Leicestershire’s most attractive features are shy and quiet and have to be sought out, but they amply reward the explorer. The county is divided into two almost equal parts by the River Soar, which flows northward into the Trent. It separates the east and west by abroad valley, flowing like a silver ribbon through historic Leicester in the very heart of the county. This capital town was thriving in Roman days and is one of the oldest towns in England. It has managed to retain outstanding monuments of almost every age of English history. Red Leicester cheese was made in the southern part of the county in the 1700s, but now the only genuine product is made at Melton Mowbray, which also makes Stilton and, of course, the superlative Leicestershire & Rutland pork pies. And every schoolchild knows the name of Bosworth Field, one of the momentous battles that changed the course of English history.
Just 20 miles across and covering a mere150 square miles, Rutland delights in its status as England’s smallest county. Its 37,800inhabitants were incensed when the Local Government changes of 1974 stripped the county of its identity and merged it with neighbouring Leicestershire. It took more than 20 years of ceaseless campaigning before bureaucracy relented and Rutland was re-instated as a county in its own right. Rutland has villages of thatch and ironstone, clustered around their churches, and the countryside is rich in pasture where once deer were hunted. Its central feature is Rutland Water, whose 3,100 acres make it one of the largest man-made lakes in northern Europe. Started in1971 to supply water to the East Midlands towns, it was created by damming the valley near Empingham.
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