Located as we are in the heart of the Vale of Belvoir, sometimes it’s good to find a decent cafe, have a culture fix, or just do some shopping. We are lucky to have some great market towns nearby – no need to steel oneself to enter a great metropolis but instead to stick with a calmer pace of life.
This charming market town is our closest – about 5 miles away. There is a regular street market there on Thursdays, and a lovely farmers market on the third Saturday each month.
Highlights: We love the Picture Cafe for coffee, lunch or an indulgent tea and cake. The Handicentre -a great hardware shop if you share our fetish for Very Useful Things from asparagus steamers to replacement zips. The decent fish and chip shop. A great real ale pub – the Horse & Groom – which also has a great restaurant upstairs. A friendly pet shop on the market square. There is a swimming pool at Bingham leisure centre.
Well worth visiting, Southwell is very pretty and its historic architecture is well preserved. There are lots of gorgeous shops – interior decor, boutiques and good cafes. We particularly love the Old Theatre Cafe, which has an imaginative menu and fantastic cakes, and is also a deli. There is a market here on Saturdays. The highlight is of course Southwell Minster, the stunning 11th Century cathedral, which hosts an annual music festival. As well as Anglican services concerts are often held there. Southwell holds an annual folk festival in June (9th-12th in 2016) and a poetry festival. It also has a racecourse, and is home to the Brackenhurst campus of Nottingham Trent University. A National trust property, the Workhouse, is the most complete workhouse that remains, and nearby is the British Horological Institute, a paeon to all things time-related. En route from Colston Bassett is the excellent Gonalston Farm Shop http://gonalstonfarmshop.co.uk/
Southwell’s small size (population about 7000) belies its important place in history:
- A large Roman villa was excavated in the Minster grounds
- A 7th century Saint and Abbess, Eadburh, daughter of Ealdwulf of East Anglia, was buried at the Saxon church
- Geoffrey Plantaganet, eldest son of Henry II and later Archbishop of York, was ordained a priest here
- Particularly of interest to us at Manor Farm House, because of the connection to English Civil War through Francis Hacker, is that the Saracen’s Head hosted the stay of Charles I on his last night as a free man (May 1646). Hacker was involved in the monarch’s arrest and was subsequently his custodian until the king’s execution.
- Lord Byron stayed in a rented house in the town during his school and university holidays, instead of at the decaying Newstead Abbey ( which was the family seat.
- The famous Bramley cooking apple was first seeded here, in 1809.
Melton carries the title of ‘rural capital of food’ and is famous for its pork pies – a different creature from the tasteless, soggy travesty of a pie to be found in motorway service stations. Recipes are closely guarded secrets and there is a pork pie competition here in the Vale which provides a focus for zealous rivalry. On Tuesdays Melton has a farmers market (also on Friday mornings), an antiques market, and a street market. If you want to buy ‘on the hoof’ – go on, take home your own hens – there is a famous livestock market, also on Tuesdays.
Melton has a fabulous art deco cinema – the Ritz – which has wonderful seating (including romantic double sofas), the cleanest loos in the British Isles, drinks you can take into the film, and did I mention the cake?
Melton Mowbray was capital of the hunting scene in the 19th Century until the outbreak of World War II. It became particularly notorious for drunken, riotous aristocrats ‘painting the town red’. and moonlit steeplechases with the riders wearing frilly white nightdresses. In the second half of the 1920s it was the location for the Prince of Wales’s playboy activities, including meeting Wallis Simpson, over whom he later abdicated the English throne.
Belton House is a National Trust property outside Grantham. Lovely walks and an adventure playground for children, and an excellent garden centre.
Woolsthorpe Manor – National Trust property which was birthplace and family home to Isaac Newton. This connection ties in with the Gravity Fields festival which explores science.
Burghley House is near Stamford. It is hosts the famous Horse Trials in September each year. The house has a fabulous art collection.
The Civil War Centre, Newark. Recently opened, it has a really fun, imaginative and interactive approach. It includes a film about our famous predecessor, Francis Hacker, as well as his battle jacket.
The Workhouse at Southwell, a National Trust property, very well preserved.
The Dukeries – the estates of Clumber Park, Welbeck Abbey, Thoresby Hall and Worksop Manor, all in the vicinity of Sherwood Forest, which includes the Major Oak of Robin Hood legend.
Activities for Children
Twin Lakes, Melton Mowbray, Children’s Adventure Park
The Wildflower Farm Langar
Arena UK – Equestrian events
Racecourses at Southwell, Nottingham and Leicester
Walking and Cycling
NB Nathan – is it best to put web links to the places mentioned here, or elsewhere?