The stage has been set. The London 2012 Olympic and Paraylmpic Games have showcased England to the world. While the likes of London, Weymouth, Surrey and other host venues have unsurprisingly basked in the glory of summer 2012, VisitEngland looks at some of the country’s lesser known destinations that have been revelling in the Olympic spotlight.
Stoke Mandeville – Where it all began…
The forerunner of the Paralympic Games, the Stoke Mandeville Games were the result of work by then leading neurologist, Ludwig Gutterman. Guttmann witnessed the rehabilitative power of sport in the treatment of spinal injured World War II veterans. His work carried out in Stoke Mandeville Hospital led to a revolution in both approach and treatment of disabled people. In 1948 Gutterman initiated the first Stoke Mandeville Games and in 1952 his vision of an international sports movement for disabled people was born. Stoke Mandeville has retained its village charm – there are still three local pubs and two churches. Later this week, the four National Flames will be taken to Stoke Mandeville and united during a special ceremony creating the London 2012 Paralympic Flame.
Be inspired and enjoy a luxury short break in the country at Hartwell House (www.hartwell-house.com), one of Buckinghamshire’s most celebrated country houses. Rooms from £217.50 per night, Bed & Breakfast (based on two people sharing, includes free Wi-Fi, full English breakfast, use of the Hartwell Spa).
Much Wenlock – A long-forgotten story retold
This small market town in Shropshire has received global recondition for its place in the history of the modern Olympic Games. While it may come as a surprise to many, the modern International Olympics has its roots not in Athens, but instead in this charming and quintessentially English town. This is all thanks to local doctor and philanthropist William Penny Brookes who established the Wenlock Olympian Games in 1850 – the forerunner of the modern Olympics with which we are now so familiar. Today, you can walk The Wenlock Olympian Trail (www.wenlock-olympian-society.org.uk/olympian-trail), a designated tour that starts and ends at Much Wenlock Museum (www.muchwenlockmuseum.co.uk) in the Square. The museum, which newly opened in 2012, houses a magnificent collection of Wenlock Olympian Society artefacts are illustrating the significant role of the town in the revival of the Modern Olympic Games. The Trail will take you past some of the sites in the town which are special to the Wenlock Olympian Games and Dr William Penny Brookes.
Make a break of it and stay at the Raven Hotel in Much Wenlock, where initial meetings between William Penny Brookes and Baron Pierre de Coubertain took place. Rooms from £85 per night, Bed & Breakfast.
Birmingham – The new Bolt-i
Birmingham’s signature Balti dish has been renamed and revamped as Imran’s Restaurant (www.imrans.com) in the world-famous Balti Triangle has created ‘The Birmingham Bolti’ in honour of the fastest man on earth. Having played host to the Jamaican national team in the lead up to London2012, the city got a special mention for its hospitality in the post-200 metre race interview with Usain Bolt and fellow countrymen Yohan Blake and Warren Weir. During their time in the city, the athletes stayed at The University of Birmingham (www.birmingham.ac.uk) which offered bespoke seven-foot beds and mattresses for the tallest athletes, and a specialist chef to provide Jamaican specialities. Birmingham has the largest Jamaican community in England outside London and the team’s visit coincided with the 50th anniversary of Jamaican independence. A host of celebrations took place, including a five-day ‘Jamaica in the Square’ cultural extravaganza and an athletes’ farewell concert at the Symphony Hall.
Relive the experience this autumn with a sporty mini-break at the Jury’s Inn, Birmingham. Whether it’s football, cricket or athletics; Birmingham attracts all the major sporting events throughout the year. Pick your event and enjoy, knowing that you are staying in luxury in the hustle and bustle of England’s second capital. Overnight stays from £49 when booked via www.lastminute.com/VisitEngland
Sheffield – Home to England’s golden girl
Is it something in the air, or the countryside, or maybe the food in Yorkshire? The county has produced an outstanding 12 medals – seven gold, two silver and three bronze – in the London 2012 Olympic Games. The medallists are also notable for the breadth of their skills, none more so than Games poster girl and resident Yorkshire lass, Jessica Ennis. Just days after her triumph, the city of Sheffield hosted a homecoming of mammoth proportions for their favourite heptathlete. The Olympic gold medallist unveiled a plaque on a Hollywood-style Walk of Fame. Not surprisingly, the tribute had a golden hue as a nod to her incredible success with the city draped in gold. If that wasn’t enough, Royal Mail is painting gold some of its post boxes in the home towns and cities of our champions in honour of their world-beating successes – Jessica’s post box can be found outside Sheffield City Hall (www.yorkshire.com/olympics).
Have your own golden moment at Westbourne House Hotel, a stunning family-run Guest House, and save 35% by visiting www.great2012offers.com
Hackney – London’s new culture capital
The Games has physically transformed this part of London, putting in place improvements to infrastructure – alongside the Olympic Park itself – that will help drive renewal and regeneration. Outside of its sporting offering, Hackney has been recognised as a cultural hotbed for creative talent. Last week, Spare Parts (www.spareparts2012.com) launched a Paralympic-inspired exhibition at the Rag Factory gallery on Brick Lane (25 August – 9 September). Spare Parts turns prosthetic limbs into artworks, an idea initiated by Australian curator and amputee Priscilla Sutton, who first exhibited the artworks she commissioned in Brisbane in 2010. Artists use the pre-used prosthetic limbs as a blank canvas on which to create. It appears that the future is very bright for London’s new culture hub.
Lastminute.com offers an overnight stay at the Blu Edwardian New Providence Wharf Hotel from £87 per room. www.lastminute.com/VisitEngland