Leicestershire was always known for its manufacturing industry as well as its pork pies. The partly rural county was famed for the manufacture of knitwear, hosiery and footwear. Today, great minds from Leicestershire ensure we are well shod with the design centres for the Next and George fashion labels based there, Our love of crisps and pies is sated by Leicestershire businesses, whether we hunger for salt and vinegar crisps on the bus, steak pies at the King Power Stadium or Melton Mowbray pork pies on a picnic. How on earth would our conference venues cope without crisps and pork pies?
Besides underwear and crisps, it is also known for its engineering, with Brush Traction and Triumph Motorcycles based in Loughborough and Hinckley respectively among its examples. Rural Leicestershire is punctuated by stables, kennels and gunsmiths as well as fine food. The fox, which symbolises the county, denotes its fox hunting heritage.
Fine food epitomises the area around Melton Mowbray with examples including Stilton and Red Leicester cheese, as well as with pork pies. It is a largely unspoilt town with the third oldest market in England, taking place each Tuesday. The phrase 'painting the town red' could claim to originate from Melton Mowbray, following a successful fox hunt in 1837. The Marquess of Waterford and his hunting party found several tins of red paint and daubed liberal amounts of the stuff along High Street.
To the north is Loughborough, the largest part of Leicestershire other than the city which bears the county's name. It is known for its engineering, particularly Brush Traction who built many a diesel locomotive and its university. The northern terminus of the Great Central Railway, a preserved line along part of Sir Edward Watkin's Great Central Main Line to London Marylebone, is based there. Just off the M1 and well served by the Midland Main Line, a good place for a conference venue.
On the other side of the M1 are the towns of Shepshed and Coalville. At one time, Shepshed claimed to have the highest number of pubs per head in the UK and grew as a centre for the wool trade. Coalville, as the name suggests, was built on the back of the mining industry. The Snibston Discovery Museum focuses on the town's history and is built on the site of the former Snibston Colliery. Further west is the town of Ashby-de-la-Zouch, famed for its ruined castle which is a Grade I Listed Building. In more recent times, also associated with ZX Spectrum owners as the home of Ultimate Play The Game, with software titles like Knight Lore and Alien 8.
Further south is Hinckley, which lies close to the M69, M1 and M6 motorways, and the A5. It is a traditional centre for the hosiery industry and the home of Triumph motorcycles. In 1835, Joseph Hansom built the first Hansom cab in Hinckley. Slightly further south is Lutterworth, which at one time was a popular stopping point on the road from Leicester to Oxford and London. Its coaching inns see a 21st century use as public houses and conference venues. The jet engine was also invented there by Frank Whittle. On the border of Leicestershire and Northamptonshire is the town of Market Harborough. It is dominated by the steeple of St. Dionysius Parish Church and a gateway into Corby and Kettering.
No reference to Leicestershire is complete without its cosmopolitan city. Leicester, by far the main centre, is known for its market (the largest covered market hall in Europe) and the De Montfort University. Just outside the city centre is the National Space Centre which is next to the Abbey Pumping Station museum. Other attractions include Abbey Park where a short walk over the River Soar leads to the ruined Leicester Abbey. The city itself is a real shoppers' paradise and a suitable conference venue owing to its road, rail, bus and coach connections.
The county is well represented in a sporting guise with Leicester City the main professional footballing side. One of the UK's foremost rugby union sides is Leicester Tigers, whereas speedway is represented by Leicester Lions. There is also a racecourse, south of Leicester in Oadby. Throughout the county, non-league football sides include Loughborough Dynamo and Coalville Town. Motor racing fans are placated by the track at Donington Park.
Today, it is the county's motorway network and proximity to main urban centres which enables Leicestershire to supply a lot of our favoured foodstuffs or clothing. The city of Leicester is just off the M1 and M69 motorways whereas the A46 offers a direct route to Lincolnshire. The Midland Main Line offers direct rail links to Sheffield, Nottingham, Derby and London St. Pancras. A number of scheduled and charter flights from East Midlands Airport link Leicestershire with European and domestic destinations.
Whether you prefer the vibrancy of Leicester city centre, or the rural idyll of Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire is well worth considering.