holds a special place at the heart of English life
and culture. And although the vast majority of
Britons are now urban, the countryside remains for most people in
Britain an idyllic place, a place where one can live and relax. At
weekends and other moments of free time, Britons love to go to the
country. And they do not hesitate to do so, because the English
countryside is beautiful, diverse, and often easily accessible from the
For many people, the countryside is Britain as it
should be - an area full of historic sites, memorials, monuments,
protected areas, pretty villages, pubs with tables in the garden
– a part of Britain where time seems to have stopped in its
tracks. But as towns and cities, even villages, keep growing
to cater for England's rapidly growing population, and with England
already the most densely-populated country in Europe, the English
countryside is shrinking and changing.
Fortunately, there are still plenty of wonderful
places left to see. Here
is a small guide.
Very easy to reach from London or - for visitors arriving from the
Continent - from Dover, rural Kent and East Sussex are a classic area
of traditional English countryside. In the old villages in Kent and
cottages built of brick and flint border age-old streets where small
neighbourhood stores still do good business. In the countryside,
shingle board houses, built of wood often painted white, are
characteristic of this sunniest region of Britain. This was once a wool
area and sheep from the South Downs contributed to the wealth of
England in the mediaeval times.
The south of Kent - the "Garden of England"
The region has many beautiful villages
castles, country houses and old churches and abbeys dating from the
Middle Ages. For the best of these see Southeast England.
This is the area that
is often used to illustrate the "typical" English
countryside. Villages of thatched cottages or stone-roofed houses,
maintained, lie nestled at the bottom of small valleys; the landscape
of the low-lying areas is characterised by traditional mixed farming,
and on the hills there is an old tradition of sheep rearing. In
Devonshire and Somerset, the uplands of Dartmoor and Exemoor
spaces that are very popular with hikers, and on the coast, much of
which has been preserved for posterity by the National Trust, small
bays and coves alternate with popular seaside resorts .
Further west, Cornwall is a region with a rugged coastline, very pretty
fishing villages and beautiful sandy beaches.
Classic villages, with thatched, slate or stone
southwest - Dorset, Somerset, Devon, Cornwall
For more details, see Southwest England
Whole villages and towns built in the local
Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire -
Sixty miles west of London, between Oxford, Stratford on Avon, and
Bath, the Cotswolds are another area of
deep and traditional England. Here, the landscape has changed little
over the centuries, the fields and roads are bordered by drystone
walls, always carefully maintained, as they have been for centuries.
Villages, often nestled in the valleys, are characterised by their
traditional cottages and houses, built in the local honey-coloured
limestone, and, covered with Cotswold stone roofs. The Cotswolds are
another of the parts of England that thrived from the wool trade in the
Middle Ages. This glorious past can be seen today in the beautiful
churches, typical inns and manor houses in this region.
Historic Cotswold cottages - Arlington Row, Bibury
- in January
Heights is one of the most famous English novels; and it
here, in Yorkshire, that author Emily Brontë described the
wild and open uplands that form a backdrop to the story. This is a lond
of open tree-less
hilltops, buffeted by the elements, old farmhouses and villages built
of granite or the local limestone - depending on the area - villages
built on the sides of narrow dales, or at the foot of wider valleys.
Open hills and moors much
appreciated by hikers and ramblers.
The uplands of the North of England the Peak
District, the Pennines, and the Yorkshire Dales
This region, with its rushing streams and its
proximity to major cities, was one of the cradles of the Industrial
Revolution. Today, it remains a rural area easy to reach from the
great cities of the north of England, and attracts hikers and
hill-walkers from across the country. It is an area where among the the
beautiful scenery can be found a wealth of monuments to Britain's
industrial past. It is unjustly neglected by international tourists.
Photo below: The Yorkshire Dales. (by D. Whitham)
The most famous area of English countryside, the Lake District, is a
mountainous area with valleys containing lakes, and small villages. But
take care; while these mountains are not very high, they are real
mountains! Here in the north of England, the treeline is at an altitude
of about 1500 ft or 600 metres, and the climate is windy and rough
during the winter months. Of course, on bright days in Spring and
Summer things are different, and the area becomes soft and inviting.
From May to October, the tops of the mountains, which in winter can
only be scaled by serious climbers, are accessible to hikers
– although some hikes in this area can be pretty strenuous.
In the northwest of England, an area of
low mountains and lakes, popular with poets, artists, hikers and
has other areas of attractive countryside. These include the
low-lying areas of East Anglia and the Fen district, to the northeast
of London (see the East
of England) , and the rolling hill country of Herefordshire,
Worcestershire and Shropshire, on the western edge of England close to
Hampshire and east Dorset are an attractive area, including
New Forest, recently designated as England's newest National
And then of course there are the beautiful
mountain areas of Scotland and Wales - but that is another story.
Britain has plenty of inns, pubs and b&bs. For a
accommodation including traditional rural inns, see Small hotels in
Britain on iHi.
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