Where is Rutland? A question most residents of the county have to field on a regular basis.
Rutland is a county in the East Midlands of England. It is the smallest historic county in England and has a population of around 38,000 people. It is known for its beautiful countryside and rural landscapes, including the Rutland Water nature reserve.
For some reason it is a county which is not on most people's mental map of England, whether this is because if its interrupted history, or because Rutland is landlocked, it is unclear. Either way, residents are often asked, "where is Rutland?", All we can say, as people who live in Rutland, is that when we tell people where we live it is often met with blank looks.
Geographically speaking, Rutland is positioned level with The Wash, due west of Stamford and Peterborough, and due east of Leicester. Corby is directly south of Rutland, Grantham is due north of the centre of the county.
The counties which border Rutland are Leicestershire to the west and north, Lincolnshire to the east and Northamptonshire to the south.
Rutland extends further east than a lot of people expect, including a pocket of land to the east of the A1 which includes the villages of Clipsham (famous for its Yew Tree Avenue and superb gastropub, The Olive Branch), Pickworth, Essendine, Ryhall and Great and Little Casterton. If you've ever driven north on the A1 between Stamford and Grantham - I'm sure most people have at some point - then you have travelled through Rutland, albeit only for a very short time!
The county's motto is Multum In Parvo, which means Much in Little. In fact, Rutland is the smallest of the counties of England, although this is contested by those who argue that the Isle of Wight is about the same size and possibly marginally smaller on the occasion of a Spring high tide.
Not only is Rutland small and hard to find, it is also home to a very large man-made reservoir, occupying the low lying land east of the County Town, Oakham. Rutland Water is home to a very successful sailing club (in Edith Weston), which has produced a number of World Class sailors and is a popular host of sailing championships.
In fact Rutland Water is the main attraction for a large number of Rutland's visitors. Rutland Water is the home of the Anglian Water Bird Watching Centre, at Egleton, just outside Oakham. Here the margins of the reservoir have become a nature reserve where twitchers can position themselves in any one of numerous hides and watch the varied bird life. The centre is the home of the Rutland Bird Fair, a very popular visitor attraction every summer.
One of the reasons that the bird centre has become so popular is the Rutland Water Osprey Project, a programme which relocated ospreys so successfully that they now return to Rutland to breed each year. Visitors to the website can watch webcams of the nests, some secret, some less so, which are scattered around the reservoir.
On the north shore of Rutland Water, near the dam, is the infamous Rutland Water beach. A moment of pure genius by Anglian Water saw them develop a bay on the north shore of the reservoir into a tourist beach. They shipped in sand, added large inflatable obstacle courses, employed lifeguards and helpers, even adding on land play areas and places to barbecue. Obviously this is not an all-year-round facility, but it is very popular during the summer holidays.
Just west of here, in the next bay, is another watersports club (also home to The Rutland Belle, a passenger boat which provides trips around the reservoir) and the headquarters of Rutland Cycling. Here you can hire bikes to make the trip around Rutland Water (roughly the same as a marathon if you include the Hambleton Peninsula) or take advantage of the shop's experts and buy yourself your next two-wheeled
Another popular reason to visit Rutland Water is to fish. Anglian Water runs the fishing on Rutland Water and boats may be hired from the fishing lodge, just of Normanton Road to the south east of the reservoir. Fishing can be done by the day, or season tickets of various sorts can be purchased. All details are available from their web page linked above.
There are two towns in Rutland. The County town is Oakham, in the middle of the county, just west of Rutland Water. The other, smaller, town is Uppingham, situated south of Oakham close to the A47 which joins Leicester and Peterborough. Uppingham has an older, quainter feel to it, with narrower streets and fewer shops.
Oakham is a small town with a population of around 10,000 people. It is known for its beautiful medieval buildings, including Oakham Castle, which dates back to the 12th century. The town is also home to a number of independent shops and restaurants, making it popular destination for visitors to the area.
Both Oakham and Uppingham have developed around leading private schools, both founded in 1584 by Archdeacon Robert Johnson. Both schools use the boarding house system, with these houses ranging in age from those which existed when the schools started to those built in the 21st century.
Media outlets often list Rutland as one of the best places to live but where is Rutland and why is it so popular? This is a very difficult question to answer. There is no denying that it is popular. Every time a Sunday supplement produces one of those "Best Places to Live" tables, Rutland seems to feature.
There is no question that Rutland is beautiful. Whether you are walking one of the many major footpaths through the Rutland countryside; enjoying a dog walk in one of the many woods open to the public; or enjoying the sites around the Hambleton Peninsula, there is no doubt that the views are stunning.
Rutland is very conveniently located close to transport links to London, Nottingham, Leicester and beyond. The A1 runs through the county, while the A46, to the west, connects to the M1 just west of Leicester. The train station in Oakham connects to the East Coast Main Line at Peterborough, or via Leicester to Birmingham, going west.
Rutland is very rural. The two towns are not large, and have a country feel to them. Minutes from the centre of those towns are farms, woods and open country. It is easy to see the appeal in the era of "CottageCore".
The popularity of Rutland is not without its downsides, however. Rutland has one of, if not the highest, Council Tax rates in the UK. House prices in Rutland are artificially high, and properties which come on the market can sell within hours. I'm not exaggerating. In one development, just north of Oakham, a house recently sold immediately it went on the market. The neighbour saw the sign being changed to sold and asked the agent if anyone would be interested in their house too. It went on the market that day and sold two hours later.