Take me there: the Potteries
At one time the skyline of Stoke-on-Trent was dominated by 4,000 red-brick kilns. Today just 47 of these distinctive bottle-shaped structures remain. Fortunately, the six towns which make up the Potteries are waking up to the importance of their industrial heritage. Last year saw the restoration of Middleport Pottery, the oldest continuously operating china factory in the UK, and in June a £34m visitor centre at Wedgwood (wedgwoodvisitorcentre.com) is launched. The return of the British Ceramics Biennial in the autumn (britishceramicsbiennial.com), featuring the best in contemporary ceramic art and craft, means there’s never been a better time to visit.
What to do
Learn about Staffordshire’s 300-year-old ceramics industry at Middleport factory, which began tours last summer (middleportpottery.co.uk). Pick up bargains at Royal Doulton, Portmeirion and Emma Bridgewater factory shops. The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery hosts a major ceramics exhibition featuring artists from China this spring (Ahead of the Curve, 14 March to 31 May, stokemuseums. org.uk). Despite the name, there’s more to this part of the world than kilns and teapots. The Trentham Estate has gardens designed by Capability Brown, a monkey sanctuary and a shopping village (trentham.co.uk). Alton Towers is within easy reach ,as is the Peak District National Park and the Staffordshire Moorlands.
Where to stay
The Old Hall is a cosy B&B in a 16th-century timber-framed building in the village of Madeley, about five miles west of Stoke (doubles from £135, oldhallatmadeley.com).
Where to eat
David’s Brasserie on the Trentham Estate has an appealing Mediterranean- inspired menu (davidsbrasserie.co.uk).
Amanda Dawson of the Trentham Estate rates the Staffordshire Hoard (staffordshirehoard.org.uk) at the Potteries Museum: “It’s the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found and the intricacy is amazing.”
Give me a break
Home Spa bargains in Essex: The Lifehouse Spa in Thorpe-le-Soken, Essex has launched a range of midweek offers and spa days available until the end of March. A one-night Winter Warm-Up break costs from £99.50 per person and includes accommodation in a double or twin room, a two-course dinner in the Lifehouse Restaurant, a 25-minute massage and full use of the spa. Taster spa days start from £39 (lifehouse.co.uk).
Away Family Eurocamp breaks in France: Eurocamp is offering back-to-basics holidays in France for families looking to keep costs down. Fourteen sites, in locations such as Brittany, Provence and the Dordogne, will offer a more limited choice of accommodation and facilities. A seven-night break at Le Val d’Ussel, near Sarlat, costs from £458 per party in a two-bedroom Classic Plus mobile home, starting from 27 June (eurocamp.co.uk).
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