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The Midlands are well represented in the autumn issue of This England, with, among other items, details of how a tea room at Stone in Staffordshire has received one of our special awards for its “mouthwatering menu” and “very pleasant atmosphere”, and the revelation that Trentham Gardens - just down the road - is playing temporary host to one of England’s greatest and most “capable” landscape gardeners! The most prominent coverage, however, can be found in the “Literary Landscapes of England” feature, which highlights a book about the area that was written in the middle of the 19th century.

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What is your favourite word? I have to admit to being rather partial to “serendipity”, and another one I favour is “mellifluous”. “Recalcitrant” is satisfyingly sharp and sculpted, while “erudite”, “eloquence” and “nuance” roll off the tongue pleasingly. “Gumption” is another good one, then there’s “insouciance” and, as we’re in that area of the alphabet, how about “indefatigable”? For me it’s not just the definition of the word that attracts me to it, but the sound it makes – the musical and rhythmic quality it possesses.

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It was planned primarily as a means of celebrating British achievements in the fields of the arts, architecture, industry, science and technology, but also as a way of lifting the spirits of a nation that was still feeling the effects of the Second World War. The 1951 Festival of Britain, with its magnificent Dome of Discovery, Royal Festival Hall, futuristic Skylon and numerous pavilions with exhibitions on all sorts of subjects certainly achieved both of these aims, with over eight million people visiting the site on the south bank of the River Thames in London. Even more visitors flocked to the Festival Pleasure Gardens in Battersea Park, where families could enjoy numerous attractions including a fun fair, zoo, boating lake and the whimsical Far Tottering and Oyster Creek Railway. For those Britons who were unable to travel to the capital, there were complementary exhibitions in towns and cities across the country and even a Festival Ship, Campania, that took the celebrations to coastal venues around our island.

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Celebrating Britain’s calendar of colourful and often quirky customs is something we make a point of doing in each issue of Evergreen. Our autumn edition, which is published on 6th September (click here to arrange a subscription), finds us wending our way – or perhaps I should say jigging – to the Staffordshire village of Abbots Bromley, where we witness the Horn Dance, which takes place every September. As you will discover, this remarkable dance, complete with its cast of impressively costumed characters - including a hobby horse, Maid Marian and a jester- is many centuries old and, understandably, the villagers are deservedly proud of the tradition and its ancient history.

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Although I was aware that the 100th anniversary of the Third Battle of Ypres (better known as Passchendaele) fell at the end of July/beginning of August this year, when I was preparing the article about the battle that appears in our autumn issue it didn’t strike me just how closely the publication date of the magazine would coincide with all the commemorative events and remembrance services that have been taking place. In fact, if it hasn’t already been delivered to their doors, subscribers to This England will be receiving their copies during the next few days. I hope that they, and any readers who purchase the magazine from a newsagent, find the account by Tonie and Valmai Holt - renowned military historians and long-time battlefield tour guides - informative and thought-provoking.

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Two years ago a quiet residential street in leafy Twickenham hit the headlines when it had to be evacuated following the discovery by a team of builders of a cache of arms and ammunition in one of the houses. What made the incident all the more newsworthy was the fact that the house had belonged to a recently deceased elderly lady: not at all the sort of individual you might expect to possess a submachine gun (in full working order) or any of the other wartime bits and pieces of equipment that the men who were renovating the building uncovered. In fact, after a bit of detective work, it was discovered that in her previous life the shy and retiring Eileen Burgoyne had enjoyed a very colourful career indeed: as an interrogator of Nazi prisoners after 1945 and later as some sort of Cold War spy!

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When was the last time you took a walk in the countryside? How about the picture above, any idea what sort of tree it is? Now, hold those answers for a moment as we put on our walking boots, reach for our rucksacks and set out on this week’s Evergreen blog.

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Ahead of all the others in the United Kingdom, Skegness was the seaside resort chosen by Billy Butlin for his first holiday camp in 1936, and 10 years later, in the volume on Lincolnshire in his famous “King’s England” series, Arthur Mee waxed lyrical about the town: “Holiday-makers come here by road and rail and plane; and they come here to delight in the bracing air, the splendid stretch of firm, clean sands, the safe bathing… everything, in fact, that young and old in search of recreation on holiday can desire.”

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Just as I am fascinated by the stories that people have to tell, so too am I enchanted by the history that Britain’s glorious buildings have locked deep within their walls. Not only are these landmarks testament to architectural glory and the skilled builders and craftsmen of the past, but they are symbolic of our heritage and identity. This was powerfully demonstrated to me earlier this week when I visited London and went on a tour of the Houses of Parliament.

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Having, over the years, spent many happy holidays in the Lake District, whether scaling the heights of Skiddaw, Coniston Old Man or Helvellyn (and staying at youth hostels in the days before they became more like five-star hotels!) or visiting an uncle (and aunt and cousins) who tended to his Christian flock from a church on the banks of Windermere, I was delighted to learn that the area has recently been awarded Unesco World Heritage status. Although there are just over 1,000 other sites across the world that have received similar recognition for their special cultural, historical, physical or scientific significance - including the Taj Mahal in India, the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and Machu Picchu in Peru - it remains quite a select group and the people who look after the 885 square miles that include parts of the traditional English counties of Cumberland, Lancashire and Westmorland, as well as all those men and women who live and work in the area, should be tremendously proud.

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