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Friday, November 14, 2008

Quacky's guide to England Part 4 - London and the South East

Essex has some lovely countryside but it is remembered not for this but for the influence of the capital on its southern borders. Essex in the national pysche is lets be honest a bit of a dump.

Across the Thames we come to Kent. And in the national psyche it is the Garden of England, rolling hills, oast houses, beautiful castles (Leeds, Hever) houses (Knole) and two Cathedrals (Canterbury & Rochester).

No one mentions that the North Coast of Kent is hardly picturesque. Gravesend? Dartford ? Margate ? Hardly wonderful. Ashford? Maidstone? nope sorry. Lets take Rochester, nope lets not.

Essex is a tip and Kent is the Garden of England pah!

Now don't get me wrong Kent has some lovely buildings, some wonderful gardens, some beautiful countryside but there is a certain amount of smoke and mirrors here.

Sussex, East and West is generally much nicer. Here was Engand made when William the B@st@rd sorry Conqueror landed at Pevensey. Here there are few large towns but plenty of pleasant market towns and villages, it has the downs. To me Sussex is everything Kent thinks it is without the bad parts. Alright Brighton is overrated but if I was forced to move elsewhere in the South East I'd end up here.

Hampshire is an odd county, the New Forest is of course magnificent but it feels like another world, it has some very nice villages but it has Portsmouth and I mean ye gods its bleak. I do like Hampshire though, Portsmouth not withstanding. Winchester, Romsey and the New Forest are worth the admission fee.

Ah we come to Surrey. I don't go there often, not you understand that there is anything WRONG with Surrey its just that well why? Lets take Guildford. My one visit found it to be full of boutiques and the sort of shops I'd cross the street to avoid. Surrey is stockbroker England and I can't warm to it.

Moving on we come to Berkshire (Reading, Slough) and we'll move on to .... ok its not that bad but once you've been you've been. Buckinghamshire is different it has some lovely old buildings, some picture post card villages, some decent market towns. Neighbours they may be but Buckinghamshire is the one to visit. Southern Oxfordshire is also rather nice and to be fair to Berkshire this was nicked from Berkshire!

We've arrived at Hertfordshire my neighbouring county and I can't think of anything to say. It is quintisential South East England rather like Berkshire I find it non-descript.

And then there is London, the Elephant in the corner so to speak. Large chunks of it are ghastly and why would you go there? BUT parts of it are well worth a visit. In the west are the parks, Bushey, Hyde, Richmond, St James, Kensington, Regents. They are magnificent. You have Wrens churches, you have St Paul's, Westinster Abbey and you have the Museums and Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace and Kew and the Tower of London. You have to visit London it contains so very very much, but you don't have to like it!

I haven't mentioned the people, sigh, i'm afraid we live up to our stereotype. Its not that we are unfriendly just that we are "reserved".

2 comments:

Tricia said...

To a certain extent I agree with your view of London and the SE. Sussex is a wonderful county and, in my view, the best of the bunch - beautiful scenery/country, "more interesting than the norm" towns (e.g. Chichester) and many attractive villages, the sea and coast lines. And its my second home. Surrey, (albeit it's more "closed in") does have its share of open spaces too though - Leith Hill & Boxhill (along the Surrey Hills), Headley Common etc. And other parts of the North Downs! (And I, for one, would enjoy the cash of the stockbrokers!!)

I agree wholeheartedly about the "something and nothingness" of Guildford - and I regret that the ancient town of Kingston upon Thames is now in greater London. Parts of it down by the River Thames are attractive and the towns elders have spruced it up considerably over the last few years. Sadly, Surrey is rapidly becoming swallowed up by London.

Eagleseagles said...

Well you cant expect me to agree wholeheartedly with these comments!
I was brought up in Rochester (lived in Strood- which is now a sprawling built-up area and I never really liked except the people) - but I have happy memories of Rochester, the Castle and Cathedral area and the Vines are still delightful and American tourists still visit for the Dickens link.You just need to know where to look for the delights!
Kent has many places of beauty, and Maidstone is attached to arr
countryside!
Amidst the North Kent coast are fab marshlands for birds!
There are still areas where the build up is relatively insignificent!

Sussex has survived as a beauty spot much better, and I love my visits there.Its just so expensive to buy property there.

As for London, well you will never appreciate it as much as I do. I moved to London (Wimbledon) for College and University.Exciting place and I live here still.It has its downside what City doesn't. But it is full of lovely parks, buildings and the variety of people who live side by side and still get on in our communities is legend.London is still made up of the original villages - mine being Isleworth.Just each has grown.
If you enjoy City/Town life its a great City. You dont - Pete which is why you prefer the Countryside!
I have loved living in London, working with the population and being accepted as I am without question.Not so easy to be yourself in little country villages!(tho I go there to see the natural world and birds).
I flew into Heathrow on Thursday morning, a clear crisp morning and could see all of London - it was home and a new freshness within my mind again. All the sights of central London that I passed on route to work between West London and East for a dozen years were laid before me.

Essex well - I know that many of the Eastenders I worked with have moved out and into Essex! The North and East is a lovely undiscovered area and long may that continue!

I am not sure that living in the Countryside is as wonderful as those of us who visit and stay for holidays make it out to be.
Lack of public transport is easy if you have a car, lack of facilities is easy if you can get to supermarkets and towns for retail or go online!

But for me birds are where they are
both in busy city centres and the countryside, in waste heaps and sewage farms as well as on the Farms , they dont discriminate.
We do, and what a dreadful world it would be if we all agreed.
I am happy to disagree with some of what you observe but also agree with much too!