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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 5 March, 2003, 12:35 GMT
It's potty to dismiss Staffordshire
By Christine Jeavans
BBC News Online's Staffordshire ex-pat

Staffordshire has come bottom of a list of counties surveyed by Country Life magazine - but it's perhaps more surprising that it made it to the list in the first place.

The Nemesis ride at Alton Towers
Been to Alton Towers? Then you've visited Staffordshire
Most people have little idea that this quiet, unpretentious county exists - other than as a word stamped on the bottom of mugs.

And those who've heard of it are almost certainly clueless as to its location.

But anyone who has travelled north of Birmingham whether on the M6 or the West Coast mainline, will have seen a lush, pretty landscape of canals and pasture, dotted with the odd town and village.

That's Staffs.

It's not showy, I grant you. There are none of your chic cities here - Stoke-on-Trent has never made a claim to be achingly hip, rather it plays its Robbie Williams links to the hilt.

And whereas next-door Warwickshire proudly styles itself as Shakespeare's County, Staffordshire doesn't shout so loudly about its own claims to fame, although rumour has it that confused foreign tourists do occasionally turn up in my hometown, Stafford, having misread its name and wondering where Anne Hathaway's cottage is.

But who hasn't been to Alton Towers? If you have, you've visited Staffordshire, home of the Corkscrew - Britain's first loop-the-loop rollercoaster - and other thundering rides that have turned generations of school kids green.

Reliant Robin
A design classic from Tamworth
Ale-lovers should also raise a glass to Staffordshire - Burton-on-Trent is still one of the biggest brewery towns in England.

Then there's the potteries - including Wedgwood, Royal Doulton and Minton; the incredible three-spired cathedral at Lichfield; the bizarre annual Abbots Bromley Horn Dance (it involves antlers - don't ask).

And it's entirely befitting the calm nature of Staffordshire that its most famous son is Izaak Walton, author of the great fly-fishing classic, the "Compleat Angler".

This book, also entitled "The Contemplative Man's Recreation", was first published in 1653 and is still in print, making it one of the most popular books ever.

How can the survey give us 0/10 for sport with that kind of track record?

Finally, don't forget the Reliant Robin - product of Tamworth. No-one should dismiss the region that brought us the classic three-wheeler, an un-flashy car if ever there was one.

Roaches View, Staffordshire
It may fall short on "sunshine hours" but it's still beautiful
OK, so I admit I don't live in the county anymore - and have no plans to move back.

But there was no question about holding my forthcoming wedding anywhere else, and planning the celebration has brought me back into close contact with Staffordshire.

And whereas when I lived in Stafford, its quiet atmosphere drove me spare, ten years spent in Manchester and London has made me truly appreciate the way that people from Staffs have always got time for a chat and a greeting of "alright me duck".

And if anyone tells you different I'll set my Staffordshire dog on them - the pot version that is.

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