The Explorer’s Road - Rutland
67 people found this feature helpful
Rutland - Oakham - Uppingham
Bab's wonderful nan Sadie was immensely proud of being born in
England's smallest county, Rutland. It was then and it still is today. 52
villages and two towns sit in 151 square miles of beautiful relaxing mainly
agricultural countryside. Photogenic thatch and glorious limestone cottages
abound. N to S it's 18 miles long and 17ish W to E. This landlocked county has
a population of about 40,000 and is hemmed in by Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire
In 1974, in one of those monumental bureaucratic cock-ups that the
UK is famous for, Rutland was swallowed up by neighbouring Leicestershire.
Following a furore and a resistance campaign it was regurgitated in 1997 and
Rutland County Council appeared once more. Sadie too had that spirit of
defiance and independence which served her well throughout her lifetime.
Someone, clearly with a little too much time on their hands, has
worked out that the county can fit inside the Kingdom of Wales over 54 times.
Not that Rutland would allow it! This exceptional county is going nowhere!
Translating its Latin motto - multum in parvo - much in little - this is
oh so true. You will find much to see and do. Size clearly isn't everything!
Talking of size. Here in Rutland back in the 17th century, Sir
Jeffrey Hudson, Oakham born, was the smallest man in England- from the smallest
county. Head to toe 18in - 45cm. He was presented to Charles II and Queen
Henrietta Maria in a pie. And with much surprise jumped out to a round of
applause. A likely contender for You've Been Framed had digital been around
The county is crossed by the A1 - The Great North Road- and the East
Coast mainline. In July 1938 the Doncaster built LNER Mallard achieved the
world record for steam locomotion, an astonishing 125.55 mph, here.
15 minutes after leaving Stamford, along the A606, we arrive in
Oakham the historic county town. It had an entry in the 1086 Domesday
Book. This tiny but perfectly formed capital and market town is friendly
and we both felt at ease walking around.
The polygonal 400 year old Buttercross and stocks are worth a
gander. Situated just off the High street this was an old meeting place for
buyers and sellers of dairy produce.
Very little remains of Oakham castle. The Great Hall is still
standing and is home to the oldest English court, at least 800 years of
continuous use. There is a tradition that Peers of the Realm visiting Oakham
must gift a horseshoe to the Lord of The Manor. Our present Her Majesty donated
one in 1967. 500 years of visits have resulted in a stunning display of over
230 horseshoes here in the Hall. It is intriguing to see that all the shoes are
hung with their tips facing the ground. Why? Apparently, it is so the Devil
can't make a home in the horseshoes. And as you look upwards luck spills down
from the shoes bestowing luck and prosperity onto the onlookers.
The Devil wears Prada in Oakham - and country tweed casuals too.
There is plenty of wealth here with house prices a lot more than the national
average. The town is choc-a-bloc with shops: many unique individual boutiques
and gift shops, galleries and coffee shops a plenty. Even the omnipresent
charity shops are smart and don't seem to need any help.
For a moment whilst walking down the High Street the sun was
obliterated by a large couple wobbling towards us. Mr and Mrs Obese (in this
snowflake society you can't say fat anymore- but they were) had suffered a
landslip of body parts and many were not now where God had intended them to be.
Both licking ice-cream. Not one not two but three scoops and of course the
obligatory flake. No will power, no self-restraint. No dress sense either.
No wonder the NHS is on its knees - which incidentally is where their stomachs
had ended up. The horseshoes had not sprinkled any joy or luck on this couple
because they returned to the car park to find a parking ticket. And then they
both got into the front seats of their Mini!!
If you need to shelter from rain when you visit, then there is no
better place than Gates Garden Centre in Cold Overton a couple of miles outside
Oakham. LE15 7QB.
Rutland Water is the jewel in Rutland's crown. It is the UK'S
largest man-made lake and it is so easy to reach from anywhere in the county.
It is a perfect spot to spend a day walking, cycling or fishing, and many water
sports are on offer. It’s a nature reserve too. Hop on board the Rutland Belle
for a leisurely mini cruise.
Rutland Water holds 27,300 million gallons of water. Water water
everywhere and many a drop to drink. They are a thirsty lot here but also
benevolent too. And they are happy to share this life-giving commodity with the
whole of the East Midlands.
Rutland Water Golf Club is in Oakham with stunning views across
the water. But how do you play water golf? Answers on a postcard please. Wet
balls anyone? Very clean!
Rutland Water covers 4.19 square miles and in terms of surface
area is Britain's largest reservoir. Kielder Water in Northumberland is
top dog in terms of water capacity. Construction took five years and involved
damming the Gwash Valley near Empingham. Filling it took a further 4 years.
Originally the Empingham Reservoir it soon became known as Rutland Water.
The villages of Middle Lower and Nether Hambleton were demolished
and now sit in a watery grave. Remaining dry, Upper Hambleton and parts of
Middle Hambleton are now known simply as Hambleton and jut out into the lake.
