Friday, January 22, 2010

Explore Your World - Lancashire, England

Inspired by the setting of the current series I'm reading (The Wardstone Chronicles), my first Explore Your World will spotlight the county of Lancashire, England. Author Joseph Delaney modeled his "County" on the real-life places in the area, and the scenery, history, and customs of Lancashire can be glimpsed in the stories.

For example, I could imagine the Ward farm looking like this:

And the village of Chipenden (based on real-life Chipping, Lancashire) as something like this:

And sometimes, I don't need to let my mind wander too far, because Delaney describes a real-life place, like Pendle Hill, the abode of witches!

But let's return to Lancashire as it exists in reality. The county is a lively blend of bustling big cities and cultural hubs (like Blackpool or Blackburn - Go Rovers!) to rolling hills and quaint villages. From Blackpool, Britain's most popular seaside resort, to the haunting fells of the rural countryside, you'll discover all sorts of places to explore in Lancashire. Ancient Roman ruins, medieval monasteries, historic town centers, and scenic hikes await you!

So let's get a basic Itinerary:
- Blackpool: Major, major tourist location here! This seaside resort peaked in the early 20th century as a resort town for the factory workers of northern England. Reputedly, the city still has more hotels than the entire country of Portugal! Though not as lively as it once was, Blackpool still remains the most popular seaside resort in Britain (hmm, my money would have been on Southampton).

- English towns at their most charming!
* I would visit Lancaster and Preston in particular because they feature prominently in the Wardstone world. In the series, Lancaster is named "Caster" and Preston is appropriately named "Priestown," probably on account of it being referred to as the "Most Catholic City in England." I personally love church architecture, so Preston would be a fun place to visit if for no other reason than to gape at all the spires and flying buttresses

Preston also has:
- 5 museums (including the National Football Museum - which houses, among other things, the winning ball from the 1966 World Cup Final! I find that in itself enough reason to pack up and trek up there straightaway!)

- an active nightlife... it's a university town with 35,000 students to keep entertained.

- Nearby Beacon Fell, a famous country park with a mix of woodland, moorland, and farmland. Yes, "moorland" - as in the famous English moors! Climb up to the top of the hills and scream out "Heathcliff!" to your heart's content!

- West Pennine Moors: Nature in all its splendor! The Moors feature 90+ miles of unspoiled wild, rolling countryside, and contrasts nicely with the larger urban areas we've already explored! If you're into walking/hikking, there are some awesome trails you can follow...or if you have a car, you can drive them.

Pendle Hill: The Salem (MA) of northern England! This historic site has a long and fascinating (but ominous) history, dating back to the Bronze Age, when it was used as an ancient burial mound. As my comparison to Salem suggests, Pendle Hill is also known to history for its association with witchcraft, which reached an apex in the 17th century. That story can be found here.
- You'll be able to walk the Pendle Witches Trail, a tour which takes you around some of the locations synonymous with the infamous Pendle Witches. Personal note: My cousin Julia and her family did the tour and they absolutely loved it!

- After you're finished, stop by the Witches Galore cafe in nearby Newchurch!

And now...let's not forget about the FOOD

No matter where you are, be sure to keep a lookout for Lancashire hotpot, a celebrated county dish traditionally made with lamb.

And also, you can't call your trip to Lancashire complete without sampling some Lancashire cheese - probably the most famous food item of the area.

So there you have it! Who knows when the travel bug may bite, and if it will at all. Thanks to the trusty internet, though, you can explore your world without all the mundane downers that go with actual traveling. And it all traces back to reading! This may sound cliche, but when you read, you really do go on a sort of expedition - to faraway lands or lands that only exist in the imagination. So thanks to Joseph Delaney and the Wardstone Chronicles for sparking my interest in beautiful, exquisit Lancashire, England. So when you finish reading this post, take a moment to think about the importance of a story's setting - how it becomes an image in your mind, how it seems to become real and accessible... Maybe there's a world waiting to be discovered in your current book, too!
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