The world’s largest greenhouses and its best mountain biking routes, a first edition of Shakespeare’s sonnets and Europe’s first international dark sky reserve all help make up VisitEngland’s “101 things to do before you go abroad”, revealed to mark St George’s Day.
The Eden Project, Dalby Forest, John Rylands Library and Exmoor National Park are just four of the nominations that were submitted by the public and chosen by the national tourist board, along with a panel of experts, in a bid to find the best and most quintessentially English things to see and do.
VisitEngland’s Chairman, Lady Cobham, said: “The selection process wasn’t easy - we have such an embarrassment of riches in this country, that we couldn’t include every single landmark – but the end result is a mix of the most incredible and unique experiences, with something for everyone.”
What’s more, the nominations revealed some fantastic “well I never!” facts from around the country and a fascinating insight into how the English view their own country:
History & Heritage
Our history and heritage is held dearest to the heart, with the category generating over a third of the total submissions. Suggestions for castles, cathedrals and UNESCO World Heritage sites were in abundance, with Tintagel, Lincoln and Stonehenge all making the list respectively.
Some hidden gems, which didn’t make the final 101, still deserve a mention: Who knew, for example, that the Chester Clock is the 2nd most photographed clock in the world (after Big Ben), that Ryde Pier is the oldest pier in the world or that Dry Doddington’s St James Church spire leans over one degree further than the Tower of Pisa?
Wildlife & Nature
Red squirrels, puffins and greater horseshoe bats jostled for position alongside Kent’s monkey orchids and snowdrops at Fountain Abbey in this, the 2nd most populated, category. It was this section which revealed that England is home to one of the most important wetlands in Europe (Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve in Cambridgeshire) and the 2nd highest tidal range in the world (The River Severn).
Food & Drink
The food & drink section generated 100 suggestions, proof that we are very proud of our much-maligned culinary offerings. Cornish pasties, fish & chips, cream teas, oysters and gin all feature in the bucketlist, with England’s oldest pub (Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, Nottingham) and Ian Fleming’s former watering hole (DUKES Hotel in St James’s) both securing a hotly-contested place on the list.
Arts & Culture
Arts & Culture was the most varied of all categories, with Europe’s smallest cinema (Screen 22, Nottingham), the book shop where the original ‘Keep Calm & Carry On’ poster was found (Barter Books, Alnwick) and the world’s fastest car (ThrustSCC, Coventry Transport Museum) all jostling for position.
With such a varied culture, encompassing art, museums, festivals and nightlife, it was a tough category to judge, but Manchester’s Football Museum, Newcastle’s nightlife and Banksy’s original street art all made the final cut.
Health & Fitness
As you would expect from a nation of sports fans, this category was also surprisingly varied. Yes, football, rugby and cricket were well-represented, but so too were Olympic sports - a strong example of the Olympic legacy. Sailing in Weymouth and white water rafting in Essex both feature in the list.
Because it’s Awesome
Last, but by no means least: The 101st experience, chosen by none other than Wallace & Gromit. The pair had an enormous list of awesomeness to choose from such as View from the Shard (tallest building in Western Europe); Bristol Balloon Fiesta (Europe’s biggest ballooning event); and the World Gravy Wrestling Championships (Google it!).
And the winner is the quirky, eccentric and incredibly English past-time of cheese-rolling. The annual event at Cooper’s hill in Gloucestershire is centuries old. You’d think we’d know better by now.
The full list can be viewed at www.101thingstodoinengland.co.uk, where you can see how many of the experiences you have done and create your own bespoke “to-do” list.