arts Centre is the Catmose College's unique public arts centre and is an ideal place to experience the best in visual and performing arts in the rural heart of Rutland. Catmose Arts presents music, dance, theatre, film, visual art and family events all year round. The art centres ‘dinner and show’ package is extremely popular. Visiting castles, markets and museums can be hungry and thirsty work so it is fortunate that Oakham has a wide choice of places to eat and drink. Oakham is complete with everything from cafes and pubs to stylish restaurants . Rutland is home to several inns , hotels and guest houses so visitors are spoiled for choice. Ideally located in the town’s old market square, the Whipper-In Hotel hotel is a former 17th-century coaching inn. It still retains many original features and is well known for its warm and welcoming atmosphere. It’s a traditional country hotel with real log fires, deep armchairs and ancient original oak beams and an ideal place for staying while exploring the town. Also in the heart of Oakham is the Lord Nelson's House , one of Rutland’s premier dining establishments and hotels. Nestled in the corner of Market Square, Oakham it boasts four individually designed bedrooms and a restaurant that’s famous with gourmet lovers and the wine cognoscenti alike.

Uppingham is Rutland’s smaller market town but nonetheless boasts a wealth of history as well as a host of excellent shops. The town’s own weekly market is held every Friday and Uppingham also hosts a monthly Farmers’ Market on the second Friday of each month. In addition to the markets, Uppingham has a range of speciality shops and traditional retailers, many of which are still family owned and run. Although small in size, Uppingham is big on culture. The town is well known for its many antiques shops and you can spend many hours browsing, or even buying, china, coins, cutlery, glass, furniture, jewellery, maps, mirrors, silver and more. A number of art galleries in the town show pieces that often including some rather expensive works. The galleries and exhibitions attract visitors from far and wide who come to admire the art on offer. Goldmark is a world famous gallery in Uppingham that offers literally thousands of prints, paintings, drawings and sculptures sourced from across a very wide range of top British, American and European artists. Uppingham School was founded in 1584 and was used as a backdrop for parts of a Harry Potter film. The school has its memorial hall off High Street West. The hall has a magnificent roof and a collection of historical treasures including the school's original charter bearing the royal seal of Queen Elizabeth I . On the south side of the Market Place is the attractive Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul . The current building dates back to the 14th Century, although pieces of late Saxon sculpture have also been found there. As one might expect from a market town with the poise and elegance of Uppingham, there’s a range of eateries , pubs and wine bars in there to suit a wide range of tastes and budgets. For places to stay while visiting Uppingham why not try the Old Pheasant or the renowned 16th century coaching inn the Falcon Hotel .

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James Stuart (the Old Pretender) attempts to invade Scotland - 1708, 1st Trams operate in London - 1861, Woolwich Ferry Opens - 1889
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