Tom's Britain - Exploring places of interest and things to do in England, Wales & Scotland

30 December 2012

Visit the Stanley Spencer Gallery in Cookham

First opened in 1962 in a former methodist chapel in the village of Cookham, Berkshire, the Stanley Spencer Gallery collects together some works of art by celebrated English painter and Cookham resident Sir Stanley Spencer. 

There can be no more fitting place to view the work of an artist so closely associated with both the village of Cookham than the chapel in which he once worshiped as a member of the congregation and many of the works on show feature Cookham, which was very much a theme of the artist's work, and where - particularly in later life - he could often be seen wandering the lanes of Cookham pushing a pram in which he carried his materials for painting. The pram is on show in the gallery.

For more, see

29 December 2012

See the Uffington White Horse

Though a number of white horses and other white figures exist on the chalk downland of Southern England, the Uffington Horse is particularly special as it is believed to date from the the Iron Age or the late Bronze Age, making it significantly older than many of its contemporaries. 

The horse is found close to the ancient trackway known as the Ridgeway and sits just below Uffington Castle, an ancient hill fort with which it is often assumed to be connected.

For more, see

23 December 2012

Celebrate Tom Bawcock's Eve

To the tiny village of Mousehole in Cornwall, where today locals and visitors will be celebrating Tom Bawcock's Eve, as they do every 23rd December, remembering 16th century fisherman Tom Bawcock, who set out onto a stormy sea when no other boats were able to fish and the residents faced starvation, and returned with fish for everyone in time for Christmas. 

The festival combines with the annual Christmas lights in the village to make it a festive hotspot, and still sees the making of Stargazy pie, a pie of baked pilchards, egg and potatoes, with the heads of the pilchards poking out to prove that there are fish inside.

For more, see's_Eve

^Picture © Rod Allday used under a Creative Commons license^

16 December 2012

Rather English - Drink from St Ann's Well, Buxton

Thanks to ubiquitous plastic bottles of the stuff, Buxton is now known around the country for its mineral water, and the Peak District town still takes great pride in its waters. For those seeking a more authentic experience than getting it off the shelves at their local corner shop, it still comes straight out of the ground at St Ann's Well on the Crescent in the centre of town. 

The current well casing was installed around 1940 as a tribute to Councillor Emelie Dorothy Bounds, on a site where wells have stood since Roman times. The well sees water gush from the mouth of a bronze lion's head, and features a statue of St Ann and child.

For more, see

13 December 2012

Eat at the Pheasant Inn, Higher Burwardsley

Your author passed a very pleasant evening by the fire yesterday at the Pheasant Inn at Higher Burwardsley, a great little pub at the end of a network of Cheshire lanes which traces its history back to at least the seventeenth century. 

We are told that Burwardsley once meant 'clearing in the woods', and today the pub is a haven for walkers, sitting as it does on the Sandstone Trail, as recently featured on this website. For those looking to stay a little longer, the pub has comfortable rooms and even serves a good Christmas Dinner, as your author experienced a couple of years. ago.

For more, see
^Picture © Peter Styles used under a Creative Commons license^

12 December 2012

Wander the Rows of Chester

A distinctive aspect of the city centre in Chester is the Chester Rows, with half-timbered galleries, accessed via steps, forming a second row of shops above those at street level. A feature of the streets radiating from Chester Cross, they are found in Watergate, Eastgate and Northgate Streets and in Upper Bridge Street.

Though their origins of the Rows are subject to debate, it is thought that they date from at least the 13th century. A number of suggestions about how they came to be exist, with some believing that as Chester's Roman buildings slowly crumbled, medieval traders built their shops along the top of this debris accessed by a path or steps from the roadside, with subsequent alterations seeing stalls spring up along the road to display goods. Another suggestion is that the constructions were designed to help prevent a repeat of a fire that all but destroyed the city in 1278. Whatever their origins they are an interesting feature of Chester.

