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Monday, November 17, 2008

Quacky's Guide to England Part 5 - The South West

Whenever anything beneficial is muted to the South East somebody from the North or Midlands will bleat that it should be in their region. It always puzzles me becuase many events go into the "great unknown" that is the North and Midlands but few go to the South West.

The South West is forgotten England. Oh people go on holiday there but it seems to be forgotten by politicians, taken for granted if you will.

We'll start with Gloucestershire. Gloucestershire boarders the midlands but is way too romantic for the more dour and sensible midlands. It contains some wonderful scenery (the Cottswold), lovely houses, pretty villages and wonderful churches. I rather like it. Alas it contains Bristol, Bristol has a cathedral, arguably the finest non monastic parish church in the country (well I'd argue it doesn't but....) and a lovely Lord Mayor's chapel. But I can't warm to Bristol, whereas some cathedral cities have beautiful cathedral closes Bristol does not.

Wilsthire is full of pre-historic monuments, forget Stonehenge here is Silbury Hill, the Avebury Stone circle and the West Kennet Long Barrow. It has few large towns, it contains Salisbury and its Cathedral. The Cathedral together with its close may be the most perfect space in England. Wiltshire refuses to allow tall buildings in Salisbury preserving the Spires impact and beauty.

Dorset too is wonderful, there are towns like Sherborne, the Jurassic Coast, the Purbeck hills and the walk to St Aldhelms Head. There are no motorways. It gets plenty of tourists but contains a charm that few English counties can match.

Somerset is part Exmoor, part Cheddar Gorge. It is a land of church towers. There are towns I dislike but its a place I could live. Oh and it has Wells cathedral.

We are now deep into the South West and arrive at Devon. Devon is incomparably beautiful. Dartmoor, Exmoor, pretty coastal sea towns. Of course it has Torquay and Brixham but you have to live with this. Its two principle towns Plymouth and Exeter are awful but I guess they emptied everyone there and the left the rest amazing. Exeter imparticular is a great disappoint, lovely cathedral and not much else!!

And lastly we come to Cornwall and I'll let you into a secret, it's not all its cracked up to be. What you gasp that's not possible, tourist come to marvel at Cornwall. It's a dump! No seriously it is, as you drive along the a30 you come to this conclusion, the towns are shabby the country bleak. BUT, and its a big BUT, the coast is gorgeous. And that's the point it contains loads of pretty seaside village lots of bays to die for.

I am perhaps, well definitely, playing to the gallery here, my friend Jan will be frothing at the mouth. Its just that Cornwall to me is slightly overrated. Cornwall is not really a dump, but you have to accept it is a county of contrasts. When it is beautiful it is amazing when its dire it is awful (Newquay anyone?). People forget the things that are wrong and focus on the positives. And that is what annoys me, we forgive some counties their blots easily and in others we highlight them.

But it has to be said the South West is a lovely region. And unfairly overlooked. The North Whinges about how everything is Londoncentric the South West just gets on with it.

So that is Quacky's England. If you never been I'd urge you to visit and if you are a native then discover something new. Northumberland is lovely and worth a visit in preference to the more visited Lakes. Hereford and Shropshire are both counties that really deserve to be better known. And may I suggest that you wander to the Essex/Suffolk border around Lavenham, Clare, the Bardfields, Finchingfield and the Stour Valley for a long weekend. (just stick to the North of the a120!!).

We live in a lovely country, nowhere in Western Europe has as many fine histoic buildings and churches for instance, I think it would be nice if we celebrated what is beautiful instead of focusing on the ugly for a change.

6 comments:

Liz said...

I have to agree with Cornwall, there are few beautiful places, with St Ives being one of them, all the other little towns as I discovered a year or so back were just like going to Rotherham - vile nasty places and it shocked us all. I hadn't been to Cornwall since I was around 10, and we stayed in St Ives even then.

Sennen Cove is wonderful too along with a few other coves, but since there's only two shops I can hardly call it a town (ok, there's perhaps more, but still very few)

avalon said...

You were right about the gasp!!!
You did redeem yourself a little, by saying the coastline is beautiful, it is different down here culture, housing, employment, salaries, and you are right that government has forgotten cornwall to some extent, we have one of the highest water bills, because we have all those beautiful beaches that have to be cleaned after the tourists have gone, but it is our water rates that pay for it, maybe there should be a government grant. Cornwall is a great place but i think home is wherever you make it! so wherever you are don't take it for granted get out and see it. Liked the trip around england thankyou very good!

st said...

avalon- i don't understand?
How's your water bill and the cleaning of beaches- connected.

It is more likley to do with the distances it's pumped.
Oh! excuse me pete.
Lakes- over run with tourists dressed for everest, walking along on the roads. Climb a hill and the numbers dwindle considerably.
Northumberland- not a lot here:), sadly, tourist numbers are climbing

st said...

avalon- i don't understand?
How's your water bill and the cleaning of beaches- connected.

It is more likley to do with the distances it's pumped.
Oh! excuse me pete.
Lakes- over run with tourists dressed for everest, walking along on the roads. Climb a hill and the numbers dwindle considerably.
Northumberland- not a lot here:), sadly, tourist numbers are climbing

Jane said...

Well you mentioned two counties that are very close to my hear. Wiltshire and Dorset. I've always felt that Wiltshire is very under-rated. OK it has Stonehenge & Salisbury Cathedral but it does have some other gorgeous countryside. I for one love the wildness of Salisbury Plain, the lushness of the valleys (Woodford, Broadchalke, etc - excellent watercress!), also don't forget Old Sarum (the old site of Cathedral a mile or so from Salisbury) and the beautiful Avon valley (where I caught my first fish and saw my first water vole as a kid). Dorset... now don't get me started. I LOVE Dorset. Gorgeous wild heaths (Upton, Middlebeer, etc), Poole Harbour & all it's birds. My favourite church is the one at Pamphill (just outside Wimborne) on the Kingston Lacy estate. Plus the Stour Valley, Maiden Castle, etc. I have to admit Poole & Bournemouth are pretty awful... but drive a couple of miles and you are in heaven! PLUS... people don't come in the winter so it's all left to us "semi-locals"!!!

Border Reiver said...

I have to agree Pete, Cornwall away from the coast is over-rated, and some parts are downright depressing for the reasons you state. Just don't tell anyone about Northumberland though, it's beginning to get busy, or North Dorset or North Somerset.... we'll keep those for ourselves :-)