Tyne and Put on
For hundreds of thousands of readers around the globe, the picture of the nation between the mouths of the rivers Tyne and Put on was woven by Catherine Cookson, the area’s most prolific and standard writer. Cookson’s was a panorama of collieries, shipyards, rumbling coal trains, sooty-faced children and the immediately nostalgic tones of pithead silver bands enjoying Haydn. Whereas fragments of her world stay – primarily within the doughty cheerfulness of the locals – over the previous 4 many years, as heavy trade has receded, a extra distant previous has emerged.
Tyne and Put on map
Twelve centuries earlier than Dame Catherine started her profession, the north-east’s first nice literary determine, the Venerable Bede, was busy writing the histories that will assist forge an English id. Saint Bede (whose story is dropped at life on the wonderful Jarrow Corridor Anglo-Saxon Village) divided his time between the dual monasteries of Saint Paul’s in Jarrow and Saint Peter’s in Monkwearmouth. At this time, these Anglo-Saxon websites are related by Bede’s Approach, a 12-mile path that winds by means of the countryside between the metropolitan sprawls of Jarrow and South Shields to the north, and Sunderland to the south. Flanked by vast, sandy seashores and jagged cliffs, that is an space of undulating pastures, deciduous woodlands, water vole-populated streams and villages with roots going again to the times of the Historia Ecclesiastica.
One among them, Cleadon, has a Victorian water tower greater than 30 metres excessive that may be seen for miles round (a landmark so extensively seen the Luftwaffe used it for navigation through the second world conflict). Whitburn, with its Miss Marple-ish inexperienced and duck pond, boasts an 18th-century windmill.
Lewis Carroll spent summers at Whitburn, staying together with his cousin Margaret Wilcox. Whitburn seaside sweeps south in the direction of Seaburn, forming a part of what locals name the Roker Riviera. It was whereas strolling alongside its vast, pale sands that Carroll was impressed to put in writing The Walrus and the Carpenter. The ocean remains to be as moist and the seaside as dry because it was of their day, however the perambulating oysters have been changed by a whirling crew of capering canines and yelping children.
North from Whitburn, on Lizard Level, stands Souter Lighthouse. This was the primary electrical lighthouse on the planet (it celebrates its one hundred and fiftieth anniversary this yr) and can also be dwelling to a cartoonishly gigantic foghorn. Beneath the lighthouse, waves thrash towards savage rocks. Among the many lots of of ships that foundered right here have been two galleons from the Spanish Armada. The bell from one was hung in Whitburn church.

Marsden Rock might be reached on foot at low tide. {Photograph}: Peter Reed/Alamy
A path alongside the clifftop from Souter in the direction of South Shields leads throughout the wind-bleached headlands of Whitburn coastal park. Listed below are breeding populations of purple sandpipers, ruddy turnstones and red-throated divers. Peregrine falcons and merlins nest within the crumbling limestone rock faces. Dolphins are sometimes noticed, there are occasional sightings of pods of orcas and, although no walruses have but been seen, just a few years again a few Beluga whales paid a go to.
Past the coastal park stands the world’s most recognisable pure landmark, the oblong seastack of Marsden Rock. At low tide you possibly can stroll out to it throughout the seaside of Marsden Bay. The seaside is reached by a vertiginous flight of stairs; it’s simpler to take the carry all the way down to the Marsden Grotto – a bar and restaurant opened within the early many years of the nineteenth century in a cave blasted from the cliff face by a Northumbrian lead miner and smuggler. Even in case you don’t consider within the ghost tales hooked up to the grotto, wandering around the slim, shadowy corridors is a bizarre expertise – a reminder that this stretch of coast was additionally the place Carroll invented the Jabberwock.
The place to remain The Sir William Fox resort (doubles from £60) is the previous residence of an area man who emigrated to New Zealand within the 1840s and served as its prime minister 4 occasions. A stately Georgian townhouse in Westoe’s fairly essential avenue now provides comfy, quiet rooms.