For more, see
^Picture © orangeacid used under a Creative Commons license^

Wander the Rows of Chester

A distinctive aspect of the city centre in Chester is the Chester Rows, with half-timbered galleries, accessed via steps, forming a second row of shops above those at street level. A feature of the streets radiating from Chester Cross, they are found in Watergate, Eastgate and Northgate Streets and in Upper Bridge Street.

Though their origins of the Rows are subject to debate, it is thought that they date from at least the 13th century. A number of suggestions about how they came to be exist, with some believing that as Chester's Roman buildings slowly crumbled, medieval traders built their shops along the top of this debris accessed by a path or steps from the roadside, with subsequent alterations seeing stalls spring up along the road to display goods. Another suggestion is that the constructions were designed to help prevent a repeat of a fire that all but destroyed the city in 1278. Whatever their origins they are an interesting feature of Chester.

For more, see
^Picture © orangeacid used under a Creative Commons license^

11 December 2012

Rather Welsh - Stay at Gladstone's Library

Your author has left England to travel three miles into the Welsh county of Flintshire for a stay at Gladstone's Library, Britain's only residential library, and also our only Prime Ministerial Library, established in the 19th-century in the village of Hawarden by William Ewart Gladstone, who is said to have transferred some 32,000 books half a mile down the road from his home at Hawarden Castle by wheelbarrow when already in his 80s.

As well as a fine collection of 250,000 books, journals and pamphlets on history, theology and a wide range of other subjects, the Library also has twenty-six well-furnished study bedrooms where visitors can stay for a period of time to study, think or rest, a relaxing lounge providing for enlightening conversation by a roaring fire and a fine restaurant providing decent meals daily.

For more, see

10 December 2012

Visit the Imperial War Museum North

Situated on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal in Salford, the Imperial War Museum North opened in 2002 to complement the Museum's other operations in Duxford and London.

The Museum's distinctive building is clad in aluminium and designed by architect Daniel Libeskind, and entry is free, attracting more than 2.5 million visitors over the decade since its opening. Your author found the experience every bit as informative as a visit to its 92 year old southern sister, with the added benefit of being situated in a purpose-built space which is used very well.

For more, see
^Picture © Gavin Llewellyn used under a Creative Commons license^

9 December 2012

Ride the 'world's first passenger railway'

A regular exhibit at Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry allows visitors to take a ride on the site where the first passenger steam trains once travelled, on what was the Liverpool & Manchester Railway.

The Musum occupies the buildings of Liverpool Road station, the oldest surviving passenger railway station in the world and on some days visitors even get to ride behind Planet, a replica 1830 Robert Stephenson and Company steam locomotive. For TV fans the short journey also runs alongside Granada Studios, offering the chance to peer in and see where TV classics such as Coronation Street and Sooty were filmed.

For more, see

8 December 2012

Visit the People's History Museum

Tracing its origins from the Trade Union, Labour and Co-operative History Society, Manchester's People's History Museum is just as you might imagine it, started in the 1960s as a small collection which was exhibited in a museum in Limehouse Town Hall in London between 1975 and 1986, it's difficult to say whether it says more about the political polarisation of our country or about the fine work in encouraging regional museums.

We are told that the museum came to Manchester due to funding offers from the local authorities, and opened in 1990 on Princess Street in the city. After a refurbishment between 2007 and 2010, it reopened on the left bank of the River Irwell where it is still open for free daily. The result is a fine collection of artefacts and exhibits on social history around the country, with an occasional particular focus on Manchester.

For more, see
^Picture © David Dixon used under a Creative Commons license^

7 December 2012

Walk Cheshire's Sandstone Trail

A 34 mile distance walking path connecting Whitchurch in north Shropshire with Frodsham on the banks of the Mersey estuary, the Sandstone Trail follows a ridge of wooded sandstone hills which stretches all the way across an area of countryside known as the Cheshire Plain

Along the route, the trail takes in Bronze Age and Iron Age hill forts, Roman roads, Medieval churches and castles, and some spectacular views, and also inevitably passes some lovely pubs including the 17th century Pheasant Inn at Higher Burwardsley in the Peckforton Hills - itself built in red sandstone - at which your author once spent a fantastically snowy Christmas.

