British Studies Web Pages

The Countryside


Impressions - introduction

What are your impressions of the UK countryside? What are your impressions of your own countryside? This section includes intercultural impressions of UK landscapes in contrast with another, impressions given by teenagers and eye witness accounts of issues such as anti-fur demonstrations and working on British farms. Maybe you have your own experience of the countryside and would like to write your own eye-witness account for our Countryside Competition and have it published here on these pages.

What images would come to your mind if you were asked the following questions?

  1. What is your immediate impression of the landscape in Britain?
  2. What kind of buildings do you see there?
  3. What kind of animals would be present?
  4. What kind of atmosphere does the British countryside have?
  5. What are the main issues affecting the British countryside at present?

For the most common answers drawn from surveys of more than 80 students and teachers click here.

Are these (and your) answers correct? None of them are wrong but perhaps they reflect what we would like to see and what the tourist images show us. Also they tend to describe not so much what is in the British countryside but how it is different to our own. The best way to find out for yourselves is when you go to the UK but hopefully after reading these pages you will get a wider picture.

All the answers given in the key could be considered appropriate, although the countryside has many faces, but the following were also given by students who had never visited the UK.

  • geese on the road
  • poverty
  • closed communities
  • children
  • peasants
  • forests
  • traditional ways of living

All of these are, in a way, projections of the Polish countryside onto the British – a natural enough reaction when we don’t know but a cultural error which is the result of cultural transference.

What would be the responses to these questions if they were asked to a UK visitor to Poland? How would you summarise the Polish landscape to give a picture you felt happy with for a foreign visitor? In other parts of these pages you can read some literary responses to landscape.

The source of our impressions

Where do our images come from? Were they from a visit, from films or TV, from magazines, from what UK natives have told us, from coursebooks or perhaps just from your own imagination? Our interpretation of those images – whether we think they are beautiful or ugly, whether what we see happening should be done or not, whether we look with an ecological or hunting ‘eye’ and so on, will depend on your values, and your values will depend on who you are. Not only the UK countryside of course but your own also. Would you make the same interpretations of the countryside as your grandparents, as farmers (if you live in a city), as yourself when you were a small child or as hunters?

Finally – the general impressions given by one student who had been to the UK:

“A lot of rich people (many more than farmers)
Beautiful views (but only if you know where to look)
Clouds at ground level (even at the seaside)
Fox hunting (with traditional minor riots)
At the moment: lots of unhappy farmers”

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