Travellers’ tales, far horizons, stunning scenery, mysterious castles: exploring the wonders of the world on your bike, dreaming of the past in your tent.
Some people say that the best thing about cycling around England is the history. You can cycle from village to village and town to town and see an endless procession of thatched cottages, magpie Tudor houses, elegant Georgian terraces and grand Victorian railway stations. And if you need a drink, there are plenty of old coaching inns, Victorian pubs and roadside taverns in which to quench your thirst.
Most of these old buildings (what we might call England’s Heritage) are protected by law – and they are fairly stringent laws at that. If a building is “listed” it means that the owners can't make any alterations without the permission of English Heritage.
And there is another very important group of buildings known as Ancient Monuments – a grand title for what are sometimes just ruins but are in other cases staggeringly impressive – just take Stonehenge for example.
English Heritage manages most of the old and ancient monuments in England and Wales. These include nearly all our old castles and archaeological remains, as well of course the iconic sites like Stonehenge. But sometimes we forget that the best buildings like Salisbury Cathedral are actually owned and managed by the Church of England – and they don’t get any government money for the repairs (which can often run into millions of pounds).
The Queen looks after her own palaces (like Buckingham Palace) and there are plenty of other stately homes in private hands.
We are incredibly lucky in the UK to have such a heritage. It wasn’t always so. Oliver Cromwell (yes, the man who ordered Charles 1st to be beheaded) blew up most of the castles in England (they’re not just ruins as you might think but cannon damaged buildings). Nowadays it's a lot more peaceful! By being member of English heritage you can get in to see these great places at first hand.
What people forget however is that, unlike the National Trust (which is a charity), English Heritage is actually a government agency. Or at least it used to be! It is now two separate organisations, a charity that will indeed be very like the National Trust and another body called Historic England. This latter body will look after all the legal side of things amongst other duties.
So English Heritage will look a lot like other charities from now on. They've even got an on-line shop - great for wonderful presents for friends and family members who love history and the buildings it happened in.
You could spend a whole day on your tour just visiting one English heritage site. Reading up before you go is worth the effort and time. You can browse the English Heritage book section here, or take a look at the English Heritage shop here.