For more, see
^Picture © Jeff Buck used under a Creative Commons license^

6 December 2012

Visit Blists Hill Victorian Town

Some think it's a bit naff, but your author has always quite liked the recreated Victorian town at Blists Hill in Shropshire, above Ironbridge Gorge. Largely created since the 1970s amongst the remains of blast furnaces, brick & tile works and other industrial workings, as well as a stretch of Canal, the town today offers a window on what life might have been like in the area in Victorian times. 

The town has been put together through a mixture of new buildings and those brought from elsewhere, and even has its own pub in the shape of The New Inn, which was taken down and transported brick by brick from the its previous position on the corner of Green Lane and Hospital Street in Walsall in the early 1980s. Whilst the buildings and shop interiors are interesting readers should be warned that they may encounter people dressed up as Victorians attempting to interact with them.

For more, see

^Picture © Martin Burns used under a Creative Commons license^

From November 2012 until January 2013, Tired of London, Tired of Life will briefly be posting as and featuring interesting things to do in England

5 December 2012

Drink at the Crooked House

Found at the end of a long leafy lane in Gornalwood on the outskirts of Dudley, though technically just inside rural Staffordshire, the Crooked House was first built in 1765 as a farmhouse, and later became a public house known as the Siden House, owing its name - we are told - to the Black Country dialect, in which Siden means crooked. 

The reason for the crookedness of the house was mining in the area during the 19th century, which caused subsidence and threatened the very existence of the pub when it was condemned in the 1940s, only to be saved by Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries who embraced the interesting nature of the place and arranged for it to be reinforced with supporting buttresses and girders. Inside, your author found a warm welcome out of the driving rain outside, and discovered that the building is just as crooked inside as out, with heavy doors installed at a slight angle to add to the effect.

For more, see 

4 December 2012

Admire the Leaning Tower of Bridgnorth

The Shropshire town of Bridgnorth is an attractive place, with a high town set on a sandstone cliff above the River Severn, connected to the area known as the Low Town on the riverbank by an electric funicular railway. It isn't hard to see why - in 1101 - Robert de Belleme chose the top of the cliff as the spot for his castle, from which the surrounding area could be monitored. 

Today, all that remains of the castle is a formal gardens frequented by yappy dogs and the huge remains of one of the castle's towers, leaning at a rather alarming rate which locals claim is even greater than that of the bell tower at Pisa. Though the tower still stands, the rest of the castle was destroyed following a three week siege during the English Civil War. Following his victory, Cromwell ordered that the castle be demolished.

For more, see>

3 December 2012

Visit the Morgan Museum

The Morgan Motor Company has been making cars in the Worcestershire spa town of Malvern for over 100 years, and unlike many other British car manufacturers they are still doing so.

The company also has a visitors centre and museum at their factory in the town's Pickersleigh Road, with guided tours of the factory available and interesting exhibitions five days a week, as well as a fine display of Morgan cars.

For more, see

^Picture © Bob Embleton used under a Creative Commons license^

2 December 2012

Drink at the Woolpack

One of your author's favourite pubs in the world, the Woolpack is a beautiful little freehouse in the heart of the sleepy Slad Valley made famous by the author Laurie Lee in his autobiographical book, Cider With Rosie, in which the pub itself played a starring role, as the young Lee gazes in through its steamed windows.

Lee remained a regular sight at the pub until his death in 1997 often sitting outside on long summer afternoons and - legend has it - taking American tourists who arrived looking for Laurie Lee's grave on wild goosechases around the churchyard.

The pub traces its history back to the 1640’s, when the wool industry was the main source of wealth in the area, and woolpacks such as the ones that appear on the pub sign were a common sight in the Slad Valley. Today, its compact interior is popular with locals and visitors most evenings, serving great food and fine ales from the local Uley and Stroud Breweries to thirsty punters.

For more, see

^Picture © BazzaDaRambler used under a Creative Commons license^

1 December 2012

Attend Stroud Farmers Market

Often cited as Britain's best farmers market, Stroud Farmers Market has a place close to your author's heart. Just over an hour and a half by train from London at the heart of five valleys, the market at Stroud takes place every Saturday until 2pm and boasts around 60 stalls a week, with a significant amount of organic produce.

