Well-Kept Secret; KEN BENNETT Discovers the Piece of Hidden England That Is Lincolnshire
Byline: KEN BENNETT
EMMA, the Duchess of Rutland, glides into the dining room with a beguiling smile.
"Excuse me, I'm a little late," she says with a disarming frankness. "Been mucking out the horses with the children." Not your average aristo, our Emma. She's very much a smiling, highly industrious hands-on girl.
We are taking lunch of sublime pheasant and sticky toffee pudding at Belvoir Castle, the wonderful cocoon she shares with her husband, their four children and a heritage stretching back 1,000 years.
From the noble heights of Belvoir - it's French for beautiful view and they pronounce it Beaver here - you could, at one time, look out 38 miles in any direction and you'd still be viewing the Rutland estate.
We had arrived in gentle, unhurried style by coach, toddling over the border from Lincolnshire, which was our base for a three-day visit to appropriately titled Hidden England.
Coaches here are the new train - restful havens where you chat to fellow travellers over coffee.
Lincolnshire itself is one of those truly marvellous English counties just aching to be discovered.
And the untrammelled miles of beautifully manicured fields hold rare secrets..
There are picturepostcard, honey-stoned villages, oozing history alongside their pots of tangy homemade chutneys.
Twinkling pristine towns to spend a dreamy afternoon musing over tea and crumpets.
Then, of course, there are legendary pubs, hotels and castles - just like Beaver - where you luxuriate in cosy rooms and immerse yourself in fine dining with a distinctly local flavour.
Because, alongside its burgeoning heritage, Lincoln's fair county is all about food: and lots of it.
It produces one-fifth of the nation's needs ands hosts the area's distinctly different tastes of Lincoln Red beef, stuffed chine, plum bread, Lincolnshire sausages, Lincolnshire Poacher cheese, fresh ostrich and an extraordinary selection of fresh vegetables. …