This peninsula is long and almost splits Rutland Water into two - North and
South arms. There is an excellent 7 mile walk around here which is home to the
famous luxurious Hambleton Hall Country House Hotel. The hotel sits pretty in
stunning gardens. A spectacular setting. A Michelin Star restaurant it has held
this award for a record 36 years. Take a bow Aaron Patterson. This hotel is
sumptuous and has been frequented by many a celebrity. Noel Coward visited
often. In this world solitude is often a joy and Hambleton Hall is a place
where your mind can rest yet it's only minutes from the busy A1.
Just past the Hambleton peninsula, on the A6003, is Egleton Nature
Reserve - a wildfowl sanctuary par excellence. Much to see and enjoy whether
just birdwatching in the many hides (if you can find them) or just walking
along specially created nature trails. The Rutland Osprey project started in
1997 and is celebrating over 100 fledgling birds. Osprey pairs now return year
on year. Head for Lyndon visitor centre to see these magnificent birds captured
in stunning close-up.
We didn't have -time to visit Bugtopia, a little too creepy for
me, pardon the pun, but very popular. I prefer animals Golden Retriever size!
The cycle route around Rutland Water is 23 miles long. For the
less energetic you can knock off almost 7 miles by avoiding the peninsula. It
is rated as one of the best off-road cycle tracks in the UK.
Whenever you see Rutland featured in print there is always a photo
of a church seemingly floating on water surrounded by breakwater boulders. This
is Normanton Church which was saved from flooding by another public outcry.
Rutlanders can be very vociferous. The floor was raised above the water line
and now features a museum tracing the history of the water. It's also a
sought-after wedding venue. Park at Normanton car park and take a brief walk to
the church for a photo opportunity.
Whenever I see the name Uppingham I can't stop thinking about the Dad's
Army classic quip "they don't like it up em". I digress and
before we reached the town, we took a brief detour to Eyebrook reservoir. In
1943 the reservoir was used for training by those magnificent men in their
flying machines - 617 Squadron Lancaster bombers aka The Dambusters. In a
highly successful Operation Chastise, the Mohne and Edersee dams in Germany
were successfully breached causing industrial devastation and putting back the
German war effort for many months. Factories, hydroelectric power stations,
mines and infrastructure obliterated. Couldn't get the Dambusters March by Eric
Coates out of our heads whilst we were there.
Back in Uppingham the sun shone high in the sky caressing and
warming the pavements and cobbles of this market town.
Here the residents are known as Uppinghamians which is quite a
mouthful. I always thought that the good people of Rutland are known as
Rutlanders . I was wrong they are called Raddlemen. The town has lots of small
alleyways known locally as a jitty. In Yorkshire we call them ginnels, back
alleys and snickets. In Scunthorpe they are known as ‘10 foots’ even though
they are not even that wide! In my home village of Kirk Sandall there is a cut
through which wiggles and waggles like a snake. Everyone in our village knew it
as "going up the wiggly waggly" It's a strange world.
Uppingham sits amongst wonderful countryside. It has been a market
town for over 800 years - market charter awarded 1281. Tucked away in the
market square is the church of St Peter and Paul (no Mary). It is a charming
town with a nice high street full of specialist shops antique centres and art
galleries. A lovely place to browse and a town that quietly goes about its
business. The town is famous for its school. In reality the school is more
famous than the town itself. Founded in 1584 it is one of the UK's leading
boarding schools for kids age 13 to 18 and has featured in the Harry Potter
films. Past boarders include Rick Stein, Stephen Fry, cricketer Aggers Agnew
and a special bonus point if you know who William Henry Pratt is? Yes
Travelling along the A47 look out for grade 2 listed Harringworth
Railway Viaduct. 1200 yards long with 82 brick arches each with a 40 foot span.
Stunning. British Victorian ingenuity at its best.
There is a circular turf maze by the roadside (about 40 feet in
diameter) in the tiny village of Wing. Apparently, it is very similar to one in
Chartres Cathedral and is thought to be a place for sinners to do penance.
During the Late May bank holidays, the Nurdling World
championships often take place here in Rutland. If you can throw old pennies
accurately through a hole drilled in a wooden seat, then you may become the best
tosser - an accolade not to be sniffed at.
Geoff Hamilton was the presenter of BBC Gardeners’ World- probably
our favourite. However, Monty Don aided beautifully by Nigel and Nell are
strong contenders too. His home was at Barnsdale off the A606 where much of the
filming was shot. His legacy and gardens have been expertly carried on by son
Nick. Almost 40 individual gardens to look out all blending imaginatively
together. Great cafe and plant sales too.
Babs and I have enjoyed our brief time here in Rutland. It is a
gorgeous county with lots to see and do. So easy to drive around and the
villages and pubs are a delight. The churches are exquisite. This has been a
worthy stop along The Explorer’s Road.
Next time we visit I will bring my wellies for a round of water
golf at the Rutland Water Golf Course!! And a towel.
Read the introduction to this journey on The
The Explorer's Road Map courtesy of VisitBritain.com
67 people found this feature helpful