The town of Stroud has a tradition of nonconformity and was at the forefront of the organic food movement, and the Woodruffs Cafe - just a short walk from the main market - claims to be Britain's first wholly organic cafe, so it is probably not a surprise that the market has bloomed and won various awards over the years, having been featured in various guides and - we are told - in the Sunday Telegraph, The Observer, The Independent, The Guardian Weekend, The Times and the Country Living Guide to Farmers' Markets. Those who particularly enjoy the local nature of the produce sourced from within 30 miles of the market, could also consider visiting the Made In Stroud shop nearby which sells only products from local artists and manufacturers.

For more, see

^Picture © BazzaDaRambler used under a Creative Commons license^

30 November 2012

See the Hereford Mappa Mundi

The Mappa Mundi is held by Hereford Cathedral and is a fascinating map dating from around 1285, which shows the world as it was seen in medieval times. Apparently drawn on calf skin by Richard of Haldingham and Lafford, the map places Jerusalem at the centre, with the British Isles on the outer edges of the known world.

The map displays only what was known by Richard and his contemporaries, reaching no further than the River Ganges in India, the Nile in Africa and Norway and the Caspian Sea to the North, and for your author one of the most interesting aspects was the strange beasts, creatures and quasi-human animals which lurk around the edges of the map, presumably representing an acute fear of the unknown.

For more, see

^Picture from the Wikimedia Commons^

29 November 2012

Cross Sellack Swing Bridge

Your author has fond memories of catching minnows in the shallows of the River Wye below Sellack Bridge in Herefordshire as a child, and the swing bridge which crosses the river between the villages of Sellack and Kings Caple near Ross-on-Wye. The bridge was opened in 1898 to link the two parishes by public petition, apparently because the vicar was having trouble getting ferryboat men to take him across the river.

The bridge was commissioned by Hereford architect Mr Ernest G. Davies, and designed and built by Louis Harper of Aberdeen,, and opened in 1898. It has always struck your author as unusual as it stands in open countryside and does not carry a road, making it a pleasant inclusion to a walk in the beautiful surrounding countryside.

For more, see

^Picture © Trevor Rickard used under a Creative Commons license^

28 November 2012

Visit Kilpeck Church

Despite being irreligious, your author particularly appreciates a good church, and the tiny sandstone Church of St Mary and St David at Kilpeck, Herefordshire, is a particularly interesting one, noted for its Norman carvings which include serpents, angels, a green man, a Sheela na Gig and a menagerie of beasts including a hound, hare and ram.

The church is entered through a spectacular Norman arch and is thought to contain remnants of its earlier Saxon foundations, and the St David referenced in its name is thought to be a local Celtic St David rather than the famous 6th century Welsh Bishop, and the name of the village itself is thought to derive from Pedic, a local early Christian hermit, Kil Peddeg thought to imply the "cell of Pedic".

For more, see

26 November 2012

Walk on Clevedon Pier, North Somerset

Originally built in the 1860s, Clevedon Pier in the small North Somerset town of Clevedon, was designed to allow paddle steamers to dock for services to South Wales and other places. Since 2001 it has been a Grade I listed structure making it - since the sad fire at Brighton's West Pier - the only Grade I listed pier open to the public, as well as being among the earliest Victorian piers still in existence.

Even after the building of the Severn Railway Tunnel to South Wales, the pier continued as a docking station for pleasure boats which took passengers around the Severn Estuary and recent years have seen a reprise, with boats such as the MV Balmoral and Paddle Steamer Waverley taking passengers from Clevedon to destinations such as the islands of Flat Holm and Steep Holm, as well as Penarth and Ilfracombe. Despite a collapse of two elements of the pier in 1970, an commendable campaign by the Clevedon Pier Preservation Trust saved the pier from demolition and after many years it was finally completely reopened in 1998.

