Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Introduction

In 2017 I completed a tour by bus "Around the Edge of England" in which I travelled 5,000 kilometres on 257 buses over 51 days of travel, spread over a two year period. This is the sequel.
It is based on the "historic" or "geographical" counties of England. Those which most people would recognise as "proper" counties, rather than the administrative or ceremonial counties, which serve a different purpose.

Counties
Counties have been part of England's history since mediaeval times and are the basis of many people's identities. In 1889 the system of local government in England was changed to establish "county councils" as the first tier of local governance. "Counties" and "County Councils" thus became syonymous. However, a series of re-organisations of local government followed, with a particularly damaging one in 1974 that broke the link whilst confusing things further by retaining some county names and creating new ones.
My own county of Lancashire is a good example. The south-east of the county, around Manchester, was transferred administratively to the new "county" of Greater Manchester, whilst the south-west around Liverpool became part of Merseyside. (Both these county councils were abolished in 1986,altough the areas they covered were not returned to "Lancashire").  In the north, the Furness District was transferred to the new county of Cumbria. Subsequently, both Blackburn and Blackpool have gained independence from the administrative control of Lancashire County Council, although local residents still consider themselves Lancastrians.
You will not be surprised to learn that my tour will not recognise any of this. As far as I am concerned the 1974 re-organisation never happened and I will not be travelling through Greater Manchester or Cumbria or, for that matter, "Avon", "Cleveland" or "Hereford & Worcester" nor any other abominations created by misguided legislation!
Instead I will be visiting all 39 of the historic counties of England and calling-in at all 39 of the "county towns".

County Towns
The concept of a town is ill-defined and unofficial. Following the establishment of county councils in 1889 many such bodies based themselves in the county towns, but the county towns themselves date back much further than that. They were often the places where the county members of parliament were elected (before the electoral reforms of the 19th Century) or where certain adminstrative or judicial functions were carried out. So, for example, my tour will begin in Lancaster - the county town of Lancashire - and not Preston, which is merely the administrative centre and the base of Lancashire County Council.

Travelling  by bus
I shall complete the journey by bus, although I reserve the right to incorporate trains, ferries or even taxis if no suitable bus service exists for any particular stage of the journey.  It will be made as a servies of short trips, spanning just a few days at a time, but it will be a continuous journey "geographically", with each stage commencing where the previous one finished.  I have no idea of the distance I will cover, the number of buses I will use or how long it will take.  Unlike my Around the Edge tour, where  I kept as close to the coast as was feasible, I am free to vary my route to take in interesting places or interesting routes  -"interesting" to me that is, it's my trip after all.  In many cases I hope to spend some time in the county towns themselves, particulatrly those I don't know very well and, of course, depending on the distance between them not every overnight stop will necessarily be in a county town, although where possible, that is the aim.
The journey started on 6th March 2018 at Lancaster - heading north.

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