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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 February, 2004, 19:14 GMT
Is the grass any greener?

By Brady Haran
BBC News Online, East Midlands

Samples of chlorophyll from the experiment

The grass is NOT greener on the other side.

This is the result of an unusual experiment conducted by BBC News Online, arising from a long-standing rivalry in the East Midlands.

Three counties in the region are renowned for their animosity - Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

Ill-feeling between them increased last month when the region's airport was renamed Nottingham East Midlands Airport.

Leicestershire has always laid claim to the airport for obvious reasons - it is wholly within the county's borders.

However Derbyshire, which prides itself on its central location, points out that Derby is the nearest city to the airport.

Map showing meeting of the three counties

Despite this, the owners of East Midlands Airport added 'Nottingham' to the name instead, cashing in on the city's famous name and association with Robin Hood.

In his anger, the mayor of Derby called for people to boycott the airport and there was talk of possible legal action to prevent the name change.

In a bid to find a fundamental difference between the counties, BBC News Online this week visited the place where all three counties share a border.

A short distance from the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station, the spot is also the intersection of the rivers Trent and Soar.

It is hard to tell the difference between the counties with the naked eye - so why not test the old saying that 'the grass is always greener on the other side'?

360-degree view from the Leicestershire side

Three random samples were collected from each side of the border and botanist Dr Bill Cockburn, from the University of Leicester, tested their chlorophyll levels.

It is chlorophyll which gives plants, including grass, their green colour.

Dr Cockburn's test involved extracting the chlorophyll with acetone and then measuring the samples with a spectrophotometer.

So did this strange test shed any light on the matter?

Well, no.

Although his tests showed some samples may have had a slightly higher levels of chlorophyll, the findings were not conclusive.

360-degree panorama from Derbyshire's side of the Trent

Dr Cockburn said: "Based on the limits of the experiment, I would have to say it is not possible to distinguish between the concentration of chlorophyll, and therefore the level of green-ness."

It appears the rivalry between Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire will continue for many years to come.

And that might not be a bad thing, according to the East Midlands Development Agency's director of partnerships, Ian Lodder.

"We believe that competition between and cities and counties of the East Midlands can be extremely healthy in terms of helping drive economic growth forward.

"We might not have a city like Birmingham in our region, but the triangle of cities of Leicester, Derby and Nottingham means the benefits of improved prosperity can be more widely felt."

However Mr Lodder said the main cities of the East Midlands needed to "understand how they are connected, how they depend on each other, and also identify their similarities and differences to exploit the opportunities which exist to complement each other".

The BBC's Brady Haran
"Is this a sign that I'm meddling with powers beyond my control?"

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