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Last week, I traveled, virtually, to Banbury and Sulgrave. Heather reviewed the historical romance, The Scoundrel’s Bartered Bride by Virginia Heath. Tina shared her Top Ten Tuesday list of books that she’s most looking forward to during the rest of 2020, five of which are British titles. Jean shared her irritation with Peter Ackroyd’s Thames: The Biography and her appreciation for learning about the life of Edward Lear from the biography Edward Lear: The Life of a Wanderer by Vivien Noakes.
I’m still catching up on the Minimal List channel, a video diary of a couple who have lived and traveled on a narrowboat for three years. I’m also watching new videos as the are published, so I’m kind of following two different timelines.
In my catch-up, I’m up to January 2019. In the previous few weeks, they went through the canals of Birmingham, a city that we really enjoyed — here are my Top Ten Reasons to Visit Birmingham. Then, they went out to where we had one of our favorite day trips, the Black Country Living Museum. They hoped to go through the Dudley Tunnel (that I visited on the boat tour), but their modern boat wouldn’t fit.
In their current travels, the Minimal List crew just did a stint on the tidal Trent. I couldn’t have told you where the River Trent was until I looked it up, so that’s the location of today’s fantasy trip.
The River Trent is the third longest river in the UK, behind the Severn and the Thames. It runs east and, then, north from Stoke-on-Trent to a confluence with the River Ouse in Yorkshire. The two rivers combine to form the long Humber estuary in northeast England that joins the North Sea.
The source of the River Trent is in Staffordshire in the West Midlands, a county famous for pottery. The historical and current pottery factories are in the present-day city of Stoke-on-Trent.
There are several ways to learn about Staffordshire pottery:
- The Wedgwood Museum, besides housing an enormous collection of ceramics, also tells the history of the Wedgwood company and conducts factory tours.
- Potteries Museum & Art Gallery is more of a local history museum with collections that include locally-made pottery, pieces from the Staffordshire Hoard (Anglo-Saxon gold and metalwork discovered in 2009), and the Leekfirth torks (Iron Age gold jewelry discovered by hobby metal detectorists in 2016).
- Gladstone Pottery Museum contains a complex of buildings, including kilns, used in the making of pottery. They have put out a handful of videos during lockdown, including one this week encouraging us all to make our own coil pots.
Farther downstream, Burton upon Trent is known for brewing. At its 19th century peak, it produced a quarter of all the beer consumed in Britain. Currently, Burton remains home to eight breweries. The National Brewery Centre tells this history and offers beer-tasting sessions.
The next major population center is Nottingham, famous for its association with the Robin Hood legend, but also known for the making of lace, bicycles, and tobacco products. The Lace Market, once the center of the world’s lace-making industry, is now an area of converted warehouses and other buildings with apartments and retail and other sites of interest, including the National Justice Museum and the Nottingham Contemporary art museum. Nottingham Castle, when it completes its current refurbishment, will include a gallery devoted to the Robin Hood legend. Sherwood Forest is now a National Nature Reserve.
Newark-on-Trent is the home to Newark Castle (in ruins, but with significant remains that can be visited) and the National Civil War Centre, which provides the National Civil War Trail — an app that leads you around Newark to learn about the civil war sites.
Gainsborough, just south of the Humber Estuary on the Trent, was once the most inland port in England. Gainsborough may have been the inspiration for St. Ogg’s, the fictional town where The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot was set. Gainsborough Old Hall is one of the best preserved medieval manor houses in England. The Riverside Walk in Gainsborough looks like a lovely place to wander along the Trent.
Have you visited this area of England? What did I miss that I should add to my fantasy itinerary?