A fishy feast from Latimers Seafood
The place to eat Latimer’s Seafood is the north-east’s finest under-the-radar restaurant, serving native fish and shellfish on this former storage in Whitburn for almost 20 years. The bare (batter-less) deep-fried haddock is a factor of marvel.Pub The Black Horse in West Boldon is splendidly eccentric, with the kind of heat, welcoming environment that may be neither purchased nor faked. Wonderful meals comes from a kitchen run by the previous bass participant of native punk band the Toy Dolls.Harry Pearson
Merseyside: to the Southport coast by bike

The Rufford department of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal close to Burscough. {Photograph}: Jon Sparks/Alamy
Waves of nostalgia might make my knees wobble as I climb on to the outdated Bianchi. First household outings, first sight of the ocean, first lengthy bike trip with a mate, first girlfriend I lived with: all this stuff occurred to me on the street to Southport.
st helens map
At this time I’m biking throughout the agricultural hinterland that followers out across the Victorian seaside city. I begin on the station in St Helens, the place I (or my mum) did most of my buying as a child. The A570 winds north out of the city, with a correct cycle path with grassy boundaries alongside the Rainford bypass that’s been there since lengthy earlier than street biking was trendy. I look up at Billinge Lump as I exit St Helens: at 179 metres, it’s the very best level on the West Lancashire plain.
The primary street goes all the way in which to Southport, however I favor the B-roads through Burscough, which take me throughout the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. The Previous Packet Home, on the canal aspect, is OK for a beer prime and a meal. However I’ve packed a sandwich and like to take a wander alongside the towpath: there’s a six-mile there-and-back stroll north alongside the Rufford department of the waterway, taking within the Nationwide Belief’s Tudor Rufford Previous Corridor.
Again within the saddle, just a little approach out of Burscough, I come to Martin Mere, the marshy remnant of an 18-mile-wide lake drained within the 1690s and 1770s and now run by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Belief. It’s a well-known haven for birds: pink-footed geese and whooper swans migrate right here in winter, and customary spring sightings embody redshanks and peewits. Sure, I do know, we’ve veered into Lancashire, however virtually all of Merseyside and a little bit of Cheshire was once contained in the Pink Rose County.

Wildfowl on Martin Mere wetland nature reserve. {Photograph}: John Keates/Alamy
The world I’m pedalling throughout is called the Mosses or Mosslands, although solely 3% of the unique lowland raised peat bogs stay. It’s a valuable habitat for big heath butterfly, nightjar, bathroom bush-cricket and sundew, and tasks are afoot to hyperlink up the extant patches. The world is totally flat, which makes biking painless and superb. I can go searching, benefit from the open house and breathe simply. The land is sort of inexperienced: frequent, typically heavy rain means there’s extra livestock and dairy farming than arable.
I exploit again roads all the way in which to Banks, simply north of Southport, with solely a brief trip on the A565 and a extra nice cycle alongside a residential avenue named Ralph’s Spouse’s Lane. I arrive on the coast near RSPB-run Marshside, an space of coastal grassland and salt marshes, and one other hen sanctuary. I trip sunnily on to Marine Drive (the western finish of the Trans-Pennine NCN62) and switch south into Southport. Right here the nostalgia waves improve, which is simply in addition to there aren’t any actual ones: the ocean is, as typical, out of sight.
Southport is the pure stopover for a two-day journey. I’m not sticking round, although, however taking Sustrans Route 810 all the way down to Liverpool. It’s 19½ miles and virtually 60% of the route is traffic-free, by means of a mixture of seashores and sand dunes, footballers’ mansions and a purple squirrel reserve. Biking is nice, however some sections of the Sefton Coastal Path – which it joins – are for pedestrians solely.
As I depart Formby seaside behind, I enter what I consider as Merseyside, or Scouseland, correct. Born 5 miles outdoors Liverpool, I’m a “wool”, or “woollyback”, and also you would possibly suppose I’d naturally favor fields and collieries. However I secretly envy Liverpudlians’ heritage, and as I trip into the grubby outskirts it’s not Antony Gormley’s statues at Crosby that excite me a lot as what’s left of the docks and warehouses. Ports are such evocative locations, and Liverpool was as soon as outlined by its outward, maritime face.

