SIX REASONS TO DISCOVER HIDDEN ENGLAND



i am in an extremely lucky position, being able to travel this fine country of ours to its corners at the drop of a hat; i accept every offer to visit a new-to-me town that's thrown my way, never satisfied with staying home in london when i could be out exploring other parts of the united kingdom - and this past weekend was no different. this time, the offer to visit the home of hidden england was on the table, and with sun scheduled and ben in tow, i found myself on an early train out of the capital, headed an hour out of the city to lincolnshire for a country surprise. stretched across the county and its surrounds, "hidden england" aims to bring centuries-old heritage sites in to the spotlight as an integral part of english history, and promote tourism to some lesser-known towns



stamford georgian festival

like stamford. the lincolnshire town is regarded by many as england's finest stone town, with the best examples of original georgian buildings. so much so that this year marks the 50th anniversary of stamford's award as the uk's first conservation town - recognised for its unspoiled georgian streets, and totally varied historical architecture. so unspoiled in fact, that the bbc frequently pops by to film in its perfectly-cobbled streets! and, this september, stamford celebrates its biennial georgian festival; a celebration planned to highlight the history of the town through the eras, while promoting the colourful history of the otherwise "beige" town.





and i don't mean beige as in boring. sandstone aside, there was plenty of colour to be seen, and not least of all in our walking tour guide for the day, jill. she was one sassy lady. her knowledge of the town's history was unparalleled, and she had us in stitches for the hours we were with her. from her banter about dentures and overweight lords to the origins of phrases like "taking the piss" and "getting plastered", jill kicked off our stamford adventure with a lot of colourful anecdotes.




green spaces

despite the beige buildings, the town is totally colourful. well actually, it's totally green. the georgian town literally rises out of fields and forests and farms, and then disappears back into them about a mile later. you can pretty much see right across the town to the neighbouring fields from the highest point in the town, and the sandstone village is but a blip on an otherwise green radar. it's beautiful, and it's no surprise the town has been used for various films and tv programmes, with sir walter scott calling stamford "the finest scene between london and edinburgh", and i absolutely agree.





with over 600 listed buildings, six churches, and a zillion pubs all standing within a square mile, there's still more grass than anything. the river welland runs through the town, and provides some really stellar photography opportunities to boot. as does the town's lone swan, who sits adoringly on her nest, awaiting the birth of her latest chick. i suppose all of this combined helped the town to be named the 'best place to live in the uk' by the sunday times in 2013 and 2017. again, i'd buy that.




burghley house.. 

is england's greatest remaining elizabethan house, and was built for queen elizabeth's most trusted advisor and chief spy at the time: william cecil (more on him below), the first lord burghley. it's filled to the walls with history and heritage, as well as delicious treats in the on-site restaurant called the "orangery", which peers out over one of the many gardens surrounding the grand house. each dish served up in the conservatory is full of locally sourced, fresh ingredients, and if our two meals (a fish pie and pork belly dish, with sweet potato fries, of course) were anything to go by, are all bloody delightful to boot.





the heaven room and the hell staircase were a personal highlight, demonstrating new heights when it comes to wall-to-ceiling artwork. i've been to the vatican city and seen *those* pieces that people wait a lifetime to see, and can hand on heart say that the pieces on the walls, on the ceilings, on the staircases inside burghley house totally blew my little mind away. they were utterly stunning, and i left with a book detailing each of the works - which i can't wait to crack open and learn more about. this house and it's orangery are 100% worth the trip to stamford alone; trust me.




..and gardens 

designed by capability brown in the eighteenth century for lovers of open spaces, the "surprise gardens" are a maze of water features and clever contraptions basically all designed to leave you wet. it was based on a sixteenth century trick garden, and contains 32 separate water features, alongside neptune's grotto, an ice bunker, and a "steam room" for those long summer days. oh, lol. i don't really get it - i think it's for kids, but ben really liked it. dodging the water spray was fun, but it was sunny. if it wasn't i'm not sure i would have felt the same way!





then there's the sculpture garden; a mix of open space, a lake, loads of trees and flowers, and some utterly bonkers sculptures, there's really something for everyone in this part of the garden. the parkland is free to wander throughout the year, unlike the surprise gardens and the house, which is fab as the serpentine lake was a beaut to sit and ponder over while the sun was out and it proved to be a glorious day. burghley is believed to be capability brown's longest commission; he described his time landscaping the house and gardens his "25 years of pleasure"... it's not hard to see why.




william cecil hotel

built for the first lord of burghley at the very bottom of the estate surrounding burghley house, this gorgeous hotel is tucked away on the outskirts of georgian stamford - with sneaky garden connections to the estate. the hotel's original facade is classically tudor, with it's black and white gables still evident, but now more georgian in look and covered in foliage, surrounded by more beautiful and well-kept gardens. the setting is something out of the luxury hotel handbook, and the interior is just as beautiful. kitschy and quirky, thing stag heads and oriental wallpaper, bath tubs in the bedrooms, and crisp, white cotton sheets on all the beds.





and then there's the bar. and conservatory. and dimly-lit restaurant, where you can order the most incredibly sounding meals. like chateaubriand, which i have always wanted to order but never been adult or fancy enough to - until now. i was served the most medium of medium steaks i've ever seen, and there was not a glimmer of fat on it. thick, juicy and tender, it was the steak of dreams! it came with honeyed root veg, roasted garlic, potatoes and roma tomatoes, and peppered tenderstem on the side, and.. despite it being probably the nicest dinner i've had in so long, there was just sooo much food - even sharing between the two of us, and we had to leave some behind. i'm ashamed. best part: you don't have to be a guest in the hotel to dine, so i would add the restaurant to your to-do list, even if you're not staying the night. though, you should definitely stay the night because there are *waffles* on the breakfast menu - just sayin'.




easton walled garden

these gardens have been part of the cholmely family's estate for over 400 years. after the second war, the family's house was torn down after years of neglect and destruction, having been used as barracks during that time. when lady ursula chomley moved to the village in the nineties as a newly wed, she got to restoring the gardens from the wild mess they had become. more than 15 years later they're coming along swimmingly. the atmosphere she's created on the estate feels just like hanging out in your family's garden, just.. better. the 12 acres have been totally regenerated after being lost for half a century, and the labour of love is evident in every corner of the estate.





as well as a rope swing, the white garden, an orchard, some private rental properties (there's the meadow retreat to hire by the day, ore gorgeous cottages for overnight stays - imagine waking up to these amazing garden views!), and a plethora of seasonal events, there's also a tearoom that serves tasty, quality food all year round. and not just your typical sandwiches and baked potato options - ok actually, yes, sandwiches and baked potatoes, but utterly delicious ones. we were so blown away by the quality (and service) in this tiny tearoom that we were taking bites like, "mm, can't believe how good this is! mm, can't believe how filling this is! mm, can't believe how well made this is!"

i mean, we crammed a lot in to two days, and to be honest, we could definitely have stayed longer. or, definitely *wanted* to stay longer. despite the amount of things we fit in, we still had time for plenty of naps in the sun (just ask ben about his sunburn), walks along the river, and photos in front of the most gorgeous wisteria wall i've ever seen. and, only an hour and a bit out of london? christ. no wonder they call it hidden england - nobody knows what they're missing out on though! but with all that beautiful scenery on london's doorstep, i'm going to make sure it's not hidden for too much longer. plan your stay in lincolnshire - nobody knows what they're missing out on though! but with all that beautiful scenery on london's doorstep, i'm going to make sure it's not hidden for too much longer. plan your stay in lincolnshire now!


*we were guests of hidden england and the stamford georgian festival, but all thoughts are my own.

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