Monday, 12 March 2018

The Start of a New Adventure

Travelling Around the Edge: West Kirby, Cheshire
Last year I completed my bus trip "Around the Edge of England". A 51-day, 257 bus, 5,000 kilometre odyssey of a bus trip that followed the coast of England and the Welsh and Scottish borders. One of the attractions was that it would be largely cost-free as, after a lifetime spent in public transport, I am now, finally, in possession of a bus pass that gives me free travel throughout England. In practice, of course, I found that the savings to be made by not paying bus fares were far outweighed by the cost of accommodation en-route and of train fares to get me to and from each of the stages into which the trip was broken up. But such costs were easily justified and could be met from the savings I now make after ten years of narrowboat ownership having come to an end: any boat owner will know what I mean!

I enjoyed it so much that I've been looking for a follow-up ever since and now I've found one. The counties of England (and Wales for that matter) have always interested me. Like many people, I identify with the county of my birth (Carmarthenshire) and that of my parents' birth (also Carmarthenshire in the case of my father and Yorkshire in mum's case).  I never really accepted the re-organisation of ,local government in 1974 that made
The historic counties of England
Carmarthenshire part of "Dyfed" and replaced the historic division of Yorkshire into three "ridings" (West, North and East) by one into two metropolitan counties (West and South) and a variety of other entities including "Cleveland", "Humberside" and "North Yorkshire" as well as transferring parts of the county into, god-forbid, Lancashire!  The fact that much of this reorganisation was later undone and Dyfed, Cleveland and Humberside were abolished (and the "East Riding of Yorkshire" reinstated) seems to justify my feelings.  I then discovered, via the Association of British Counties, that the 1974 reorganisation was only ever intended to address the governance of the country on a local basis and not the existence nor the boundaries of the counties themselves.

It was, apparently, always the intention that the existence of the historic counties of Britain should be unaffected by changes to the way they were governed. The use of the term "county councils" for the new bodies tasked with authority over areas such as "Cleveland", Humberside" and the rest served to confuse the issue completely and has led to the situation whereby many people think that the historic counties - such as Westmorland, Huntingdonshire, Herefordshire and the like - have somehow ceased to exist.  I've never thought that, so my new adventure - A bus tour through the historic counties of England and their county towns is my may of reaffirming their existence as well as a good excuse for another bus ride around England and no doubt some beer sampling along the way!

So, on Tuesday 6th March I set out on my quest to visit all thirty-nine English counties and all their county towns (which may, or may not also number 39 as will become clear - or not - as I progress)

To save me writing it all out again, you can read about Day 1, in which I visit Lancashire, Westmorland and Cumberland, on this link.


Sarah said...

Chichester and/or Lewes?

Brilliant idea Jim and very much look forward to reading.

Jim said...

The concept of a county town is unofficial and ill-defined and "Chichester or Lewes" is only one of a number of conundrums that will arise along the way. The Association of British Counties recognises only one "historic" county of Sussex (East and West Sussex date only from 1974 and are "administrative units") and says unequivocally that the county town is Chichester. Wikipedia, however, gives both Chichester and Lewes and then confuses the matter further by bringing-in Horsham as a possibility!
I'll have to go to Chichester, even though I stayed there in the "Edge" tour but will probably find time to fit in Lewes as well, if only for the beer.

Sarah said...

Bill Bryson, of all people (and I can't recall which book it was in, or I could go back and check his sources)claimed that the two Sussexes (and the three Yorkshires) definitely predate local authority boundaries and are genuinely different counties. East and West Sussex as administrative units must both have existed prior to 1974; I know this because they moved the boundary in 1974 and we (Lindfield/Haywards Heath), who had preveiously been in East Sussex, were then in West.

But yes, you absolutely must go and have a pint of Harvey's Best. Oooh, I miss it...

Jim said...

I've looked into this a bit more and, of course, you are right. When County Councils were established in 1888 Sussex was given two: East and West, thereby setting up two "administrative counties". However for "ceremonial" purposes Sussex retained a single Lord Lieutenant (the monarch's representative) until 1974 when that function was also sub-divided. "Sussex" therefore remains an "historic" or "geographic" county but is divided into East and West for "ceremonial" and "administrative" purposes.
It's a good job not everywhere is as complicated.

And yes, I have fond memories of Harvey's. I had the misfortune to live in Brighton for two years in the early 1970s when nearly every pub sold only Watneys keg. Lewes -and Harvey's beer - was a lifesaver!