Before I kick things off – to be the first to see and purchase the Rutland Map, please reserve your (free) ticket to the Open Studios this Friday! Info and tickets here
My top 10 things I have learnt about Rutland
There are many, many interesting things about Rutland. I spent the smaller half of my childhood in Greetham and since then have always lived near or in Rutland. That is not one of the most interesting things about Rutland but it does explain why, a few months ago, I decided to embark on an epic project to illustrate the county and put our little (and let’s face it, often overlooked) county back on the map! I merrily skipped into the project, deciding to leisurely complete the project in my evenings and hours snatched from normal KC work, after all as the smallest country in the country, how time-consuming could it be? On my journey from a piece of blank paper to the finished map, I learnt that small is not necessarily simple (but can be helped along with a cheeky G&T once the child is in bed…)
What Rutland lacks in size it well and truly makes up in history, architecture, character and quirks. So here we have it, my 10 most interesting things I learnt about little old Rutland en route…
1. Rutland Radio is a little gem
Kicking the show off at number 1 is Rutland Radio – where the map began! Back in June, I trotted over to Rutland Radio’s HQ in Oakham with some notes on a bit of paper and an idea in my head…
If you have lived or now live in Rutland you will know that residents are very devoted to the county. Away from home and upon being asked where we are from we will always proudly announce “I am from Rutland” – no further explanation needed, surely?! Except we never seem to learn that 99% of the reactions we receive are, without fail, a prolonged silence followed by an “Um, sorry, where? Did you say Butlins?”. Ignoring the Butlins comment, we gallantly plough on:
“It’s a county in the East Midlands”
“It’s the smallest county in the country you know!”
*mild smile but still no idea*
“Ok, so you must have heard of Rutland Water? Uppingham? Oakham? The legend of the Rutland panther??!”
Sometimes Rutland Water gets a response but when it doesn’t, and only when this avenue has been exhausted, are we then forced to pull out the final card in the pack.
“Ok, it’s near Peterborough”.
“Ohhhh ok, you should have said!”
Aaand end of conversation, with your new friend thinking you live in Peterborough• and you running after him/her shouting about how Rutland is the only county with no fast food chains or speed cameras and how beautiful it is and how she should visit and see it for herself. Cue end of blossoming friendship.
Ok, so my point before getting a tad sidetracked was this; Rutlanders are very devoted to the county so who better to ask about how to fill the map than Rutlanders themselves? Hence my trip to Rutland Radio. With the help of Rob Persani, I made my radio debut (who knew my voice was so squeaky?!) to request suggestions from the listeners – and boy did I get them! With all the suggestions printed in front of me, the map was starting to take shape…
•I am 100% not saying there is anything wrong with living in Peterborough, I went to school there, but it’s just not Rutland now is it.
2. ‘Much in Little’
The county’s motto is Multum in Parvo, meaning much in little. I didn’t know this before I started the map but, 6 weeks on, I can certainly vouch that this is true. So seriously does Rutland take its motto that even the estate agents have jumped on board – very much ££ for very little house! Trying to cram on all the suggestions I was given was no mean feat – I’ve done the best I can but there had to be a balance between the map looking busier than Rutland Water beach on a hot day and it actually looking good framed on a wall.
3. The Rutland Panther is a thing
Correct me if I am wrong, but this is the version I was told. Legend has it that two were released in the Victorian times when owning exotic animals was ALL the rage (y’know, along with keeping crocodiles in your bath tub and giraffes in your dahlias). Since then, spotting the Rutland Panther is an actual thing – it even has it’s own website! I remember my friend’s Dad thought he saw it on his farm in Clipsham and my word, for 10 year old me, it was THE most exciting thing since hair mascara and Kangol cropped tops. It’s my favourite Rutland based story and true or not (and I’m 100% gunning for true), he’s gone on the map. Happy spotting people!
4. The map is a teeensy bit biased.
Yes, I am on there (on a grey horse!) And so is my Dad’s garage (Greetham Garage, on the A1, great service, great biscuits). Oh and the Olive Branch in Clipsham – there are many, many brilliant pubs in Rutland and I would love to have included them all but alas, the map is just not big enough. The Olive Branch is on there because, yes it’s a great pub but it was also where I worked my first job when I was 16, where my sisters also worked and where I learnt about Sambuca shots from Walter (I do hope he still props up the bar). We go often, my prints and cards are for sale in there and that is all my reasons.
Real life actual WINE is grown near Rutland Water. Well, technically the grapes, but this is a great fact. If anyone has a bottle or knows where to get one do send it my way.
6. Freddy’s choice
My assistant Emma was very adamant the Rutland Dinosaur went on. I had no idea about him but apparently Emma’s son is extremely interested in this particular fact and to keep young Freddy happy, he simply had to be included. It’s pretty cool actually – he was found in Little Casterton and is one of the most complete dinosaur skeletons found in the UK – a whole fifteen metres long!
7. Popping out the babies
Exton Hall as it stands was built in the 19th Century but the original building all but burnt down. Interesting enough in itself, but even more interesting is that the chap who owned it (Sir Gerard) had EIGHTEEN children with his wife Diana, and, just in case that wasn’t enough, one extra with the local vicar’s daughter. I can’t imagine she got much time for a massage, a swim and a salad nicoise at Barnsdale Lodge now did she?
8. Anti Ronald McDonald brigade
As much as I was itching to draw a KFC, McDonalds or even a teeny tiny Nando’s, alas it was not to be. Rutland is the only county in the country with NO fast food outlet! It’s a hop to Stamford for that hangover cure…
9. More small
Much like Rutland, Jeffrey Hudson was large but only in personality. Standing at a very compact 45cm, this 17th Century Oakham lad was the smallest man in the whole country. So small, some joker popped him in a pie and presented him to Queen Henrietta Maria. It made a change from her usual Frey Bentos but even still, I think she might have preferred a steak and onion.
10. Ok, we’re nearly done.
Wow, 10 is a lot. I didn’t think this through – my dinner is burnt and I’ve got writers claw. But I said 10 and 10 is what you will get. Rounding things up is this whopper: Rutland is the best county in the kingdom. Who said that? ME. I drew the map and I wrote this so I feel like I deserve to create a fact. In my defence, I’m pretty sure it is true. I dare you to walk under the Seaton Viaduct and not go WOW or eat at Hambleton Hall without declaring your undying love to the chef and wishing you were married to him. (Disclaimer, I have no idea who the chef is and he may well be a she but I HAVE eaten his/her food and if you too eat there, I’m confident you would marry him/her too).
So there we have it – our lovely county getting a little bit of attention it deserves. A big CHEERS to Rutland – long may you continue to be pretty and McDonald-less and as mad a box of frogs!
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