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Program 532 England’s Cities

Anyone fact check this stuff?!
I’ve heard some rubbish in my time but the first half of this program is misinformation bordering on offensive.

Firstly starting with “”Where not to go”?! And then just listing major northern cities with no explanation. How to misinform in one sweeping generalising statement! Including Birmingham in the list of northern industrial cities would be hilarious if it didn’t show a startling level of ignorance.

Chester, good to see it mentioned but it is not 8 miles from the welsh border. The suburb of Saltney crosses the border. Would love to know where the 8 mile figure came from? The Rows are not a “Shopping Mall”! How to misdescribe a unique architectural feature! And they also aren’t gothic in style, but hey don’t let that stop you throwing in that random “fact”. Then the explanation that the pubs aren’t designed for visitors? I’m now beginning to wonder if the people talking had ever set foot in the city.
Obviously you can’t mention Liverpool without a mention of the Beatles. Any chance of a mention of the architecture, art, culture in the city? Obviously not!

And then we reach the high point. Rolling out old stereotypes about it being “grim up north”, “hard northerners, southern softies”. Then the throw away comment ( I’m presuming it was an attempt at humour?) about northerners wanting to move South. What a load of drivel, and I’m saying that as a northerner who happens to live in the south!

I gave in listening at that point. Life is too short to listen to this stuff. I’m just sorry that it is giving the wrong impression to people who might want to visit.

Posted by
15565 posts

I seem to hear British accents divulging this misinformation. Indeed Google Maps indicates a walk of 7000 feet southwest of the center of Chester will put you in Wales.

Posted by
1756 posts

For those who are curious, this is the programme:

And I agree with Emma.

I don’t know who’s worse, the three talking heads or Rick egging them on to spout drivel. A bit of googling reveals the background of each: one lives in London, another grew up in the south west and the other is from southern England; southern softies indeed!

Brighton - a beach resort with an awful beach.

Dismisses Leeds as a place not to visit. Then goes onto list Preston, Newcastle, Birmingham, Bradford as big cities in the industrial north. No one would say Preston a big city – and Birmingham is not in the north. This is just random bollocks. I think they’re trying to be funny, maybe provocative but the thing is people believe this.

People bang on about wanting to meet the locals and find hidden gems. Well you're not going to find that in well-trodden places like Bath.

Reasons why you should visit those “awful” northern cities so casually dismissed:

Rick says nobody goes to Dusseldorf – I did, had a great time – very affluent city.

And can we have less on the bloody Cotswolds.

Posted by
2898 posts

Thank you for speaking up! No one likes to see an area reduced to a stereotype, especially from a "travel expert." I often note that he has no idea what he is talking about when he speaks about the history of Christianity......

There is some good news here. A recommendation from Rick Steves often means a ridiculous influx of tourists that overwhelms an area. No recommendation means that the area will have more options available for people to visit.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Newcastle last year and wished I had put more time there in my itinerary.

Posted by
5817 posts

I have no problem with people being provocative. I also have no problem with saying that some northern cities shouldn’t be near the top of the list for visitors. I would probably agree in some cases. What this piece is, is just plain lazy and I do have a problem with that.
I really do doubt that the people interviewed have spent much, if any time, in the places they are discussing and how they can spout such old stereotypes about the north is beyond me. I presume they were paid well?

The exact location of the welsh border in Chester is very well known in my family because my “welsh” mother was accidentally born in the wrong side of it in England.A subject of much shame! :-)

It’s a city of much history, this bed was discovered in a hotel a couple of doors down from where my mum was born. We managed to convince my nephew it was where Nana was born for quite a while!

Posted by
580 posts

Now then Emma lass, calm thissen down, we don't wanna be ovverun wi' offcumd'uns!

You're right though, a spectacular stereotypical hatchet job on the supposedly grim north. A little shot in the foot when Yorick suggests to a caller from Texas that he might like to look at travelling on the Settle to Carlisle line, reached best from Leeds. Oops!

