LEICESTER This gutsy, modern Midlands city is not likely to woo the heart of too many London commuters though it is very conveniently placed close to the M69, the M6 and the M1. Its prosperity was built on hosiery, then on the mass production of boots and shoes, and more recently on engineering and computing. The city has cleverly married public and private spending to good effect, and private developers have turned old warehouses and factories into fashionable lofts and flats. For instance, in the old Pick Building where army uniforms were made, a one-bedroom apartment can be bought for around £110,000, two bedrooms for £160,000. There is a student population, for both Leicester and De Montfort universities are here, and the fact that 35 percent of the population is non-white means it is culturally fabulously varied. This is the land of steam, antiques and agricultural fairs, but also now a land of many cultures, where the Caribbean Festival in August attracts 10,000 people and the Hindu celebrations of Diwali and Navratri eclipse those anywhere else in Europe. The Leicester covered market is reknowned for its cheeses and pies. The Golden Mile on Belgrave Road atttacts shoppers from all over the world in search of silks, saris, jewellery and spices. Leisure here means sport. For participants the city has bowling rinks, BMX and skate facilities, tennis courts, cricket and football pitches, swimming pools and leisure centres. For spectators there are Leicester City FC, Leicestershire County Cricket Club and the indomitable Tigers – Leicester Rugby Football Club.
Highfields, the red light district that has been cleaned up, is generally avoided. So are some of the ugly council estates, though these offer cheap housing – three-bedroom semis at £110,000 to £120,000. Just to the south of the city is the comparative comfort of Stoneygate, where there are large Victorian and Edwardian villas, some of which have been converted into flats. A three-bedroom Victorian house here will cost £275,000; a five-bedroom detached £400,000. Prices are similar in Oadby, which also has its share of older streets and a gentle mix of new housing.
There are some very pretty villages nearby in the Charnwood Forest and up the Wreake Valley, though perhaps some of the most unspoilt stone villages lie slightly out of reach towards Oakham. To the east is classic hunting country, where the Fernie hunt borders with the Quorn. Hoby in the Wreake valley is particularly charming. In this and any of the villages close by, a four-bedroom detached period house might cost £300,000 to £500,000, while the smaller two-bedroom variety will cost £130,000 to £200,000. In the Charnwood Forest you come close to the old coal-mining area of Coalville and granite quarrying area of Mountsorrel, but the forest itself is completely unspoilt and fiercely protected. Prices of small cottages in Quorn are similar to those in the Wreake Valley, but large period properties with six to eight bedrooms and one and a half acres of land can be priced at £750,000 to £850,000.