Stafford - The Midlands
"An Unscheduled Stop"
Stafford, it is fair to say, is somewhere which I had no intention of visiting. I was on my way to Bath and beyond: however my car had different ideas. And judging by my experiences with Stafford garages, it may be the worst place in the country, carwise, to have a breakdown.
However, I decided I might as well see what Stafford has to offer, which luckily was a bit more than first impressions suggested.
The unique feature is the Ancient High House, the tallest half-timbered house still standing in England. It is a little forlorn on the modern High St, with some crappy shops at ground level, but inside, it is quite a construction.
There is also what's left of England's largest motte and bailey castle - the 'castle' itself is the crumbling remnants of a reconstruction - a project crying out for a bit of purpose and imagination.
"Quaint back streets"
There are a few (ok very few) parts of Stafford which have escaped 'improvement' which can give you a flavour of the history of the town. These are, of course, about a hundred times more attractive then any of the modern centre.
Another thing: Stafford, although (or possibly because) the centre is pedestrianised, has a chronic traffic problem. Despite the application of enormo-roundabouts and ringways, traffic can be be backed up for one, maybe two miles on the approaches during peak times.
"St Mary's Church"
Also in the historic quarter (more of a historic one-sixtyfourth) is the very old St Mary's Church, with some lovely gardens, with benches to enjoy the view. One thing I will say in Stafford's favour, it is very big in the Britain in Bloom stakes, with floral displays in abundance (and a lovely riverside park). Not quite enough to hide the whole town, however.