For more, see

^Picture © Matt Neale used under a Creative Commons license^

25 November 2012

Climb the Cabot Tower, Bristol

The city of Bristol has always been quite proud of its adopted son John Cabot, an Italian sailor who set sail from the port to become the first European to set foot on the mainland of North America, and at the end of the 19th century a tower was erected on top of Brandon Hill in the city to celebrate him.

The tower is still open to the public for free and whilst the staircase to access it is quite tight, the views from the top are exceptional, as Brandon Hill provides an excellent vantage point to survey the city.

For more, see,_Bristol

24 November 2012

Visit a prison built for French and American prisoners of war

Viewing the world with a 20th and 21st century mindset, it's hard to imagine a situation when there Britain would capture French and American prisoners of war but there was a time when it happened, and a place was needed to put them the French prisoners - taken during the Napoleonic Wars - were first imprisoned in derelict ships but between 1806 and 1809 Dartmoor prison was built to house them, and after 1812 they were joined by Americans taken in the war of 1812.

It isn't hard to see why the location - at the centre of one southern England's last great wildernesses - was chosen, but this is not just a historical anomaly and the prison still operates today and is home to more than 600 inmates. Indeed, but for a short break when it was used for conscientious objectors during the Great War, it has been in use as a prison ever since and a small museum operated by the Prison charts its history and even sells benches and garden ornaments made by inmates.

For more, see

23 November 2012

See the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, St Ives

Though the great 20th century sculptor Barbara Hepworth was born in Wakefield and spent time in Hampstead and Italy, moved to St Ives in Cornwall with her husband Ben Nicholson in 1939, and acquired a traditional stone building called Trewyn studios in 1949, working there until she was killed in a fire in the building in 1975.

The building which had become Hepworth's home was opened to the public - according to her wishes - in 1976 and remains open to the public all year round, allowing visitors the opportunity to see the place where Hepworth lived and worked and also to explore the beautiful garden she created with her friend, the South African-born composer Priaulx Rainier, who helped plant it with exotic plants.

For more, see

22 November 2012

Visit the Tate's southwestern outpost

It's easy for Londoners to think that the Tate empire extends no further than Bankside and Pimlico, but most will be aware that there are other galleries under the Tate banner and last week your author visited the Tate St Ives for the first time. Designed by architects Evans and Shalev on the site of a former gas works the gallery is on Porthmeor Beach and opened in a town long famous for its art in 1993.

Though the block of flats being rather noisily built next door was rather off-putting, a warm welcome awaited and the current show The Far and The Near: St Ives and International Art was a good introduction to art in St Ives and how it fits with the wider world, even if the film which accompanied it was rather full of puffed-up artspeak. From there, your author continued to the Barbara Hepworth Museum & Sculpture Garden, of which more in a couple of days.

For more, see

21 November 2012

Find Sir John Betjeman's final resting place

It was during childhood visits that the late poet Sir John Betjeman fell in love with the chapel of St Enodoc, a building tracing its history back to the 12th century which stands among sand dunes on the North coast of Cornwall, and it's easy to see why. Overlooking Daymer Bay and the Doom Bar now famous with ale drinkers across the land, the chapel had been buried in sand dunes between the 16th and 18th century, accessed for annual services through a hole in the roof.

When the sands eventually receded new life was breathed into St Enodoc's, and it was renovated in 1864 and this was the way Betjeman came to love it, first as a child, then when he immortalised it in his poem about the village of Trebetherick. In fact it was so important to him that as a seasoned visitor of thousands of churches he chose to be laid to rest in the graveyard, where he can still be found.

For more, see

20 November 2012

Visit Madron Holy Well

A couple of miles north of Penzance, and at the end of a winding muddy path, Madron Holy Well is thought to date from pre-Christian times and is still visited by passers-by. The well is easy to find, with signposts and more traditional 'clouties' - pieces of rag tied to the tree according to traditional custom at healing wells.

Nearby, a ruined chapel from the 12th century contains a well with running water in corner where it fills a simple baptistry before being piped away. Many suggest there was a simple building here from Celtic times onwards, and the water was thought to have healing properties, bringing many to bathe in its healing waters. Local folklore tells of John Trelill, who had been a cripple for 16 years, being cured by the water in the 17th century.

