A couple of brief excursions have lately taken me to Rutland and to Cambridge. And though the weather wasn’t brilliant – at this time of the year we didn’t expect it to be – the trips were thoroughly enjoyable and thoroughly rewarding.

I’ll tell you about Rutland first, though the village of Nassington isn’t in that tiny county, but in neighbouring Northamptonshire.   

The River Nene as it flows through Nassington behind the Queen's Head pub Nassington was our base for the trip. More specifically the Queen’s Head, a long-established pub with accommodation on land which lies between the main building and the river Nene.  

That accommodation was modern and functional, providing a comfortable bed, adequate wardrobe space and a large flat-screen television, with a small bathroom besides. We took our evening meals in the pub’s restaurant, and very good they were, too.

I’d not hesitate to recommend the Queen’s Head, though I feel the bedrooms (at least mine) are probably due for a makeover and some general smartening up.

But enough of Nassington for the moment. Let me tell you about Oakham, where we headed in hope of making discoveries. Many years have passed since I stayed there (in a hotel which now provides accommodation for the elderly), so I was expecting some changes.   

Apart from the aforementioned hotel, there seemed to be none. The buildings of the old (1584) public school remain serene, All Saints church impressive.

We went to the Castle, as I had told Carole about its collection of horseshoes, and she wanted proof that this was not another of my dubious stories. Proof there was in abundance for more than 200 horseshoes deck the walls of the Great Hall – all that remains of the Norman castle.

Horseshoes on the wall of Oakham Castle For centuries it has been the custom that Royalty and members of the peerage must present a horseshoe to the castle when passing through Rutland. Nobody is sure when it all started, though the oldest horseshoe dates from 1470. Most are ornate objects, designed to reflect the importance of the person who presented them.   

However, I did spot one proper horseshoe with a small coronet on top of it. Whoever donated that one must have had no doubts about his status.  

I make a point of trying to discover something new about the places I visit, even if, as in the case of Oakham, I have visited them before and should know all I need to know. This time the (almost surreal) fact emerged that the signal box at Oakham railway station was the model for the Airfix kit version which lads (and their dads) construct and paint to enhance their Hornby railway layouts.

I also discovered that, in addition to a town in Germany, whose name escapes me, Oakham is ‘twinned’ with Dodgeville, Wisconsin, USA. A name which is likely to escape nobody.

And that, of course, led me to tell Carole about nearby Whitwell, a village on the north shore of Rutland Water, which is similarly ‘twinned’ with Paris.   

All Saints Church, Oakham Now this is something that Paris doesn’t know about – or, if it does know, it chooses to deny. Paris is officially ‘twinned’ only with Rome, though it does have ‘agreements of friendship and co-operation’ with another 42 cities around the globe. London is on that list. But not Whitwell.

Nonetheless, if you take the A606 from Oakham to the A1, you will drive through Whitwell and see the signs on its outskirts confirming that Paris is its chosen twin.

The story goes that the regulars in one of the village pubs – either the Noel Arms or the White Horse – decided they’d like to be twinned with Paris and wrote a letter to that effect to the Mayor – at the time Jacques Chirac. Having had no response, they went ahead and put up a couple of wooden signs. These were eventually replaced by metal signs, erected by the County Council, which sort of adds credence to their claim, I think.    

I’m going to save the Cambridge trip for another time, because I want to tell you about something really nice that happened to us on the day we arrived in Nassington.

Taking advantage of a sunny spell, we toddled off to explore the village and found a narrow pathway leading off the main street. It took us between a couple of houses and then between high hedges before we arrived at a broader grass track running more or less parallel to the main street.

The grassy track, with hedges heavy with blackberries Its equally high hedges bore a tangle of brambles, heavy with blackberries, so we picked and ate some as we made our way towards a small stream.  Then a young woman appeared, carrying a Tupperware box which she was filling with the fruit.  

We stopped to talk. She told us she made jam from the blackberries, which grew conveniently close to where she lived. We told her we had just arrived for a short stay and were staying at the pub.

We spoke for no more than five or ten minutes, but that evening when we walked into the bar for a drink before dinner, the girl manning the pumps produced a jar of blackberry jam and handed it to Carole.

The young lady had left it for us as a gift. The girl at the bar had no idea who she was. Next day we knocked on a few doors, but had no luck finding her to express our thanks. But we left a ‘thank you’ card and my email address at the reception desk, just in case she happened to pop in again.   

I do hope she does.

335 people found this helpful

Share Article:

John Carter

Long-time presenter of TV’s ‘Wish You Were Here’ and BBC holiday programmes

Leave a comment


Sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest travel tips on top destinations.

Join the club

Become a member to receive exclusive benefits

Our community is the heart of Silver Travel Advisor, we love nothing more than sharing ideas, inspiration, hints and tips between us.

Most Recent Articles

Mark Nicholls visits Austria’s snowiest ski resort and stumbles across a chapter of pop history….

Come feel the love on a Princess cruise. You’ll enjoy the MedallionClass experience others simply can’t, and it’s exclusively for everyone. Visit incredible destinations and be involved in the best experiences around each one of them.

Experience more with Princess and connect effortlessly with the world around you, spend time away with loved ones, take a moment for yourself, and fall in love with your holiday of a lifetime, every time.

With over 20 years of experience, Wendy Wu Tours has mastered the art of creating exceptional, fully inclusive tours which showcase the very best of each destination.

Each tour is led by a world-class guide, who will highlight the very best of their homeland, and includes authentic cultural experiences so you are not just seeing the sights, but truly immersing yourself in local life.

Say hello to ease at sea. Ambassador’s purpose is simple: they want to inspire every guest to experience authentic cruising, effortlessly and sustainably. Passionate about protecting our oceans and destinations, their ships comply with the highest industry emission standards and there is no single-use plastic on board.

On your voyage, you will receive the warmest of welcomes from the Ambassador community as you sail upon the friendliest ships afloat.

This is a global co-operative co-owned by local partners using real local experts and guides, which supports local communities, environments and wildlife. It offers travellers quirky places to stay, activity holidays and learning experiences. Not In The Guidebooks gets travellers off the beaten track into local culture with day experiences and longer, immersive adventures.

From wild wellness breaks in Wales to painting in Portugal, sustainable adventures in Mauritius to food safaris in Brazil, this is immersive, exciting travel.

Seabourn’s five intimate ships carry guests to the heart of great cities, exclusive yacht harbours and secluded coves around the world, while two new purpose-built expedition ships will combine exhilarating adventures in remote destinations with the sophisticated amenities of the world’s finest resorts at sea.

From the luxury of all suite accommodations to complimentary fine wines and spirits, and a no tipping policy, Seabourn exemplifies the definition of travelling well.