Green and pleasant land inspires greatest show on earth

27th Jun 2012
Green and pleasant land inspires greatest show on earth

Artistic director Danny Boyle has revealed that the £27million London 2012 opening ceremony will be ‘British Countryside’ themed. James Berresford, VisitEngland’s Chief Executive, commented:
“The eyes of the world will be on the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. England’s beautiful countryside is one of this country’s greatest assets, and we are delighted that Danny Boyle is using this fantastic opportunity to showcase our ‘Green and Pleasant’ land. The sheer breadth and diversity of England’s rural landscapes means that there is always somewhere new to discover, and our latest research shows that countryside breaks are becoming increasingly popular for Brits taking a holiday at home. In 2011, there were over 19 million domestic overnight breaks taken in the countryside in England, worth just under £3bn to the economy.

Whether it’s a walking tour of the Peak District or a camping trip in the New Forest, a holiday in the country is a great opportunity for families to get outdoors and spend some quality time together. We very much look forward to seeing the beautiful British countryside reproduced in the Olympic stadium next month!”

Here the national tourist board looks at some of the country’s most inspiring rural experiences that may lurk behind Boyle’s latest creation…

The countryside and open air have long provided inspiration for artists and performers, and already provide the setting for some of England’s greatest exhibitions and events. We already know that the ‘Isles of Wonder’ set will include a mini Glastonbury Tor, but there are a number of other outdoor cultural experiences that may have inspired the greatest show of the year.

Glyndebourne Festival Opera is held every summer in a traditional country house setting. Afternoon performances include a long interval for picnic lunches and strolls through the surrounding countryside. The location of the Minack Theatre, carved naturally into the rocks at Porthcurno Cornwall, adds a stunning backdrop and natural drama to all plays and performances. 


Physical works of art can also have greater impact set against a natural environment. Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s natural gallery space features over 60 sculptures set in some 500 acres of 18th century parkland This summer’s Wall Installation by Zach Lieberman uses the 86-mile structure of Hadrian’s Wall as its canvas. Designed by New York artists’ collective YesYesNo the installation will combine creativity, artistic vision and cutting-edge technology. From 21 June – 9 September. 

2012 is the year of the Treehouse, and has seen accommodation providers across the board – from campsites to B&Bs to luxury country retreats – building accommodation options into the canopies. 

Centre Parcs at Longleat has introduced two-storey treehouses set amongst 400 acres of Wiltshire woodland, each with a wooden den accessed via a timber walkway.  Fair Oak Farm B&B in Sussex has two new treehouse ecolodges, while the tree house suites at 5-star Hampshire retreat Chewton Glen appear to float across the wooden valley like floating lily pads.

The Eden Project recently provided an inspiring backdrop for the Olympic Torch and is the brainchild of the Big Lunch initiative. In such a huge year for the award-winning eco attraction, perhaps too it will feature in the Opening Ceremony.  Get 20.12% off at the Eden Project this summer when you book via

Acrobatics and circus acts are a key feature of many opening ceremonies, and London is unlikely to be different.

Go Ape is the country’s no1 forest adventure and celebrates 10 years in business this year. The 27 adventures across the country offer tree-top zip wires, climbing challenges and slides to inspire the inner Tarzan. Could this be behind some of Boyle’s ambitious acts?  Either way, those that GoApe with the kids this summer can save 20.12% through

Anyone that’s seen Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall diving into hedgerows or Ray Mears rummaging for a forest-floor snack would by intrigued by the weird world of wild food. Throughout the year, Fergus the Forager takes small groups on a twelve hour foraging course across woodland, field, river, and seashore habitats around Canterbury and the surrounding coast.

Learn how to hunt with Birds of Prey and ferrets in the grounds of the magnificent Swinton Park in Yorkshire and forage for edible wild ingredients before sitting down to enjoy a delicious meal (using ingredients sourced from the day’s hunting and foraging). Book your family stay at Swinton Park via for reduced rates during the school holidays.

Alternatively, take a weekend-long bee keeping course at Tiger Hall in Shropshire and learn some fascinating facts guaranteed to stay with you longer than the accompanying jar of honey does.

One of the most ravishing sights on Earth is the night sky and England’s polar National Parks of Northumberland and Exmoor are ideal spots for star-gazing. Boasting 27 miles of shoreline fringed by pine forest and heather moorland, the stunning landscape of Kielder Water offers the clearest and least light polluted skies in the country. A perfect destination in which to experience the great outdoors, the magnificent landscape holds ideal conditions for stargazing, with regular star camps allowing amateur astronomers to sleep under the stars. Get 33% off your stay at Twenty Seven B&B in Kielder when you book via

Exmoor National Park has been designated an International Dark Sky Reserve – the first place in Europe to achieve this prestigious award and only the second in the world. The rugged interior and dramatic coast of Exmoor National Park inspired Coleridge and Wordsworth and perhaps Danny Boyle is next on that list. Home to some of the darkest skies in England, Exmoor’s top star-gazing spots include Holdstone Hill, County Gate, Brendon Two Gates, Webbers Post, Anstey Gate and Haddon Hill.  Book a stay at Exmoor White Horse Inn through and get 5 nights for the price of three.

Gardens are undoubtedly having a moment. The English Garden recently won Outstanding Contribution to Tourism at the 2012 VisitEngland Awards for Excellence, and Chelsea Flower Show is gearing up for its 100th anniversary in 2013.  The London2012 Opening Ceremony, in its depiction of this green and pleasant land, would be remiss not to recognise the beauty and significance of the English Garden. From RHS Wiseley and Kew Gardens to the formal gardens of stately homes and open private gardens, this is something the English do very well indeed. For 20.12% discounts and 2for1 entry at selected stately homes and open gardens this summer, visit


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