Friday, 4 September 2009

A Trip Inland

Over the Bank Holiday I took a ride out of London up to the curious checkerboard of counties to the north-east of the capital – Rutland, Huntingdonshire, Northamptonshire, Cambridge – visiting the pretty market town of Uppingham with its imposing, fortress-like public school (alma mater of Stephen Fry among others), one of a number in the area, most notably Oakham and Oundle. South-east of there lies the hamlet of Little Gidding, immortalised in T.S. Eliot’s trilogy of the same name, collected in the Four Quartets. It is a poem of brilliant historical imagination,
High Tory in its sympathy, conciliatory in its message, written at a time when Britain was fighting for its very existence, calling on the resources of the past to create a brighter future.

Seeing the tiny chapel, built by the Anglican visionary Nicholas Ferrar, who is buried in the shade of the façade, one understands why it was of such inspiration to Eliot. At the time we arrived, locals were preparing for Evensong, held every fifth Sunday of a month. There were no tourists. In fact, there were so few cars in the whole area that it reminded me of rural Ireland.

Why are there so few visitors to a region of charming villages, fine pubs, beautiful landscape and a rich historical legacy? Because it’s not near the sea; it seems that on weekends and holidays England tips towards the coast while those of us who love England’s interior can have it to ourselves. ‘We came from the sea, that’s why we go back to it again and again’, noted a friend.

‘All the more reason to go inland,’ say I.

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