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Top 12 Reasons to Visit Britain in 2012

Britain is flavour of the month.  The Royal Wedding, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, London 2012.  Cream teas, union flag cushions, the English seaside, and anything vintage.  Visitors to the UK and “locals” alike just can’t get enough of them.  So here’s our Top 12 Reasons To Visit Britain in 2012:

1. Britain welcomes the Microlympics!

As part of the preparations for its 50th anniversary in 2013, Babbacombe Model Village in Torquay, on “The English Riviera”, plans to introduce many new features over the next couple of years - including a Microlympics Stadium!  The new stadium is due to be unveiled in 2012.  However, the Model Village has to be a little bit careful in its design – and is avoiding the use of any Olympic branding, logos or imagery on its model.  The Model Village Manager commented: “As Torquay was a major player last time the UK hosted the Olympics, we wanted to be a mini-player this time!”.  Despite the restrictions, the new Mircolympics development, with a multi-sports stadium at its heart, is being built at a cost of around £50,000.  For further details, visit http://www.babbacombemodelvillage.co.uk/. 

2. Stay in and around London at the time of the Olympics, for £7 a night!

The Camping and Caravanning Club will be offering several temporary event campsites during the summer of 2012.  The Club will organise, administer and manage sites at Gravesend, Ebbsfleet, and Havering – with the latter two being just 10-15 minutes from the Olympic village. The WaterWorks Nature Reserve and Golf Centre in Leyton, meanwhile, is believed to be the closest campsite to the Olympic Park.  Pitches - cost from £30 per night – will accommodate up to four people.  To book any of these sites please visit www.2012camping.co.uk or the Camping and Caravanning Club's website.  Limited press pitches will also be available.

3. Take another look at Trentham Gardens

The gardens on the Trentham Estate, in Stoke-on-Trent, marked their seventh birthday recently by joining an elite collection of the countries finest and most visited garden attractions.  Kew, The Eden Project, RHS Wisley and Wakehurst Place are now the only gardens in the UK with more visitors passing through their gates each year.  Trentham’s dramatic resurrection was initially led by renowned garden designers and Chelsea gold-medal winners Tom Stuart-Smith and Piet Oudolf who, along with Michael Walker, revitalised the Italianate grandeur with a stylish modern interpretation – to create one of the largest examples of contemporary naturalistic perennial planting in Europe.  The one-time home of the Dukes of Sutherland, who transformed it from a medieval monastery to grand country estate over decades of ownership from 1540, Trentham also won the European Garden Heritage Network “ European Award for Garden Restoration” in 2010.  For further details visit the Trentham Garden's website

4. Origin of the modern international Olympics is traced back to a Shropshire town

Shropshire is an unlikely place to find the origins of the modern international Olympic Games.  Yet it was here, in 1850, that Dr William Penny Brookes first founded the Wenlock Olympian Society.  Now, 160 years later Much Wenlock’s role has even provided the inspiration behind one of the 2012 London Olympic mascots unveiled in a blaze of global publicity.  Dr Brookes’ Olympian Games included Greek Classical and country sports like running, quoits, football and cricket, but there was always a competition for ‘juveniles’ and a fun competition – once a 'blind wheelbarrow racing', and another year 'an old woman's race for a pound of tea'. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the acknowledged founder of the modern Olympic Games, visited the Games in 1890 and later wrote "and of the Olympic Games, which modern Greece has not yet revived, it is not a Greek to whom one is indebted, but rather Dr W. P. Brookes".  And in 1994 the President of the IOC, Juan Antonio Samaranch came to Much Wenlock "because this is where the modern Olympics started".  For full details, visit the Much Wenlock 2012 website.

5. Cotswolds to celebrate a Queen’s quincentenary, in 2012

Sudeley Castle in The Cotswolds is planning to welcome the world to a very special Tudor-themed Katherine Parr Festival, which coincides with the current Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012.  At its heart will lie a very special Katherine Parr Exhibition featuring items from the Castle’s own collection, as well as several other pieces on loan from other national and historic collections.  And a new DVD, featuring world famous historian Dr David Starkey will guide visitors around parts of the Castle never previously seen.  Ticketed events will include the opportunity to enjoy afternoon tea with Lady Ashcombe and specially invited guests.  Born in 1512, Queen Katherine Parr was the last of Henry VIII’s six wives.  After the King’s death in 1547, Katherine married Lord Seymour of Sudeley and lived her last days, died and was buried at Sudeley Castle, in Winchcombe.  Details of the Katherine Parr Festival can be found at Sudeley Castle and the Cotswolds website

6. Walking is good for you - and for British pubs!

An innovate scheme in Shropshire, aimed at getting people who might not normally go walking to venture out onto the footpaths and country lanes of rural England, is also raising a glass to another British institution.  The great British pub may be closing at a rate of around five a day, but Shropshire is now at the very forefront of a campaign to bring some economic benefit to the rural inns and other businesses in the area.  The new walking trails all fall within Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and are branded together under the “Walking With Offa” umbrella.  All 12 walks are circular, and start and finish at a nearby pub or village shop, where a new generation of walkers can find fantastic scenery, the great atmosphere of a country inn, as well as some genuine, locally sourced, value-for-money menus.  The western reaches of the Shropshire Hills, are where many of the more remote country inns can be found, and near to where King Offa of Mercia built his world famous Dyke. Visit the Shropshire Hills ANOB website 