Bar on the Daring Lodge, Southport
As I park at Lime Avenue station, I’ve seen one of the best of Merseyside. The county is normally offered as both grimly city or industrial, and if the encircling countryside is talked about in any respect, it’s as if it has a Jekyll-and-Hyde relationship with the town. However the canal and roads, coast and conurbations hyperlink and intersect these milieus. The marshes stored the north-west a kind of badlands by means of the medieval period and past; now they’re inexperienced areas from which to soak up broad horizons and large skies.
The place to remain The Daring Lodge off Southport’s Lord Avenue is nice for a drink and has doubles from round £75.
The place to eat Fishcakes and line-caught haddock at award-winning Fylde Fish Bar in Marshside are good. Additionally branches at Birkdale and Burscough.Pub The Camra-rated Liverpool Pigeon in Crosby showcases the north-west’s native ales.The route is 41 miles in complete (goo.gl/maps/VWc3aSHAatzGoWsi6).Chris Moss
Bourne Finish, Buckinghamshire

The Bourne Finish riverfront, from throughout the Thames. {Photograph}: Hugh Mothersole
A very long time in the past (effectively, October 2020), in a galaxy far, far-off (OK, in Buckinghamshire), a area within the village of Bourne Finish was remodeled into an alien planet. Acres of inexperienced grass have been transformed into crimson-red sand, and a facade of small terracotta buildings was constructed to type an otherworldly excessive avenue. Hollywood had found this place and earmarked it as a set for the most recent Stars Wars movie. Virtually in a single day, this normally sleepy village was crammed with actors, movie crews and special-effects groups.
bourne finish map
Nevertheless it’s not the primary time that Bourne Finish has seen a dramatic transformation. Sitting on the Thames, between Marlow and Cookham, on the mouth of the River Wye (the identify means finish of the river), it has for a few years been formed by the stream of water. Mills used to line its banks; at this time, the present drives leisure seekers right here – kayakers, wild swimmers and birdwatchers – typically by pleased accident quite than design.
This was how I found its charms, as I wandered the Thames Path throughout lockdown 1. It was a scorching and humid afternoon, and so inviting have been the various sandy spits of land edging the footpath that I waded in to chill my toes. Later, I returned with a paddleboard, admiring the riverside homes and watching widespread terns dive for meals whereas I drifted by.
Quickly Bourne Finish grew to become a daily swimming spot for me, typically simply earlier than sundown. I might do widths of the Thames whereas nice crested grebes, mallards and swans watched me, purple kites swirled overhead and the sunshine dappled tangerine by means of the branches of weeping willows.
On the opposite (Berkshire) aspect of the river is a pub, The Bounty, which has no street entry (it’s reached by a footbridge from Bourne Finish or, for a donation of their charity field, a ship trip over). I might typically entrance crawl over for a swift beer and packet of crisps earlier than heading dwelling, dripping moist and smiling, feeling smug for locating such a particular place.

Summer season wildflowers at Winter Hill, simply throughout the river from Bourne Finish. {Photograph}: Ian Wilson/Nationwide Belief
A brief stroll from the pub’s beer backyard is Winter Hill, a excessive terrace of grassland thought to have been colonised by stone age hunter-gatherers as way back as 350,000BC. Since then, bronze age tumuli have been discovered, and remnants of Roman pottery dug from its decrease flanks.
Newer human guests have cleaved boot-beaten tracks into its chalk slopes, and this winter, when the entire space was beneath a blanket of snow and the river was too chilly and quick flowing to swim in, I climbed to its prime to look at the solar set over two counties.
Maybe my favorite discover is on the Buckinghamshire aspect of the Thames, west of the village, the place most likely the largest transformation has taken place. Till 2001 this was a sprawling gravel pit, supply of stone to construct the close by motorways. Now it’s unrecognisable, having been transformed into the Spade Oak nature reserve, dwelling to an abundance of birds. On my many walks across the former quarry – now a reasonably lake – I’ve spied kingfishers, cormorants and herons. I’ve heard warblers name, watched swallows swoop for bugs and lapwings wheel towards the sky.
Regardless of all its pure riches, Bourne Finish has managed to flee any air of pretension typically felt in different riverside communities. On each go to I’ve struck up conversations with pleasant locals in, on or alongside the water. That’s why, for me, it didn’t want the arrival of A-listers to verify its star high quality.

