The Geography of Leicester

The river soar in leicesterThe reference for Leicester in the world map is latitude 52o38’06” north, latitude 1o08’06” west. The River Soar, which runs through it, is among the few geographical features in the city – since it is, by and large, quite featureless and flat. It’s on the eastern edge of the National Forest – a millennium project which aims to recreate a large forest in England’s midlands. The city embraces many satellite towns, such as Wigston, Syston, Oadby and Forest East.

The city of Leicester is Leicestershire’s county town, and has been a unitary authority since 1997, with its very own authority powers inside the city. The city covers an area of approximately 7,500 hectares, and its population density is approximately 38 people per hectare.

The population of LeicesterLeicester is a ancient city and settlement – but only had the status of city after 1919, by Royal Charter. Leicester’s population had grown from less than 20,000 (it was 17,000 by the start of the century) to over 210,000 people from 1801 to 1901 – and then expanded further to the current level. The city has 22 electoral wards, but only two of these (east and west Knighton) aren’t among the top 50% electoral wards recognized as deprived areas. There are three Parliamentary constituencies in Leicester: Leicester East, South and West. Leicester is currently represented by MPs Patricia Hewitt, Keith Vaz and Sir Peter Soulsby.

Out in the county, Leicester’s highest point is Farndon Hill, which is 277m above sea level and located in the Charnwood forest area. The area is quite flat and does not have very interesting topography – other than that, you can only see a handful of low, undulating hills in the area – since it was flattened and eroded significantly in the last Ice Age. The elevation inside the city seldom reaches more than 200m, and is an average of 150m above sea level.

University of LeicesterGeologically, the city is on top of the western edge of the Trent Valley’s East Midlands shelf. It is covered with a bed of New Red Sandstone and Mudstone – all laid down mostly in the Lower Lias period. In the west, there are coal measures from the Upper Carboniferous period. Coal mining was a very important industry for the local economy of villages around Leicester – nowadays, it has faded away, and is no longer a significant contributor to the economy of the region.

The Leicester Bluefaced is a sheep breed developed for the purpose of providing raw material to the burgeoning hosiery trade that happened in the 18th Century. It is a common breed of sheep in Northern England, too, where it’s known as the Hexam Leicester. Another popular breed, the Border Leicester, has surfaced at approximately the same time. While it takes its name originally from the Stilton area in Cambridgeshire, the Blue Stilton – known as the King of English cheeses – is well-associated with Leicester.

red leicester cheeseConsidering Leicestershire has the predominance of licensed Stilton producers (2), the county claims that the cheese is solely their own. The cheese is associated with Stilton due to the fact it was served at a Coaching Inn, at the village of Great North Road (A1). All four Blue Stilton producers are less than 30km (about 20 miles) away from Melton Mowbray. Melton Mowbray, of course, is the home of British Pork Pie – since it’s protected, only a Pork Pie from Melton Mowbray can be named a Pork Pie. Another cheese which originated in Leicestershire is the Red Leicester – a harder cheese that has a bit more fat than the Stilton, and that’s another national favorite.

Climatically, Leicester has England’s typical temperate climate. While the climate is similar, its temperature is quite unusual: the average temperature, surprisingly, is only 9oC. It varies throughout the year, of course, with an average of 21oC through July and August. It has an average low of only 1oC through December and January. The wind direction in Leicester is primarily south westerly – the wind brings weather systems from the North Pole and Atlantic.