7. New behind the scenes factory tour planned for Wedgwood in 2012

Wedgwood is set to launch a brand new behind-the-scenes factory tour in 2012.  This guided walking tour of the factory, taking up to 45 minutes, will give visitors a special insight into the processes that go into creating the world renowned Wedgwood products available today.  The factory tour will be available from Monday to Thursday, March to October, aat specific times during the day.  The same Wedgwood complex in Stoke-on-Trent also features the award winning Wedgwood Museum containing the full 250-years history of the company; and the Craft Demonstration Area where visitors can meet and talk to the throwers, painters and gilders.  Visitors can even “have a go” at throwing their own masterpiece under the watchful eyes of a Wedgwood master-thrower, which will then be sent to them after firing.  The site is also home to the company’s famous Factory Shop and boutique lifestyle store.  For more details, visit the Wedgwood Visitor Centre

8. From Out of Africa to a new hotel in former colliery cottages, find a quirky place to stay

Fancy camping beneath the stars in African-style safari tents?  How about a bed for the night in a traditional terrace of former coal miners’ cottages?  Or perhaps pitching the caravan in the heart of a former working colliery site?  Thanks to some unusual accommodation options in the Peak District’s historic border country, you can do all that in real style….and all on the doorstep of some stunning English scenery.  Escape the urban jungle and spend a night under canvas in Teversal Camping and Caravanning Club Site’s new luxurious Safari Tents which bring a touch of Africa to the borders of the Peak District.  At Palterton near Chesterfield, one of the more unusual uses for a former pit community has seen a traditional row of former colliery houses being sympathetically refurbished to create a three star hotel with a distinct twist.  And if you want to stay in a fabulous new Spanish influenced hotel, look no further than The Casa, in Chesterfield. 

9. Major Arts Festival in The Cotswolds celebrates world famous colony of US artists

The biennial Broadway Arts Festival in The Cotswolds was inaugurated in 2010 as a celebration of the village’s artistic heritage and its enduring relationship with a world-famous colony of American artists and writers who visited and worked here in the 19th century.  In the late 19th century the flamboyant American artist, writer and soldier Frank Millet discovered the delights of Broadway and could not resist introducing them to his friends.  Millet unfortunately perished in the Titanic disaster in 1912, but the legacy of those special relationships he created in Broadway is still very much alive today.  Painters, actors, writers, their families and friends visited and worked here in the 19th century, including John Singer Sargent, William Morris, Francis Millet, Alfred Parsons, Henry James and JM Barrie.  Many aspects of the village and surrounding countryside feature in world-class exhibits including the Tate in London and the Metropolitan Museum, New York.  The 2012 Broadway Arts Festival is scheduled for June 9th-17th.  For more details, visit the Broadway Arts Festival website

10. Stoke-on-Trent’s got the Olympics and Jubilee all sewn up

It’s been said that Jan Constantine has “turned felt and blanket stitch into the new rock-and-roll”.  Happy enough to laugh-off such accolades, one thing Jan is nevertheless extremely proud of is the way in which, almost seven years ago, she started the process of “reclaiming” the Union flag – and being one of the first to turn it into the high-fashion design icon that it is today.  Her collections have become recognised the world over, and have also helped her to win an official licence to produce London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic merchandise - not to mention the official Team GB cushion collection.  Living and working in a small village a few miles outside of Stoke-on-Trent, the Constantine name is the latest in a long list of locally based designers and manufacturers who are helping to put The Potteries well and truly on the tourism map.  Wedgwood, Emma Bridgewater and Jan Constantine are the ‘right’ people, designing the ‘right things’ at the ‘right’ time - as Britain claims centre-stage thanks to The Royal Wedding, the Diamond Jubilee and the London 2012 Games.  For further information visit Jan Constantine's website and Visit Stoke

11. Derby QUAD is set to take flicks to the sticks in a 2012 Summer Film Festival

A 2012 Derby QUAD Film Festival will feature movie classics, in classical settings,across the whole of Derbyshire.  National Trust properties, stately homes, castles, and some of the best known estates in Britain are set to be transformed into outdoor entertainment venues throughout the summer of 2012, thanks to some state-of-the-art equipment and a giant inflatable screen which has been used in the past in Venice, New York and Barcelona.  That powerful combination of some outstanding locations and many of the UK’s best loved movies – some of which will be timed to coincide with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations – is likely to form one of the most innovative Film Festivals of the year.  And movies such as Jane Eyre will be taken back to the places (Haddon Hall) where they were actually filmed.  QUAD is the purpose built arts centre located within the heart of Derby, a city which has enjoyed a £2.2-billion regeneration in recent years.  For more details of the Derby QUAD Film Festival, visit the Derby QUAD website

12. The Cotswolds – 400 years of the Olimpicks

Regarded by some as the origin of the modern Olympic Games, Robert Dover's inaugural Olimpicks were staged on a Cotswold hillside in 1612 "By Royal Approval" of King James I.  And, despite a long and chequered history stretching over almost four centuries, they still survive to this day – providing a remarkable link between the Olympics of ancient Greece, and the Olympic Games of today.  The extravagant event which he organised each year included swordplay, running and leaping, horse racing, spurning (similar to tossing the caber), and throwing the sledge (hammer).  A highlight, however, has always been the contest for gold in shin-kicking.  Further details can be found here.

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