Stoke On Trent
Stoke On Trent is also known as Potteries, thanks to its historic significance as the home of pottery in England. Situated approximately half way between Birmingham and Manchester, it has been almost exclusively known for its industrial-scale pottery manufacturing since the 17th century. Companies such as Royal Doulton, Dudson, Spode, Wedgwood and Minton were established and based there. The local abundance of coal and clay suitable for earthenware production led to the early development of the local pottery industry. The construction of the Trent and Mersey Canal in the 1770s enabled the import of china clay from Cornwall together with other materials, facilitating the production of creamware and bone china. The city's ceramics collection is housed in the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in Hanley. Most of the major pottery companies based in Stoke-on-Trent have factory shops and visitor centers. The 10 GBP million Wedgwood Museum visitor center opened in the firm's factory in Barlaston in 2008. However, Stoke on Trent has far more to offer the intrepid traveler than just history. Nearby, the Peak District is begging to be discovered, enticing hikers from around the UK and further to take on its twisting trails. For travelers with children, consider visiting the Trentham Monkey Forest, which is the only one of its kind in the UK. It houses 140 Barbary Macaques in a 60-acre enclosure that visitors can walk through. One of the UK's top attractions, the Alton Towers theme park, is an easy 10 miles east of Stoke on Trent and can entertain adults and children alike for an entire day with its ample rides and amusements. The Waterworld indoor swimming complex on Festival Park near Hanley is also a significant children's attraction. Park Hall Country Park in Weston Coyney is a national nature reserve, and its sandstone canyons are a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Hartshill Park in Stoke is also a nature reserve, and Bucknall Park is home to the City Farm. Westport Lake in Longport is the largest body of water in Stoke-on-Trent and has a nature reserve. Stoke has a vibrant music scene with venues including The Sugarmill, The Underground and Victoria Hall hosting touring bands. The most famous pop star to have come from this city has to be Robbie Williams, and as you wander through the streets of Stoke, see whether you can recall any of his songs which refer directly or indirectly to the sights within the city. While you are here, try out the Staffordshire oatcakes (traditionally made in corner-shop style oatcake bakeries). They are a much-loved local culinary specialty, though fame has yet to travel far outside the region. They started off as a cheap alternative to bread, but despite this no longer being the case, they have remained popular. Oatcakes can be eaten cold or hot with any sweet or savoury fillings. Another dish to try is lobby, a stew not unlike Lancashire hotpot. This hearty meal is also still made by local people. Enjoy!