For more, see

19 November 2012

Drink at the Pandora Inn, Cornwall

A thatched pub at the end of a long Cornish lane, the Pandora Inn sits beside sleepy Restronguet Creek and was once a farmhouse until, in the 1200s it became a pub. Though it was the victim of a quite horrific fire last year and is also occasionally subject to flooding it is open

The pub has now fully recovered from the fire and when your author dropped in last week to do some afternoon reading, the only fire he found was one of two log fires quietly burning in the grates, whilst the interior of the pub had been restored quite brilliantly, and we are told that those responsible were keen to do so with according to traditional building methods and using correct materials, as per the Grade II listing.

For more, see

18 November 2012

Visit Newlyn Art Gallery

Opened in 1895 in Newlyn near Penzance, Newlyn Art Gallery was originally a place to exhibit the art of the Newlyn School of artists, a group of Victorian artists who had established themselves in the small fishing village to paint in plein air and observe the light and scenery of West Cornwall.

Today, the gallery is still going strong, and following redevelopments in 2007 it has been extended with the inevitable addition of an attractive first floor cafe with panoramic sea views.

For more, see

17 November 2012

See some art in a Bristol front room

In Bristol this weekend, the artists of Totterdown are throwing open their front doors and inviting you to see some art in their front rooms.

The trail has been going since 2001, and is an annual event, attracting thousands to see the work of 180 artists across 60 different venues. Only their boast that they are "the oldest of Bristol's art trails" seems a bit odd.

For more, see

^Picture © Steve Daniels used under a Creative Commons license^

16 November 2012

Visit Helston Folk Museum

A brilliant little museum in the Cornish Market Town of Helston, the Helston Folk Museum is run by Cornwall Museums and is quite deceptively large. A collection of many different aspects of life in a town with a small population but a proud heritage, it certainly puts many London borough museums to shame.

Whilst the contents might at first seem like a ramshackle collection of items, in fact they tell many aspects of the story of this little Cornish town, through artefacts such as a huge cider press, the paperwork and photographs of the town's first motorcar and various items referring to the folk history of the area and the the smugglers who were once rife on the Cornish coast.

For more, see

^Picture © T J Wright used under a Creative Commons license^

From mid November to late January, Tired of London, Tired of Life is becoming and featuring interesting things to do in England

15 November 2012

Sit beside the fire at the Warren House Inn

Whatever the weather outside, visitors to the Warren House Inn can always be sure of a warm welcome, so warm in fact that the fire has burnt continuously since 1845. The Inn cuts a lonely figure in the middle of Dartmoor, on what was once a packhorse route serving local tin mines.

Formerly known as the New House, the pub was renamed after a rabbit warren which was once situated close to the Inn, the Warren House was built in the eighteenth century on the site of an earlier pub, and where once it served miners from what was then a thriving local industry, today your are more likely to find the pub populated by walkers enjoying the local scenery, sheltering from a shower as the miners did before them.

For more, see

^Picture © Martin Bodman used under a Creative Commons license^

From mid November to late January, Tired of London, Tired of Life is becoming and featuring interesting things to do in England

13 November 2012

Admire the view from Selsley Common

An area of common land overlooking the town of Stroud in Gloucestershire, Selsley Common comprises nearly 160 acres of limestone grassland with stunning views over the the Severn Vale and towards the Stroud Valleys, which once boasted around 150 woolen mills, creating cloth for export around the world.

The town of Stroud is lucky to boast significant areas of common land, grazed by cattle but open to the public to roam as they please and popular with paragliders. However, Selsley is the most interesting, said to have been used as a camp and lookout by soldiers loyal to Edward - who was later to become King Edward I - during the Baron's War of 1263-67 and also boasting the remains of a neolithic long barrow called The Toots. Beneath the common, Selsley Church, funded by Sir Samuel Marling, and designed by G. F. Bodley, is celebrated for its gallery of pre-Raphaelite stained glass by William Morris and others.