And while I am at it I have spent over fifty years traipsing round the Lake District and have felt the need to visit Cockermouth precisely twice in that time. Those interested in 'doing the Wainwrights' or a couple of them while visiting should note that they are NOT the fells over 2000 feet but the 214 fells listed in the seven volume Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells, the lowest of which, Castle Crag, tops out at just shy of 1000 feet and is handily situated at the foot of Derwentwater and rather less frequented generally than Catbells. Wainwrights ashes were scattered by Innominate Tarn on Haystacks. There is I believe a memorial to the great man in Buttermere church.

I did also note that in true irony free style the programme concluded with 'Scarborough Fair' which last time I looked was on the north-east coast of Yorkshire. Heaven forfend!

I'll still listen to the radio show though. But without the rose tinted spectacles.


PS. Visitors in search of Beatrix Potter might be surprised to see her photographs which in later life didn't look at all like Rene Zellweger, but more like a Cumbrian sheep farmer, which in truth she was. And known and respected by the locals as 'Mrs Heelis'. Her donation of land in the Lakes to the nation helped make it the place we know and love today. We owe her a great debt in that regard.

Posted by
23243 posts

I dunno.

I haven't heard the bit about Cockermouth yet because I stopped listening after the first segment, but I've never had the thrill yet. So far, I like it a bit more around the mid-Windermere and Hilltop area. Suits me fine, when I've had enough I'll venture further.

Shame that the Yorkshire Dales get lumped into the "don't go, it's up North and not an exception). They've clearly either never seen the area or they are told what they should say to fit into the stereotypes. My guess is probably actually the latter.

Then again, the roads across and through the Dales are busy enough, ta very much.

Does anybody other than me remember the horrid green fogs, the pea-soupers where you couldn't see your hand in front of your face, caused by the pollution? I certainly do - they killed my grandmother. Where was that? The grimy, black and white gritty northern cities? No. London, in my lifetime. Never mentions that though.

I have to calm down. Deep breath. I agree with others. I'm afraid that this episode is a bit light on substance and a bit heavy on stereotype.

I grew up in the Cotswolds (as well as London and the northeast of the US and Canada) so I rather like the Cotswold villages and towns, as well as best garden I have ever discovered, but have these people not seen the rolling countryside of Cheshire?

And don't knock Leeds. My house was bought with the help of lawyers (solicitors) in Leeds. And they have a decent Armoury too.

.... one last thing ... brum as pronounced in the show is the sound of a car. Brummies are Birmingham residents, not brum. Yes, was and is industrial, and yes the Black Country isn't far away, but it is clearly the Midlands, not the North. 90 minutes north of London by train is not the North.

Posted by
882 posts

Yes, I was a bit surprised after hearing Rick's-"don't bother about the North" bit. While there are some rather grim big cities such as Birmingham, there are also some pretty decent ones. As for Birmingham, I once sat on a flight with a gentleman from that city now living in Chicago. He asked me where I visited in England then said that don't visit Birmingham because it's "rhymes with bite*.

But Sheffield, Manchester(BBC headquarters!) have been revitalized. Personally, I loved York and Yorkshire and felt their citizens more friendly than "down south". The podcast felt like I was in an Elisabeth Gaskell novel-only without the dreamy Richard Armitage.

Posted by
4465 posts

Not sure really how the likes of Chester, Bristol, and Plymouth are in any way 'overlooked', although the championing of Plymouth is maybe brave, since a lot of guides are rather disparaging about it, claiming that beyond the Hoe there is little reason to go there it being a nondescript post-war hotchpotch of a place. Much the same kind of language as used to disparage places in the Midlands and North indeed.

Also I found it odd that the very thing that many people visit the towns and cities across the Midlands and North to see and visit - their Victorian era edifices and institutions, built when they were rich compared with the poor still mainly agrarian South - were portrayed as negatives.

Posted by
5817 posts

I’ve spent quite a lot of time in Birmingham and haven’t found it the least bit grim. It’s a lively city with lots going on and some really nice buildings. At one point I was thinking of relocating there because the quality of life is almost certainly superior to that in much of London.

I think a lot of disparaging comments about places are made by people who haven’t visited in years, if at all. Many places certainly were pretty bleak in the past. Town planners doing as much damage as the Luftwaffe in many cases, but real effort and investment has gone into making many cities much more “liveable” and attractive.

I’m not saying all northern cities should be at the top of anyone’s list if they are looking for the mythical “cute” or “quaint” but to just say “don’t visit!” Is ridiculous.