The journey from Leeds to London and back should be a familiar path for me by now but in a coach departing after 6pm it's pretty difficult to see road signs. In addition, I have an unfortunate habit of accidentally sitting on the right of the coach so that I am too far away from the side of the road. Normally I am generally only interested in my exact whereabouts on the journey up from London to Leeds when this information would be useful for The Boy in order to meet me at the right time or for me to gauge whether I am going to arrive on time. Sadly the only trusty landmark I can rely on to help me estimate my arrival time is good old well-lit up Meadowhall.
This week, for the first time in a long while I undertook this route by car. Setting out in the afternoon for our annual journey to Kent for the family Christmas, meant we were travelling in daylight. Being much more lit-up with the vastly-improved visibility of a front car seat also meant that I was actually able to read road signs and in doing so, was reminded of a few place names that I have frequently passed and often wondered what their “Unique Selling Point” is.
To satisfy my own curiosity and for the benefit of others who regularly take on this mammoth drive or who at least regularly pass segments of this route, it seemed fitting to find out just what there is to do, other than visit churches, in some of these repeat offenders, old friends and intriguingly named destinations...
Grantham – I have always wondered if there's anything there, having passed through it many times in a train and coach. In this historic market town there's actually a surprising number of things to do and see: the Grantham & Queen's Royal Lancers Museum, historic home Belton House, Easton Walled Gardens, Belvoir Castle and Woolsthorpe Manor. For those less into historic Britain who fancy a break in their journey, why not check out Ancaster Karting, Quads and Paintball or go tenpin bowling. Personally my favourite, and I think the most appealing, Grantham fact is that it was recently awarded the title of “Home Of The World's Hottest Chilli 2010”.
Newark – Like Grantham, this is merely another train/coach curiosity. Having rolled on through Newark many a time, I can't help but guess what local folk get up to to pass their time and The Boy hopes there's a welcome sign pointing out its name is an anagram of “wanker”. A quick google search and there's surprisingly no such information about Newark's name but like Grantham it's a historic market town with a fair bit to see: castle ruins and gardens, Newark Air/Millgate Museums, a tour-able Georgian town hall and river Trent walks. For those into their antiquities, it might be interesting to know Newark is home to six huge annual antiques fairs held at Newark County Showroom. I'm most amused by the overly specific Newark walking trails advertised: a Civil War trail, a Medieval timber framed buildings trail, a malting and brewing trail...
Godmanchester – We both imagine Godmanchester to be a smaller version of its great northern counterpart solely comprised of churches. Oddly, instead of a church, the first tourist attraction I find listed for the Roman town of Godmanchester is a stroll over its Chinese footbridge. Although a good base for a whole array of nearby attractions, Godmanchester's only other draw is booking on a family run tour around the privately owned Georgian country house, Island Hall. Despite it's scant attractions, Godmanchester clearly has an I.T. savvy proud resident: www.godmanchester.net/residents/placestogo.htm.
The Alconburys - This one is signposted near to the following curiously-named place and sounds like it's the manor house that accompanies the paupers estate, The Stukeleys: an abominable place of no escape from social rank. Both built on the old Roman road of Ermine Street, unsurprisingly The Alconburys and The Stukeleys villages, offer little to entertain passers by but a church and former RAF airfield. If you're ever stuck in the area you can at least take comfort in knowing that “ Great Stukeley village” actually has a hotel and there's also a website dedicated to village life: www.thestukeleys-pc.gov.uk/