2020 Travels – Oakham

A recent news report (on a slow news day, probably) revealed that one of England’s smallest counties, Rutland, was to be the last county to receive its very own branch of fast food outlet McDonald’s. While reading the report and trying to stay awake to the end, I thought to myself “I’m sure there’s a railway station in Rutland”. And there is one. It’s in Oakham. So I went to Oakham.

Some of the UK has been experiencing snow recently, but the Midlands has been free from the white stuff, so I journeyed to Rutland from my home station of Burton on Trent on a sunny Wednesday, 29th January 2020. It was freezing cold despite the sunshine as I embarked on a journey that would involve six trains. There’s a campaign going on to reopen the Burton-Leicester line which closed to passengers in 1964. The campaign has gathered some momentum in the last year, with local MPs in favour of it and local businesses taking an interest in it. If it were still open, my journey would have been much quicker. As it was, I had to change at Derby for Leicester, and then at Leicester for Oakham. The trains were all a couple of minutes late, but it didn’t impact my journey. In all, it took almost two hours, including waiting time at Derby & Leicester.

In the middle of the morning, around quarter to eleven, my train arrived at Oakham station. Oakham railway station was opened by the Midland Railway in May 1848. The station buildings are very much intact and still in use, with a staffed ticket office and waiting room on platform 1. There is also a signal box and an adjacent level crossing. It is a well-used station, with almost 240,000 passengers using it in 2018-19. It is the only station in the county of Rutland; other village stations used to exist in the county until they were cut in the Beeching Axe of the 1960s.

Upon leaving Oakham station, I headed for the castle and marketplace in the heart of the town. I walked through the main shopping street to get there. The High Street has many local businesses, cafes, bistros and pubs along with a few of the usual High Street chain stores. It was quite busy when I was there, as was the market with a few stalls selling fruit & veg, picture framing and other things. Near the market, and the Oakham School, is an ancient buttercross, a type of market cross where medieval market traders would display their wares for sale, including butter, milk and eggs.

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The buttercross, with the Oakham School building in the background on the left.

On the other side of a small path near the market stands All Saints Church, an impressive looking 14th century church.

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All Saint’s Church, Oakham.

From the church, I headed to Cutts Close park behind the church and Oakham Castle for a walk around the grounds. It was a fine and sunny day, but still cold.

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Bandstand at Cutts Close Park, Oakham.

After a sit down on a bench, I got up and walked back around to the market place. Anyone would think I didn’t have a clue where I was going, which is ridiculous. Actually, it’s true, I didn’t. I eventually managed to find the entrance to Oakham Castle grounds. The castle was constructed in the late 1100s, and only the former Great Hall remains. A local tradition dictates that peers of the realm should forfeit a horseshoe to the Lord of the Manor of Oakham on their first visit to the town. There are many horseshoes on display in the castle, including those given by Prince Charles, the Queen and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.

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Oakham Castle.

All this castle exploring made me hungry, so I went to the local Tesco supermarket to buy a sandwich, which I ate when I returned to the park. Cheese and pickle, in case you were wondering.

From the park, I walked down Station Road to the station, where I caught the train to Leicester, where I caught the train to Derby, where I caught the train back to Burton. I enjoyed my time in Oakham, and probably should have stayed a bit longer to have a look around the Rutland museum. It is a great place to visit, and is not far from Rutland Water nature reserve.

Thanks very much for reading this, and I will hopefully be back sometime soon with more travel tales.

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