The self-contained Riverside Boathouse sleeps 4
The place to remain The Riverside Boathouse is a self-contained studio sleeping 4 proper on the riverbank, from £127 an evening.
The place to eat Attempt The Spade Oak, a stone’s throw from the character reserve, after a strolling or birdwatching journey. It serves wonderful pizza, Sunday roasts and vegan choices.Pub Take a punt over to The Bounty, a riverside hostelry reached solely through boot, boat or swim (no car entry). Phoebe Smith
Thaxted, Essex

John Webb’s Windmill Thaxted Essex, with the parish church within the background. {Photograph}: Bryan Eveleigh/Alamy
You may’t miss Thaxted, nor do you have to. The stupendous spire of its parish church is like an arrow, seen from miles round, above the waves of undulating farmland. Thaxted is clearly greater than a village and, unlikely because it now appears, it rivalled Sheffield as capital of the cutlery commerce within the 14th and fifteenth centuries. No one has an evidence, however presumably the iron got here from redundant weapons and the expert workmen from elsewhere.
thaxted map
The Guild of Cutlers constructed themselves an intricate, oak-framed Guildhall, however the scale and great thing about the church (the Shell Information charges it “finest church in Essex”) factors to sustained wealth, cutlery giving method to wool. Reached up just a little pebbled monitor, the church is (informally at the least) a part of a picturesque group together with two rows of single-storey cottages constructed as almshouses. One row, with fretwork bargeboards like a Swiss chalet, is now a single cottage; the opposite is three tiny homes. Behind them stands John Webb’s good-looking windmill.
I first bought to know Thaxted when visiting a good friend and colleague who lived slightly below the church in a complicated outdated home whose each room appeared to be on a distinct stage. James (Jim) Boutwood was a historic buildings architect, one in all a staff on Essex county council that investigated and mended a wide ranging set of monastic grain barns at Cressing Temple, close to Witham.
Most summers we’d meet and go church-crawling: south to Tilty, with its half-hidden clues to the Thirteenth-century abbey that after stood there; to Stebbing, the place the spectacular rood-screen is, improbably, of stone quite than painted and carved wooden. As soon as, additional east, we tracked down a memorial column standing, inexplicably, in a area at Colne Engaine. It was designed by John Soane, whose biography I used to be then writing.
Thaxted is dwelling to a summer season music pageant, which was began by Gustav Holst in 1916. He, like HG Wells, was a tenant of beneficiant, even profligate, Daisy, Countess of Warwick. The mistress of the Prince of Wales, the long run Edward VII, she ran by means of two fortunes, her personal after which her husband’s, to turn into a free-spending radical, organising the primary state secondary faculty in Essex and providing a 30-year dwelling to the Reverend Conrad Noel.

Morris dancing in Thaxted. {Photograph}: Philippe Hays/Alamy
He signalled his politics by displaying the Pink Flag alongside these of Saint George and Sinn Féin in Thaxted church and tolled the bells on Empire Day to mark the nation’s sacrifices to imperialism. For all that righteous anger, he additionally arrange an annual Thaxted morris dancing occasion in 1911 that also continues (although not in Covid occasions).
If people dancing isn’t for you, there are few higher methods of passing a summer season night than settling down for a few hours in that nice, beneficiant church, gentle pouring in by means of the clear glass as some choral masterwork washes over you.
Daisy Warwick lived on at Easton Lodge, which was a lot diminished by a disastrous fireplace. She supplied what was left of it to the brand new Labour get together, after which the TUC, however each refused. The barn was transformed to a theatre, and the church has a memorial to Ellen Terry, in addition to the grandiose tombs of earlier generations of Daisy’s household. A charitable belief now runs the Gardens of Easton Lodge – identified for snowdrops in early spring – and volunteers are reinstating Harold Peto’s Italianate water gardens, having rebuilt an Edwardian treehouse and introduced the walled kitchen backyard again into productive use. An bold annual nation present within the village (cancelled final yr) perpetuates yet one more of Daisy’s initiatives.
There are well-marked footpaths in all places. One from Thaxted to Tilty, for instance, follows a stream, grandly named the higher Chelmer, which as soon as powered the abbey’s watermill. A round stroll from Nice Bardfield, just a few miles east of Thaxted, to Finchingfield can also be good, with pubs and meals – the Bell and the Fox respectively – at each ends and even a tiny new unbiased bookshop, Between the Traces, in Nice Bardfield.

