England page 10-13
Welcome to the West Country,the great peninsula of South West England which reaches out into the Atlantic Ocean and tapers to world-famous Land's End at its most westerly point. This most popular holiday region extends from the River Thames in the east to Land's End in the west, from Bristol in the north to Lyme Regis on the southern coast of Dorset.
This region of contrasts includes: Wiltshire, where the West Country begins and which is less than an hour from London; Dorset, bordered by the sea and almost wholly designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty;
Bristoland Bath, both with centuries of history and culture; Somerset,a mix of the heather covered heights of Exmoor and the level plains of Sedgemoor; Devon, with fine scenery, two coastlines and wild open spaces; and Cornwall,bounded by the sea and steeped in Arthurian legend and Celtic tradition. Off the coast are the peaceful Isles of Scilly, all beautiful, but each with its own features and attractions.
King Arthur's Country
The most famous of all West Country legends is that of King Arthur. King Arthur is a legendary folk hero, who probably did exist, and fought the Saxons early in the sixth century.
He was born, they say, at Tintagel in the precipitous cliff-top castle on the north Cornwall coast. The site of Camelot was possibly Cadbury Castle, a magnificent hill fort that lies in Somerset. His legend says that after his last great battle, King Arthur died and was borne away magically to the Isle of Avalon the Glastonbury of today with its great Abbey and Tor, where Guinevere was later buried. Centuries later, in 1191 the monks at Glastonbury Abbey uncovered two graves believed to be those of Arthur and Guinevere. Numerous places claim to be where Arthur cast his famous sword Excaliburinto the water and a ghostly arm caught it. One of them is the still, silent lake called Dozmary Pool, on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall.
Many of England's greatest writers have lived in and been inspired by the West Country:
Thomas Hardy's land is Dorset where he lived there for most of his life and it was the inspiration for much of his writing. The name "Wessex", used for the area about which he wrote, comes from the ancient kingdom of central, southern and western England and most of Hardy's stories are centred on "South Wessex" in Dorset.
Born in 1845 at Higher Bockhampton he lived in Weymouth and then Dorchester where he produced many great novels, including Far from the Madding Crowd, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, and Jude the Obscure. Hardy's Cottage and Max Gate, a house of his own design sits on the edge of Dorchester.
The world's most-published crime writer was born and brought up in Torquay and later lived for many years nearby overlooking the pretty Dart estuary. The Majestic Hotel in her books was based on the Imperial Hotel in Torquay, and the Grand Hotel, where she spent her honeymoon in December 1914, has an Agatha Christie suite. She was once a member of the congregation at St Mary's Church, Churston Ferrers, and in 1956 she gave a stained glass window which is situated near the altar. Further afield is Burgh Island off the Devon coast, where she wrote And Then There Were None and Evil Under the Sun.
First came to Cornwall as a child on family holidays and on one such trip they rented the cottage at Bodinnick on the Fowey estuary, which they later bought in 1926 when Daphne du Maurier was 19. This was Ferryside, and it was here that she began work on The Loving Spirit.
It was while out riding on Bodmin Moor that she arrived at Jamaica Inn in the middle of the moor when lost in the mists, that she got the idea for the novel of the same name.
In the early 1930's, Daphne du Maurier and her husband discovered Menabilly, the house which became Manderley in Rebecca.
Perhaps the best known of all West Country stories is that of Lorna Doone, set amidst the wild and beautiful Exmoor which Richard Doddridge Blackmore describes so vividly and lovingly in his novel Lorna Doone.
Blackmore based his story on the collection of Doone legends concerning a band of outlaws who descended on Exmoor around 1620 and terrorised the area, raiding, robbing, abducting women and murdering, until they were driven from their lair about 1690.
Doone Valley was described by Blackmore as "a deep green valley, carved from the mountains in a perfect oval". Lank Combe is the main claimant to be the valley
It was at Oare Church that Lorna was shot and wounded by Carver Doone on the day of her wedding to John Ridd. There is a memorial tablet to R.D. Blackmore in the inner doorway.
