Rutland Water, Gilliam Durmo
The Midlands covers a vast area of England, and yet even if you stand in the middle of Derbyshire or Leicestershire, you are no more than 90 or so miles from the sea (there are arguments as to which village is the farthest!) The main cities in this area are Birmingham and Wolverhampton, two major cities with a strong history of industry, hence its alternative name of the ‘black country’, which was named after the soot that rose from all the industrial buildings, years gone back.
Today, most industry has gone. But the whole area of The Midlands still is home to miles of canals, that used to transport goods down to London. Today you are more likely to take a canal for a cruising holiday, or walk alongside the canals. The Waterway Recovery Group has its issues, but their Canal Camps offer good-value working holidays to clean up local waters. Held nationwide, they are just £70 including board and food for a week.
Home to some of the friendliest people in England, this gorgeous area (with its lovely accents) is a haven of rich countryside and many stately homes (including of course, the resting place of the late Princess Diana). From Northamptonshire to Nottinghamshire and from Worcestershire to Warwickshire (the birthplace of our greatest playwright William Shakespeare), the nearby county of Staffordshire is renowned for its pottery.
Rutland is England’s smallest county (apparently it changes, depending on whether the tide is in or out on the Isle of Wight). Formerly part of Leicestershire, this has no supermarkets or motorways or fast food restaurants. It is also home to Rutland Water, a manmade reservoir that you can walk or cycle around. What it’s most known for is its popularity with thousands of birds that visit each year. The project is single-handedly responsible for saving breeding ospreys from extinction.