For more, see

12 November 2012

Drink at The Bell, Aldworth

Yesterday afternoon, your author set out from South East London in brilliant sunshine to rediscover England, making his first stop at the Bell Inn in Aldworth, Berkshire, a beautiful pub which traces its origins back to the 14th century, and on a sunny Sunday is a fine example of how a village pub can still be right at the heart of a community.

The Bell has been in the same family for some 250 years, and your author understands by way of a talkative local that it is very safe in the hands of the latest generation. Tucked away beneath the Ridgeway in a village who all seemed to be happily passing their Sunday enjoying each other's company over ale and crusty sandwiches, it certainly seemed to be. If all villages could have a friendly local like the Bell, busy with village life and and so beautiful inside that it warrants a listing in the National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors, the world would be a better place.

For more, see

5 November 2012

See the Lewes' Bonfire Night celebrations

Though Saturday's celebrations at Brockham are dear to your author's heart - especially in a village setting like the one in which his childhood bonfire nights were spent - the annual celebrations at Lewes in Sussex, where the town's seven Bonfire Societies unite for spectacular displays on 5th November, is certainly a thoroughly competitive occasion.

From the procession of the flaming martyrs crosses and effigies of Guy Fawkes and Pope Paul V, to the letting off of bangers and other fireworks at very close proximity to spectators, the evening is a thoroughly traditional affair and though crowds get ridiculously big in some years, this year - with the 5th falling on a Monday night - offers as good a chance as any to see the celebrations up close. The six societies put on a number of different parades, firework displays and bonfires, occasionally making the evening quite confusing to the uninitiated, but it will certainly not be a disappointing experience for attendees.

For more, see

3 November 2012

Attend Brockham Bonfire

Brockham Bonfire, in the Surrey village of Brockham near Dorking, is often cited as Britain's biggest Guy Fawkes night celebration and traces its history back to around the 1880s. Today, it is attended by around 20,000 people from the surrounding area and further afield, and the huge bonfire and fireworks display are certainly amongst the most impressive your author has ever seen.

Apart from the stunning bonfire and fireworks displays, one of the most enjoyable parts of the evening is the procession, where the Guy is taken on an hour-long walk around neighbouring hamlets to followed by a band and ordinary people carrying huge numbers of real flaming torches, before the group returns to the green for the Guy to be hoisted on top of the fire and the torchbearers to simultaneously light the huge fire. It's certainly an occasion worthy of attending for those in the area, and anyone within striking distance.

For full logistics, see

20 September 2012

Climb Skiddaw

Towering 3,053ft above the town of Keswick in the Lake District, Skiddaw is the sixth highest mountain in England, and offers amazing views from its summit.

A path rises steeply from the car park at Latrigg, meaning walkers need strong legs to haul themselves upwards over Little Man towards the summit.

The peak is made largely of scree and offers fantastic views, with various other paths to return to the base of the mountain.

It is a decent walk, that takes a fair few hours. For more information, see

23 July 2012

See Maggi Hambling's Scallop at Aldeburgh

A tribute to Aldeburgh's most famous resident, Benjamin Britten, Scallop stands on the beach between the town and Thorpeness to the north, and was unveiled in 2003, designed by local artist Maggi Hambling, initially to some scepticism, but seemingly popular with visitors and walking locals when your author dropped by last week.

The sculpture rises 15ft high from the shingle and features six and a half tonnes of interlocking stainless steel scallop shells, featuring the words "I hear those voices that will not be drowned" from Britten's opera Peter Grimes.

For more, see

27 May 2012

Eat at the Wild Duck, Ewen

The Wild Duck Inn, at the picturesque village of Ewen in South Gloucestershire, is a former coaching Inn dating back to 1563.

A short walk from the source of the River Thames, its cosy inside bar is typical of Cotswold pubs of the area, but is improved with various flourishes including old oil portraits and a roaring log fire throughout the winter months.

Whilst the food is restaurant quality, this is a real pub, with 5 reals and friendly bar staff. There is also a sheltered garden with plenty of space to sit out in the summer months.

For more, see