Including the counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire and Rutland.
What can you say about the East Midlands, an area that spawned Tennyson, DH Lawrence, Margaret Thatcher and the legend of Robin Hood? Sherwood Forest is still there, though it’s a little smaller now; and did you know they’re building a brand-new forest, the National Forest? I’m guessing this will take a while – but it’s an astonishing idea, across 200 square miles of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire. Britain’s first National Park, the Peak District, is in the north west of Derbyshire – wild and craggy in places with some charming towns like Matlock and Buxton – one of Britain’s spa towns. Then, to the east of the region, in Lincolnshire, it’s pretty flat. In fact, it’s as flat as flat gets; a great place to build aerodromes – and, curiously, there used to be rather a lot of them there. If you like interesting villages with nice pubs (and who doesn’t?), drift through the Wolds south east of Nottingham, Rutland and Northamptonshire – many in the latter two are built with wonderfully warm-looking yellow-ochre sandstone.
Then there’s food – the East Midlands is famous for Melton Mowbray pork pies, Lincolnshire sausages, Stilton cheese…coincidentally, one of Britain’s largest men, Daniel Lambert, was born in Leicester. He weighed over 52 stone (more than 330 kilograms) when he died, and is buried in Stamford.
Wool and industry – mining and manufacturing – have both shaped the region. Northampton used to be famous for shoe-making, Nottingham for its lace, tobacco and bicycles (it was also renowned for the rumour that there was a 5:1 ratio of females to males) and Derby for its engineering. Lincoln, Derby, Nottingham, Leicester and Stamford were the ‘Five Boroughs’ – fortified towns – under 9th century Danelaw. The English Midlands is an area that has always been fought over – the sites of two of Britain’s pivotal battles, Bosworth in 1485 and Naseby in 1645, are just 30 miles from each other in the south of the region. King Richard III was famously found under a car park in Leicester. And sports fans will be interested in the fortunes of Leicester City Football Club, who won the Premier League in the season 2015-16, having started with odds of 5000/1 of doing so.
The East Midlands also has a good share of stately homes – Chatsworth, Burghley House and Althorp, the home of the Spencers, to name but three. There are castles, too – Bolsover and Peveril, for example. The town of Stamford is a dream, Lincoln is as fine a city as you can find and Southwell is a gem. Nottingham is a busy, vibrant (sometimes too vibrant) place with some interesting museums, one of the country’s oldest pubs and loads of shops. And then there’s Skegness.
Ten place to consider:
All major towns and cities are easily reached on the national rail network north-south. As with the West Midlands, travelling east-west by rail is a bit more of a challenge. The M1 steams through the middle of the region, and the A1 (roughly parallel to it to the east) is a good alternative – but on the dual carriageway sections you’ll experience trucks apparently having races, inching their way past each other completely oblivious of the 20 mile queue forming behind them. The A50 is a good east-west route between the M1 near Nottingham and the M6 at Stoke. There’s a major international airport, imaginatively called ‘East Midlands Airport’, between Nottingham, Derby and Leicester. I like the A606 between Stamford and Nottingham. The A52 north from Derby takes in the delightful town of Ashbourne, then follow the A515 through the Peak District to Buxton.