Before we left Portland for Melton I did a little homework on the Midlands of England. When looking at a map, or Google Earth, one sees that Melton Mowbray is one of these little towns in the middle of the countryside. Between the towns, according to the maps, are fields, forests, golf courses, etc…lots of open spaces. I imagined Melton and the surrounding villages as sleepy haunts, where the locals walked their sheepdogs whilst wearing tweed jackets and smoking from pipes. Tractors share the roads with modern vehicles, but maybe some roads are gravel or dirt rather than paved. I envisioned hamlets that were a throwback to the 18th century, when life was simpler and slow paced. They must look like this because they were in the countryside. A very romantic vision if ever there was one.
Melton Mowbray, or at least the market here, was mentioned in the Domesday Book (pronounced Doomsday), which was written in 1086. It was a tax survey to see who owned what, and what kinds of taxes could be collected for William I (William the Conqueror). So technically this town is roughly been lived in for over 900 years. That being said, Melton is NOT really a sleepy country town. It is very small, yes, but very busy. It is modern by many standards and very bustling. Just going out for a drive, one is immediately expected to drive quickly amongst many other vehicles driving quickly, occasionally passing tractors or farm equipment or horses that travel at their own paces. Due to its age this town is technically very old, but has a lot more going for it than I imagined. The local movie theatre closed down recently and that is creating pains for the locals, leaving us without a theatre for up to 20 miles away. That seems to be the biggest loss in this town right now.
We took a drive over to Leicester yesterday, about 16 miles south of us. Yes, many times I was quite nervous driving. Getting there, again, we drove past miles of countryside. But each time we came to a village, or drove past one, we could feel a sense that these hamlets are quite old BUT not that country feeling I had conjured up in my head. I have yet to see a tweed jacket or a pipe (though smoking in this country is much more prevalent than in Portland). People in these towns are very modern, living modern lives wearing modern clothes. I feel a little silly thinking that, because these were country towns, they must have a country feel. So far they do not. Melton is a lot more busy than I imagined, even though it is a small place to live. I am learning so much in this first week abroad.