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Days 41-44: East & West Midlands

28 June 2012

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Major Oak, Sherwood Forest. Photograph by John W. SchulzeMajor Oak, Sherwood Forest. Photograph by John W. Schulze
Day 41: Lincoln / Saxilby / Darlton / East Markham / Tuxford / Kirton / Boughton / Edwinstowe / Mansfield / Kelham / Newark-on-Trent / Balderton / Grantham / Radcliff-on-Trent / West Bridgford / Nottingham

On Day 41 of the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay, the Olympic Flame continues its journey through the East Midlands. Beginning at Lincoln, the Torch heads west towards Mansfield. Along the way, the Torch will pass a treasured English forest, once home to the legendary Robin Hood. Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve contains some of Europe’s oldest trees including oaks that are more than five centuries old. The Major Oak, situated in the heart of the forest, is estimated to be over 800 years old! Enjoy a stroll around this ecological paradise before catching up with the Torch Relay as it heads south towards Grantham.

The market town of Grantham has been home to many notable residents, including Margret Thatcher (who was born here in 1925) and Isaac Newton (who was born in Woolsthorpe Manor, Grantham, in 1642). Newton lived in Woolsthorpe Manor for much of his life and made many breakthrough scientific discoveries there. Torch Relay enthusiasts who visit this house can also get a glimpse of the famous apple tree which inspired his ideas on gravity.

A few stops after Grantham the Torch reaches its final destination for the day, Nottingham. A must-see in this area is . Built in 1086 by William the Conqueror’s son, the castle has a chequered past but is best known as the legendry home of the Sherriff of Nottingham, Robin Hood’s mortal enemy. For visitors who are looking for something a little different on their break from the Torch Relay, why not visit the Galleries of Justice Museum or head further out to Southwell where you can visit a Victorian Workhouse.

Galleries of Justice Museum, Nottingham. Photograph by Melody Joy Kramer

On Day 42 the Olympic Flame and the Torch Bearers run from Nottingham across to Matlock. At Matlock the torch will travel via cable car to the Heights of Abraham. Eager Torch Relay followers intending to greet the Torch at the summit will be rewarded with stunning views of the Derwent Valley World Heritage Site and Peak District from this excellent vantage point. Alternatively, you could take a short detour from the Torch Relay route to the Black Rock Country Park. Black Rock is a small park that gives fantastic views from a grit stone outcrop (where the park gets its name) across towards Cromford, Matlock Bath and Matlock itself. Heading further west, as the Torch will head into the beautiful landscape of the Peak District. A short distance from the Torch Relay’s next stop at Bakewell is the region’s most significant prehistoric site. The Arbor Low Stone Circle is a Neolithic henge monument which consists of 50 limestone slabs. Set amidst atmospheric moorland and surrounded by Derbyshire countryside, a visit to this site would provide a calming afternoon break from the Torch Relay.

Arbor Low Stone Circle, Bakewell. Photograph by Sam Salt

By the evening the Olympic Flame heads out of the Peak district and towards Derby for the evening celebrations. Derby, a town which lies on the banks of the River Derwent, has many interesting heritage sites, none more so than Pickford House. This Georgian townhouse was once home to Joseph Pickford, a famous local architect synonymous with the area. Visitors to the house can catch a glimpse of Georgian life through the period rooms and the Museum’s excellent collection of historic textiles and costumes. Derby is also home to the National Sikh Museum. This modern museum tells the stories and histories of the Sikh community through artefacts and multi-visual displays.

Sarehole Mill, Birmingham. Copyright © Richard Barker

Day 43: Derby / Burton on Trent / Streethay / Lichfield / Hopwas / Tamworth / Great Wyrley / Newtown / Bloxwich / Leamore / Birchills / Walsall / Willenhall / Wolverhampton / Dudley / Oldbury / West Bromwich / Smethwick / Birmingham

Day 43 sees the Olympic flame leaving Derby, running south west and entering Staffordshire. In the morning the Torch will pass through the historic city of Lichfield and its beautiful Cathedral. If you have time, why not have a look around this place of worship and admire some pieces from the Staffordshire Hoard (uncovered in 2009 only a few miles from the site) that are currently on display in the thirteenth-century chapterhouse. Not far from Lichfield is the National Memorial Arboretum. The arboretum recognizes the service and sacrifice of UK soldiers in this permanent national centre of remembrance. Spend a tranquil morning amongst the 50,000 maturing trees and 200 memorials, which provide a lasting tribute to the dead.

Towards the afternoon of the Torch Relay, the flame will reach the West Midlands and pass through the town of Dudley. The remains of Dudley Castle overlook this town which is steeped in both industrial history and craft. One unusual site to visit is the Lace Guild which celebrates the art of handmade lace. Here, you can learn the history of lace-making and view an extensive collection at their museum. Finally, the Torch reaches the industrial heart of the West Midlands, Birmingham, famously known as the ‘workshop of the world.’ If you would like to discover more about Birmingham’s diverse industrial and cultural heritage then you can download a free Walk the World walking trail by visiting the website. Another way to learn more about Birmingham’s industrial history is by paying a visit to Sarehole Mill. This 200 year old mill once provided inspiration for J.R.R. Tolkein’s fantasy stories, and today the Sarehole Mill provides visitors with a unique insight into the lives of millers during the 1800s.

If Edwardian splendor is more your cup of tea, then alternatively visit Winterbourne House and Garden and why not end your busy day with a stroll around the woodland gardens, crossing the 1930s Japanese bridge and admiring the gardens’ 6,000 plant species from around the world.

Doom painting. Collegiate church of St Mary, Warwick. Photograph by Walwyn

Day 44: Birmingham / Solihull / Earlswood / Redditch / Astwood Bank / Alcester / Evesham / Wickhamford / Broadway / Chipping Campden / Newbold on Stour / Alderminster / Stratford-Upon-Avon / Warwick / Royal Leamington Spa / Kenilworth / Coventry

On Day 44, the Torch will make its way through the Midlands and Warwickshire, reaching the county town of Warwick in the afternoon. Warwick is known for its historic connections, from its Neolithic past to William the Conqueror who founded Warwick Castle. The Collegiate Church of St Mary is a must-see if you are in the area. For over 1,000 years people have worshipped in this church, which houses the resting places of past Earls, including that of Richard Beauchamp, whose tomb has been described by National Trust chairman Simon Jenkins as a ‘masterpiece of medieval art’.

As the Torch continues its journey through Warwickshire it will also pass through Kenilworth. Much like Warwick Castle, Kenilworth Castle dominates the skyline and stands out as another of England’s most enigmatic ruins. This imagery is partly thanks to Walter Scott’s romance novel Kenilworth which brought the haunting romantic castle new-found fame. Reaching the end of its route for the day, the Torch and its bearers will rest for the evening at Coventry. Coventry has strong manufacturing roots and is known as the birthplace of the British motor and cycle industry. If you have time in the afternoon, discover the stories behind the development of road transport (from bicycles to the fastest cars ever produced) at the Coventry Transport Museum.

Coventry Transport Museum. Photograph by Coventry City Council

We hope you have a fun weekend of discovery and exploration along and near the Torch Relay. We’ll be back on Monday with more tips for things to see and do as the Torch heads back into the East Midlands and the East of England.


Post by Katy, Discovering Place team


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