Staffordshire is a region of startling contrasts with scenery ranging from the old royal hunting grounds of Cannock Chase to the limestone bluffs of Dove Dale on the Derbyshire border. The industrial heritage is equally varied from bottle kilns of the Potteries to the bottled beer of Burton upon Trent. Amongst this modernity survive centuries old ceremonies like the Horn Dance at Abbots Bromley and well-dressing at Tissington.
The north-eastern corner of Staffordshire, known as the Potteries, is dominated by the cluster of towns made famous by Arnold Bennett in his novels, now combined to form the city of Stoke-on-Trent. Here are the traditional workshops of English potters where during the last 300 years master potters have produced English pottery at its best. The finely shaped, handsomely decorated wares of Wedgwood, Minton, Spode and Copeland are sought after by collectors throughout the world.
Still very much an industrial area, the countryside, towns and villages around Stoke are often overlooked by visitors, for behind the Victorian and industrial architecture much older buildings can be sought out. A legacy of the 18 th and 19 th century industrialisation is the wonderful canal network that forms an integral feature throughout the whole of Staffordshire. These winding canals, with their accompanying towpaths run through the very heart of towns as well as snaking through the countryside. Apart from the busy county town of Stafford and the brewing centre of Burton upon Trent, mid-Staffordshire consists mainly of rich pastureland divided into prosperous dairy farms, criss-crossed by canals and gently flowing rivers. Here lies the peaceful tranquillity of Cannock Chase, 26 square miles of protected moorland and forest, once the hunting ground of Plantagenet kings. The remains of another former royal forest survive in the oaks and hollies of the vast Needwood Forest further eastward. From the wooded parklands of Blithfield Hall are views of glittering Blithfield Reservoir.
In spite of the industrial scars evident in parts of the county the southern reaches of Staffordshire are mostly rural where not so much as a smokestack blights the landscape. Both Lichfield, a charming small cathedral city and the birthplace of Dr Samuel Johnson, and Tamworth have roots dating back well beyond the Industrial Revolution, and both retain fine examples of medieval building. Lichfield has an impressive cathedral surrounded by one of the most picturesque closes in the county, while Tamworth can boast its magnificent Norman Castle. South-east, below the route of the ancient Roman Watling Street, a richly wooded area extends southward to the Warwickshire border.