Tim Locke, Series Editor of Bradt’s Slow Guides, author of Slow Sussex and all-round expert on how best to soak up England’s sites at a relaxed pace, shares some of his favourites things to experience in England — with plenty of hidden gems thrown in along the way.
Tell us about your ultimate Sussex experience.
One particular walk I did from Rye to Hastings was absolutely tremendous. You start in the historic town of Rye and end up looking down into Hastings old town, where you can have fish and chips in Maggie’s — one of the best fish and chip shops around, anywhere.
What’s the one thing everyone must see or experience in England?
I think the key thing about travelling anywhere, particularly England, is actually meeting people. Whether you’re chatting to stall holders on a farmers market, watching a cricket match and chatting with the fans, or meeting up with nature enthusiasts for a fungus foray or bird watching — they’re all great ways of getting under the skin of a place.
What’s your most cherished English holiday memory?
It would have to be the North Norfolk coast — we used to go there for family holidays. We’d stay at a windmill there among all this salt marshy scenery; absolutely haunting beauty. There’s as much sky there as there is ground, because Norfolk is so flat. We’d walk along this dyke from a place called Overy Staithe to Gun Hill, and on to Holkham. I ended up getting engaged there too!
The coast is world class. You won’t find anywhere else in Europe where so much of it is accessible, and so varied. There are great cliffs, wetlands, urban scenery and beaches.
Tell us about one of England’s lesser-known gems.
Saltaire, on the edge of Bradford. A wonderful example of a factory village, built by the magnate, Sir Titus Salt, for his employees. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, superbly designed, and the old mill there now houses one of the biggest collections of David Hockney’s works around (David Hockney was a local lad) and it’s free. The 1853 Mill was a really surprising place too; it’s full of opera sets for Glyndebourne.
Describe the best foodie experience you’ve ever had in England…
Harome in North Yorkshire, at The Star Inn. The guy who runs it is an ex-rugby player and local, Anthony Pern, and he’s done an amazing job of turning a village pub into a great gastro pub. It’s a nice mixture of what an English pub should look like with a sort of modern twist to the décor as well.
What can you get from England that you can’t get anywhere else?
The coast is world class. You won’t find anywhere else in Europe where so much of it is accessible, and so varied. There are great cliffs, wetlands, urban scenery and beaches. You can potter around by boat, go diving in it, and in places you can get public transport around it. My favourite part would be Broadstairs in Kent — lovely sandy bays and a great place to take kids.
Of all the English places you know, which best encapsulates England?
Herefordshire has this sort of almost nostalgic quality of old England about it and it looks absolutely stunning. It’s not particularly well known, and doesn’t have mega sights in it, but you can potter around on a bike, or walking, and you’ll find people to talk to and little things that pop out at you that are very different from south east England, south west England or north England.
Could you recommend your top three family experiences in England?
Number one would be the Historic Dockyard in Portsmouth, which is an absolutely five-star attraction and it’s got these three enormous, very different historic ships. Number two, all children seem to like steam trains. One of my favourites is the Bluebell Railway in Sussex. Number three, the London Eye seems to be very popular with kids, you can do that and the Aquarium because they’re very close together.
You’ve got two days in England and £100 in your pocket. Where do you go and what do you do?
I’d cycle from my home town of Lewes down to Chichester. I’d do a bit of sightseeing: Amberley Museum, a really fascinating museum about working life in the south east, and Bignor Roman Villa, which has probably the greatest mosaics ever discovered in Britain, in a gorgeous spot under the South Downs. Or the Weald and Downland Museum. which has recreated buildings and crafts being demonstrated, that’s a super place to go too. Then I’d get to Chichester, have a potter round there and hop on a train back home.
Tell us about a holiday you had in England that positively redefined how you see England?
When I was a teenagerI rented a cottage in Shropshire from a friend. It was probably the first time that I became aware of what the Industrial Revolution was all about, because down the road was Ironbridge and those incredible physicalities of Ironbridge Gorge. It’s such a dramatic place, with this tremendous 1779 iron bridge over the River Severn. The sense of history really gripped me there.
Where would you take your family on a holiday in England today, and why?
If I had older children I’d take them on a canal boat trip around the Cheshire Ring, which takes you around Cheshire and Staffordshire, and parts of the Peak District, and right through central Manchester. In fact the first time I arrived in Manchester it was by canal boat. That’s a really nice circular tour of a not so well known part of the north west, but really worth seeing.