Just a mile from Torbay's seafront lies the thatched village of Cockington, whose pretty houses are steeped in history. Nelson dined at Cockington Court, and Lutyens designed the local pub, where sniggering over the village name is kept to a minimum. Quiet and quaint, Cockington is a pricey place to live and its proximity to the "English Riviera" makes it a honeypot for holidaymakers.
In spite of large-scale development in the 1990s, Lickey End is a local beauty spot that makes up one part of the Lickeys, a collection of villages near Bromsgrove, Worcestershire. It draws walkers looking to explore the Lickey Hills, and there's a good local school, making it popular with families. Residents ignore the wisecracks about their village's name, maintaining a dignified air in the face of ridicule.
Nob End, near Bolton, Lancashire, is a 21-acre site that includes the southern half of the village of Little Lever. It was formed by the dumping of toxic alkali waste during the 19th century, which resulted in an unusual landscape of chalk-loving vegetation. This rare site of special scientific interest is offset by the distant industrial landscape of Greater Manchester and the quaint cottages that line the nearby waterways and weirs.
Thong is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it hamlet, south-east of Gravesend in Kent. It has absolutely no connection with skimpy undergarments. Travel links, however, are good – it's just 500 yards or so from the A2 (almost too close) and five miles from Ebbsfleet International station. The few shops that are there wouldn't see many people through the week. Luckily, the giant Bluewater centre is close at hand.
Ugley in Essex is anything but; it sits between Saffron Walden and Bishop's Stortford, in prime commuterland. The name probably means "Woodland clearing of a man named Ugga". The Ugley Women's Institute grew so tired of the juvenile jibes that they changed its name to the Women's Institute of Ugley, a rebranding exercise not yet repeated by the Ugley Farmers' Market.
Located just within the M25 motorway, to the south of Orpington in Kent, Pratts Bottom was first recorded as Spratts Bottom in 1773, but it quickly changed to its present form, meaning "valley of a family called Pratt". Very expensive and very desirable, its moniker seems to make no difference to people seeking rural bliss in close proximity to London. The village website admits that it is "often the butt of jokes".
Fans of the puerile will love Lower Swell in Gloucestershire. Not only does its name raise eyebrows, but the river Dikler and the Golden Ball pub rarely fail to raise a smile, too. That said, it has some of England's finest countryside, a tranquil village green and plenty of mellow stone cottages – and the quintessential Cotswold town of Stow-on-the-Wold is just up the road.
Wetwang is a Yorkshire Wolds village that sits on a busy main road along the coast. Debate surrounds the origins of its name; it means either "field for the trial of a legal action" or just "wet field". Whatever the meaning, the name attracts so many sniggers that the late Richard Whiteley was bizarrely made the honorary Mayor of Wetwang, a title now held by the BBC Look North weatherman Paul Hudson.
Fifteen minutes' drive north of Stromness in Orkney lies the hamlet of Twatt. The name comes from ancient Norse, meaning "small parcel of land" – and there's not a lot there apart from a clutch of unexciting buildings and the A967. The beauty of Twatt, though, lies in its wild setting, breathtaking views and a sense of total isolation. Houses here are decidedly affordable.
Sounding more like a reason to visit the doctor than a dot on the map, Balls Green is a tiny hamlet between Tunbridge Wells and East Grinstead, close to the borders of Surrey, Kent and Sussex. It has pretty peg-tile cottages and detached, oversized houses clustered along its one quiet lane. Too small even for a pub, drinkers need to look a few miles up the road to the Dorset Arms in Withyham to slake their thirst.
Penistone is a thriving market town west of Barnsley in South Yorkshire, in the foothills of the Pennines. Its name derives from the Old English "tun", meaning farm or village; Penstun and Penstone are early versions of the name. The Domesday Book simply refers to it as "wasted". It has all the amenities you'd expect in a rural town of 8,500 residents, including a cinema, farmers' market and, er, morris dancers.
Five miles south of Grantham, Lincolnshire, is the delightfully named village of Bitchfield. But the name's definitely its main attraction; there's nothing to see, just two groups of buildings connected by Dark Lane, and a small chapel. Beware: avoiding Bitchfield because of its name may land you up in nearby Bulby, Aslackby, Sproxton or Burton Coggles. Not much of an improvement.
Tosside in Lancashire is considered by residents to be the smallest place in the world. Its origins stretch back to the Vikings, with its name derived from "tod", meaning fox, and "saetr", meaning high summer pasture. Located between the villages of Slaidburn and Wigglesworth, within the Forest of Bowland, it's a designated area of outstanding natural beauty that can be explored on foot or bike. It may be tiny, but Tosside does have a pub – the Dog and Partridge.
Prickwillow is set on the banks of the river Lark, four miles east of Ely in Cambridgeshire. The "Prick" in Prickwillow is said to be a reference to the "prickets" of willow – long, thin skewers used to make thatch – that grew in the nearby marshes. The village lies below sea level and a series of pumping engines were installed to ensure that the land remained arable. Some of them can be enjoyed at Prickwillow's Museum of Fenland Drainage.
Crapstone in Devon is to be found on the western edge of Dartmoor, one mile away from Yelverton. The locals are fiercely defensive of their village, even starting a campaign on Facebook complaining about a television advert that claimed to be set in Crapstone but was actually filmed near "the Pimple" in Tavistock. It has been noted that Crapstone's industrial hub is the Crapstone Business Park, while its financial district is the counter of the local post office.
Five miles up the road from Lickey End is the minuscule hamlet of Bell End. Set on the busy A491, between the M5 and Stourbridge, in the Bromsgrove district of Worcestershire, it consists largely of the Bell Inn pub and a couple of houses. So there are very few residents to suffer the shame of living in Bell End.
Cockermouth in Cumbria sits at the confluence of the rivers Cocker and Derwent. It's an ancient town, with Roman, Viking and Norman influences, which has grown over the centuries to a population of nearly 8,000 people. It's the birthplace of William Wordsworth and Fletcher Christian. In spite of its proximity to the Lake District, it suffers much less from summer tourists than close neighbour Keswick (that means Cockermouth is not as popular or pretty). It's also home to the Belfagan all-female morris dancers.
Spital in the Street
Boasting just a few buildings and a public phone-box, Spital in the Street joins a long list of Lincolnshire places with a hint of unsavouriness. It's on the busy intersection of the A15 and A631, north of Lincoln, and has the equally daft Owmby-by-Spital and Normanby-by-Spital as near neighbours. Not as remote as it seems, Spital in the Street is half a mile west of Hemswell Cliff, which has a school, museum, pub and hotel.
The cheekily named Titlington is six miles west of Alnwick in Northumberland and 10 miles from the coast. The population has dwindled over the years, and it now consists of a few houses and the spectacular Titlington Mount, a country pile used for corporate functions and weddings.
Originally the site of a medieval trade centre ("dicker" means barter), Upper Dicker sits within sight of the South Downs near Polegate. Not the prettiest village (or name) in the area, the housing stock is a mixture of Downland vernacular and modern boxes, slightly blighted by a fast through-road. There's a smattering of shops along the main road and the posh St Bede's senior school is in the village. Lower Dicker is just down the road.
Muff – from the Irish word "magh" – is a village in County Donegal, on the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland. Over the last decade, Muff has seen a huge growth in population, with people from Northern Ireland moving across the border. The first week in August sees the Muff Festival – and there's a diving club in the village called, yes, the Muff Diving Club.