The Swan Lodge, Thaxted
The village grew to become well-known from the Nineteen Thirties as an off-the-cuff creative colony centred on Eric Ravilious and Edward Bawden. Their work, and that of their circle, is proven in common exhibitions on the Fry Gallery in Saffron Walden. Coming for a weekend? Certainly you’ll want every week.
The place to remain The Swan Lodge in Thaxted (doubles from £55 room-only) is a 20-room former teaching inn. The place to eat On the Flitch of Bacon in Little Dunmow, eight miles south of Thaxted, you gained’t essentially discover a lot bacon on the menu (to Jay Rayner’s disappointment – although he thought the meals wonderful). Awarded a Michelin star in 2019, it’s not a spot for a fast chew: the two-course lunch is £27.50; the five-course tasting menu £65; and three-course Sunday lunch £45. The restaurant additionally has rooms.Pub The Fox on the Inexperienced in Finchingfield is a Sixteenth-century inn overlooking the duck pond, with a beer backyard on the again.Gillian Darley, writer of Wonderful Essex: In Reward of England’s Most Misunderstood County

Normanton Church on the financial institution of Rutland Water. {Photograph}: Invoice Allsopp/Alamy
Actual ale and delicate countryside most likely spring to thoughts while you image the smallest county in England. Peaceable landscapes are undoubtedly one of many compelling charms of Rutland – there aren’t any madding crowds right here. The county’s centrepiece is Rutland Water, a horseshoe-shaped reservoir that’s the second-largest expanse of water in England, constructed within the Seventies to retailer water for the rising inhabitants of the east Midlands.
rutland map
Ringed by an 18-mile cycle monitor (23 miles if the central Hambleton spit is included), it has cafes, biking outlets and even a bug zoo scattered alongside its north and south shores. On the Rutland Water Fishing Lodge, guides might be employed for trout fishing, however extra noteworthy is the “predator fishing” with a flotilla of little white boats searching across the coves for zander and big pike. Crusing, canoeing, paddleboarding, wild swimming and windsurfing are all additionally catered for, and for kids there’s an aquapark with an inflatable impediment course.
Egleton nature reserve, which occupies the western finish of Rutland Water, is a string of shallow lagoons with ample birdlife – greater than 20,000 birds have a daily dwelling on the reservoir, and wigeon, gadwall, cormorant, nice crested grebe, coot, lapwing, mallard and tufted duck are the most typical waterfowl.
Above them on platforms nest ospreys; in 2001 they have been the primary to breed in England for 150 years. They now fly in each spring from Africa and lift their younger on the plentiful fish within the reservoir. That is the UK’s primary location for osprey watching. Anglian Water costs for entry (£6/£3), so it’s price making it a full day trip to expertise the entire reserve.

The Buttercross out there city of Oakham. {Photograph}: Gordon Bell/Alamy
August brings Birdfair to Egleton (2021 dates TBA), with 25,000 nature lovers perusing lots of of artwork, journey and wildlife charity stands. It’s one of many largest gatherings of the wild at coronary heart on the planet: we meet outdated buddies and observe the behaviour of Springwatch presenters of their pure surroundings.
Oakham and Uppingham, the county’s two market cities, are effectively equipped with watering holes. Oakham, simply west of Rutland Water, has no fewer than 15 cafes, many clustered across the Butter Market Cross, a stone’s throw from the 800-year-old Oakham Fortress, one of many nation’s best-preserved Norman buildings. Custom has it that passing noblemen should depart a tribute of a horseshoe on the corridor, and the partitions are bedecked with large ceremonial gilded examples, some greater than 500 years outdated.
Oakham can also be dwelling to Rutland Bitter – a particular beer with its personal little appellation contrôlée that’s solely brewed on the Grainstore Brewery, which additionally provides excursions. Oakham ale is now brewed in Peterborough and Ruddles in Suffolk, however with the newer Baker’s Dozen Brewing Firm in Ketton establishing its status, brewing is prospering right here as soon as once more.
The much-loved horticulturist Geoff Hamilton lived at Barnsdale Gardens in Oakham, and his natural imaginative and prescient is maintained throughout 38 individually designed gardens, many featured on the Gardeners’ World TV collection. Different sights embody the Rutland Falconry and Owl Centre at Exton – additionally dwelling to 3 amur leopards. Because the county motto goes: Multum in parvo – “an excellent deal in a small house”.

Barnsdale Lodge additionally does good meals
The place to remain Barnsdale Lodge Lodge (doubles from round £120 B&B) is subsequent to Rutland Water and has unstintingly good opinions, significantly for its “borderline gourmand” meals. The place to eat The King’s Arms in Wing has an outstanding menu of nation cooking specialities, succh as squirrel, cider and girolle pie.Pub The White Horse in Empingham is a buzzing village pub with roaring hearths and effectively equipped with native beer. The brand new Italian homeowners supply a spread of Italian basic dishes alongside extra conventional fare.Matt Shardlow, Guardian nation diarist