02 July 2012
The Torch Relay has been travelling around the UK for the last 44 days and we have been following it on its journey, picking the best places for you to discover and enjoy near its route. Today, we will accompany the Torch and its bearers run through the East Midlands across to the East of England, enjoying all the sights and sounds along the way.
Day 45 begins in Coventry, a city right in the heart of the UK. There is a lot to see whilst waiting to catch a glimpse of the Olympic Torch, including the famous Coventry Cathedral built in the 20th century after the medieval cathedral was destroyed during World War II bombing. The remains of the medieval cathedral are still present as a reminder of the impact of war. Nearby is the less well-known St. Mary’s Guildhall one of the finest medieval guildhalls in the country, which has more than 650 years worth of history for visitors to explore. The hall has magnificent medieval interiors and fine artworks, including a tapestry dating from 1500. The building is also associated with famous figures from the UK’s history, including Mary Queen of Scots, William Shakespeare and George Eliot.
Whilst the Torch Relay takes an afternoon break later in the day at Kettering, why not have a relaxing break too in the Rockingham Forest? This area of rich and varied landscapes, where you can find pockets of farmland, open pasture and pockets of woodland, is a former royal medieval hunting ground and contains rich archaeological remains, including Bronze Age cairns. For those who prefer nature to history, there is a guarantee of wildlife, with anything from birds of prey to deer and badgers for lucky visitors.
As the Torch moves from West to East Midlands, we arrive for the evening celebration in Leicester. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the day’s excitement and the busy city, make a trip to Belgrave Hall, an oasis of peace and quiet to calm your nerves. The house has changed hands many times since it was built in the early 18th century and its period rooms show the contrasting lifestyles of the upper middle class and domestic servants in a Victorian house and gardens.
After setting off from Leicester in the morning, the Olympic Torch continues its East Midlands journey to Loughborough, the largest city in the County of Leicestershire. The destination of the first package tour by Thomas Cook in 1841, the city is also known for having the largest bell foundry in the world, The John Taylor Bellfoundry. The company manufactures bells for use in clock towers, change-ringing peals, chimes and carillons. The John Taylor Bellfoundry Museum shows the craft techniques of moulding, casting, tuning and fitting up of the bells. The company also cast the largest bell in Britain, ‘Great Paul’, for St Paul’s Cathedral in London. For a bit of a contrast to the industrial heritage of the area, take a walk up Burrough Hill for fine views over the Leicestershire countryside when the relay arrives in Melton Mowbray later in the day. The hill was once the site of an Iron Age Hill Fort and nowadays visitors can see the well-preserved rampart and venture along the waymarked trail.
One of the historic gems to discover in the East Midlands is Burghley House, near Stamford. Burghley House has 18 magnificent State rooms and a huge collection of works of art, including one of the most important private collections of 17th century Italian paintings and the earliest inventoried collection of Japanese ceramics in the west. The house is surrounded by historic parkland laid out by ‘Capability’ Brown and incorporates a modern sculpture park. The house is definitely worth a visit after cheering the Torch as it passes through Stamford towards the end of the day.
The day ends in Peterborough, and if you still have the energy for some sightseeing, Peterborough Cathedral has one of the most dramatic West Fronts in the country. It is an amazing example of medieval architecture with an extraordinary interior that has been little altered since its completion 800 years ago. There have been over 1350 years of Christian worship on the site and it is the home of important religious and historic artefacts, as well as being the burial place of two queens, Katherine of Aragon and Mary Queen of Scots.
Day 47 sees the Torch Relay wind its way through the East Midlands and to the East of England. The East Coast is not only known for its lovely beaches, but also for its long tradition of fishing and seafaring. When the Torch Relay takes an afternoon break in King’s Lynn, why not find our more about the traditional fisherman’s life at the last remaining fishermen’s yard in King’s Lynn’s fishing quarter. True’s Yard has been restored as a museum, exploring the rich maritime past of the North End. The museum captures the harsh realities of fishing life and the traditions and spirit of the close-knit fishing community.
With some of the best beaches in England, we’re hoping for good weather when the Olympic Torch reaches the North Norfolk Coast so we can enjoy the sand and sea. There are several small villages and towns full of seaside charm, so find your buckets and spades and prepare for a day at the seaside. Mundesley is one of North Norfolk’s best-kept secrets – a small and busy seaside village that offers sandy beaches and shallow pools. For those who don’t fancy a dip, there are plenty of footpaths and circular walks to follow close by. Sea Palling and Waxham are another couple of small villages which both have beautiful beaches and unique areas of unspoilt natural beauty. Sea Palling has a rich history dominated by sea flooding, shipwrecks and heroism on the waves. One of Waxham’s main draws is the opportunity to spot seals close to the shore, and later in the season, with their pups on the beach.
As the day comes to a close in Norwich there is still time for a little more heritage hunting. Strangers’ Hall is one of Norwich’s oldest and most fascinating buildings, dating back to 1320. The maze of rooms, guided tours, costumed characters and a 17th century knot garden sends the visitor vividly back to the days of the Tudors and Stuarts.
We hope you will enjoy the next couple of days following the Olympic Torch Relay from West to East and discovering the best of the Midlands and East of England’s heritage, wildlife and beautiful coast. We will be back on Monday following the Torch through the East of England with more heritage and nature finds for you to enjoy and explore.
Post by Hannah, Discovering Places team.
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