The twin rivers of north Devon the Torridge and Taw inspired one of the best loved of all animal stories, award winning novel Tarka the Otter, by Henry Williamson's "Tarka the Otter," published in 1927,
Stretching for over 600 miles, much of the coastline is classed as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It's breathtaking with golden sands, majestic cliffs,sweeping bays, sheltered coves, lively resorts, timeless fishing villages.
From Stonehenge to Zennor, with its Rolling green hills, leafy lanes, great castles, and stately homes.
The seven cities of the West Country , Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Plymouth, Salisbury, Truro and Wells stand proud among the finest found anywhere.
Twelve miles inland on the River Avon is Bath, famed for the elegant splendour of Georgian squares surrounding the 15th century abbey and the honey-hued terraces and crescents which weave gracefully around parks up the valley hillsides.
Britain's only hot springs were supposedly discovered 2,500 years ago by Bladud, father of Shakespeare's King Lear, but were truly put on the map by the Romans.
Twinned with Bath is Wells, England's most compact city, set amidst the lovely Mendip Hills. Concerts are held throughout the year in its magnificent cathedral, built 800years ago,
Salisburyis steeped in history and dominated by its great Gothic cathedral with an 404ft spire. The grand Norman-towered cathedral, Roman walls, Tudor Guildhall and architectural gems characterise Exeter, Devon's 'county town' is heart of the county.
Truro is enhanced by its Early English-style cathedral actually built just over a century ago Its cobbled streets are known as the 'opes'
Sedgemoor well known for its seven mile beach, and Cheddar Gorge,glorious scenery and historic towns.
Elegant Burnham-on-Sea, and Brean Sands lie along the expanse of sands,
Mendip Hills has the highest inland cliffs in Britain. Cheddar Gorge is popular for its showcaves and demonstrations of traditional cheese making.
Bridgwater and the Quantocks
Historic Bridgwater with its canal and Georgian architecture lies east of the Quantock Hills. Here the scenery that once attracted Coleridge and Wordsworth
St Ives, Penzance, Hayle
and The Land's End Peninsula
The 'Island Kingdom' of West Cornwall with its beaches, moorlands, harbours, coves, peaceful countryside and charming towns and villages,
The landscape is both rugged, with towering cliffs and rocky moorland. In the north softer subtropical gardens, flower filled lanes and tranquil wooded valleys of the south coast.
Historic West Cornwall is home to a surviving ancient landscape of neolithic chamber tombs, Bronze Age standing stones and stone circles, Iron Age forts and medieval wayside crosses.
Coast to Coast the peninsula is enclosed within 36 miles of coastline, with a crystal clear ocean
Bristol is the largest city in England's beautiful West Country. steeped in history, with Bristol's 13th century Cathedral, the spectacular Clifton Suspension Bridge.
The city is home to the SS Great Britain, the world’s first iron ocean-going steam ship and Harvey’s, famed for its wine museum and the sherry which bears the city’s name throughout the world.
Bristol has some wonderful suburbs, ranging from stylish Clifton Village to the decidedly trendy quarters surrounding the city centre. Blaise Hamlet a collection of 18th century cottages, the Royal York Crescent, Quakers Friars and the New Room, the site on which John Wesley, founder of Methodism preached, and the Lord Mayor’s Chapel and Cabot Tower.
Bude, Padstow and Bodmin Moor
North Cornwall’s 60 miles of Atlantic Heritage Coast. fishing ports, smuggler’s coves, dramatic cliffs
Bodmin Moor with pretty moorland villages, bronze age quoits, stone circles and the twin granite peaks of Roughtor and Brown Willy.
North Cornwall mystical land has been inspiration to great writers and poets such as Betjeman, Hardy and Du Maurier.
From prehistoric remains to the ramparts of medieval castles such as King Arthur’s Castle in Tintagel' to the Cornish Gentry in the areas great houses and gardens such as Lanhydrock, Pencarrow and Prideaux Place.