6.7 Local Colour

Common land: 1.5m acres (an acre being the area that could be ploughed in a day with an ox)


'...the British landscape is ‘veined’ with such paths, foreshadowing our modern-day road network. These old ways go by different names depending on their region and their purpose: holloways, green lanes, drove-roads, coffin routes, herepaths, lichways, carneys, causeways, trods, sarns...which together form a network of rights of way more than 130,000 miles...in length in England and Wales alone. The maintenance of that footpath system is one of our greatest cultural achievements...' (Robert Macfarlane, author of The Old Ways: A Journey On  Foot, 2012, writing in National Trust Magazine, Autumn 2012)


'At the end of the ice age only four important tree species had survived in Britain: the Oak, Juniper, Pine and Yew. Recolonisation through introductions by the Romans and Normans recreated a North European landscape; but it is entirely due to the exertions of British plant collectors over four hundred years that the British Isles have become host to the most varied ornamental and economic plants in the world.' [Source: Sykes]

Some yew trees may be 5000 years old, making them oldest living things in the British Isles and among the oldest on the planet; there are 135 named historic oak trees in Britain, some being 50 feet around the trunk and maybe more than 1000 years old; this tree is a symbol of sturdy independence - ‘Hearts of Oak’; the Druids held oak – and the miseltoe which grows on it – particularly sacred (Greek Dryidae, ‘oak-priests’); English furniture, from medieval times to the the 1600s was generally made of oak, though elm, beech and other woods were also sometimes used; yew was for centuries used in longbows [see English longbow), oak for wooden sailing ships [see Islanders afloat]

Lichens: some in Britain are found nowhere else in the world

Badger: solitary elsewhere in the world, social in Britain, living in families – with not too much bickering, seemingly

Built heritage: over 450 cathedrals, castles, country houses etc; nearly half a million buildings are ‘listed’ as having particular architectural or historical merit, with about 30,000 being Grade I and II* (i.e. ‘Two Star’); there are in Britain 19,711 scheduled monuments, 1,595 historic gardens and parks, 43 protected battlefields and 45 protected wrecks off the coast; in addition there are in England 9,300 conservation areas; there are more than two dozen UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Britain; English Heritage looks after the estate of the Crown; it is responsible for 440 heritage sites in England – including Stonehenge, Iron Bridge & Dover Castle – with about the same number again in the care of its sister organisations, Cadw in Wales and Historic Scotland; the environmental equivalent of English Heritage is Natural England [see Natural England, National Trust]

Cathedrals: notable are those built in the English gothic style: the golden age was the AD 1100s and 1200s, though the style continued long thereafter; the poet W H Auden described them as ‘Luxury liners laden with souls’; Lincoln Cathedral was for 250 years the world's tallest building, taking that accolade from the Great Pyramid at Giza; the burst of cathedral building came towards the end of four centuries of agricultural prosperity brought about by benign weather, the Medieval Warm Period; from 1350 for four hundred years there was a period called the Little Ice Age, when winter temperatures dropped an average of 2º Celsius

Durham Cathedral:

'...begun 1093, finished 1280, was the first European building to use ribbed vaulting for the roof.' (Rebecca Fraser, The Story of Britain, 2003)

King’s College Chapel: flower of English gothic; built 1446-1515, Cambridge

Salibury Cathedral: boasts the oldest working clock in the world, dating from 1386 [see Timekeeping]; also the cathedral spire is the tallest in Europe, at 404 feet

Windsor Castle: this is the world’s largest castle still lived in – by the Royal Family; it was established in its present form by William the Conqueror around 1078, though its antecedents may go back a thousand years earlier, according to Holinshed’s Chronicles (Vol 1, p329; see Sources):

'For strength Windlesor or Winsor is supposed to be the chéefe, a castelle builded in time past by king Arthur, or before him by Aruiragus [i.e. Arviragus, first century], as it is thought, and repared by Edward the third, who erected a notable college there.'

Queen Mary’s Dolls House at Windsor Castle is the most beautiful example in the world; the distance from the castle to the Royal Box at the London 1908 Olympic stadium standardised the modern marathon at 26 miles 385 yards [see also Peace treaty, Herne the Hunter]

Brighton Pavilion: built by the Prince Regent, the future George IV; this is the world’s largest beach hut

Bognor Regis: Soviet and American astronauts linked-up for the first time 140 miles above this resort town in 1975

Southend Pier: 1830; longest pleasure pier in the world, at one and a third miles; the world’s first seaside pleasure pier was Brighton’s Chain Peer of 1823, which no longer exists; Britain’s greatest pier builder was Eugenius Birch, the inventor of the screw-pile; Cromer in Norfolk is believed to have had the first pier in the country, built in 1391

Eddystone lighthouse: this is situated 15 miles out in the English Channel; the Eddystone is the most famous lighthouse in the world; interlocking blocks of the fourth lighthouse, that of John Smeaton (1724-92), the father of civil engineering and the inventor of modern concrete, became a model for lighthouses worldwide; Britain’s first lighthouses were built by the Romans along the Channel

[see Farms & gardens]

© The National CV Group 2013
All Rights Reserved



History in the news
About Us
Contact us
Local Colour