British Studies Web Pages

The Countryside


Intercultural Impressions

Anna Kosmahl compiled the following impressions of the countryside from some of the participants of the summer school.

Bożena Pakuła, Polish, from Wrocław

The British countryside in my view is defined by hedges, stone walls, narrow lanes and nice houses. Besides the Scottish countryside I have visited some places in Wales. What I remember best is sheep, Scottish Highland cows, salmon, bare tops of the mountains in Scotland, few shops, few petrol stations, which means no toilets. People are usually friendly and helpful there, but speak with a strange accent while the language is in some parts completely different. In Wales for instance the Welsh language predominates in the north, all information is written in it, even the signposts!

As for the Polish countryside it is to me farms, a charming landscape with meandering rivers, colourful patches of fields and churches. I was brought up in a small village, but my parents didn’t work on a farm, they were commuters. I’ve got mixed feelings about life in the country, because of hard work in summer and boredom in the winter on the one hand and on the other all the social gatherings, telling stories and singing songs. I feel close to the countryside because it’s the country of my mind, of my happy careless childhood.

Francis Eaves-Walton, from Edinburgh, who has worked in Italy and since 1985 in Cambridge

Certain parts of the British countryside mean to me a sense of personal identity and emotional attachment, through memory, even if "real life" links with it are now tenuous. Other parts are potential places to visit, or places I enjoy passing through because of views. Other parts are rather disappointing, slightly dull, pseudo-rural environments, though not without many charming corners in good weather and points of historical interest if you are in the mood for that kind of thing.

As for the Polish countryside I think of wide, green, partly forested flat or undulating areas, houses with steep pitched roofs, vegetable plots, black and white cows, seen from the train and in Starbienino in July. I have the impression of a slightly but not much more populous countryside than Britain, mostly quite poor, which urban Poles still see as somewhere to leave or provide help for, rather than as a playground or place to move to for romantic wish-fulfilment. I've only been in the Polish countryside for a week, but it reminds me most of the Borders, of the British areas I know. I feel less close to the countryside now. As a child I aspired to be of the country, and tried to be as much as possible, but was in reality only half so. Now I have almost no real life involvement with the parts of rural Britain to which I have a personal attachment.

Natasa Żemna from Slovenia, an English teacher in a high school.

The British countryside means to me a green hilly area with almost no trees or bushes, but mostly grass with sheep and cows. I spent two weeks in the Scottish countryside cycling on some islands, and in the Lake District, whose waters I liked very much. I remember the mist and movement of the clouds there. Of course I have quite a few pictures.

When thinking of the Polish countryside I imagine vast areas of land. I would stress the aspect of "huge, large, immense". My experience is that of vastness and of fields with uncut grass and hardly any cattle in the meadows, as I had imagined it. I will remember immense fields of wheat and oats. Nor will I forget the scarce villages with few houses, not in a very good condition, villages where life seems to have stopped, with men sitting on low walls of the fences, watching the world passing by.

I feel close to the countryside because I need it to gather energy. Our Slovenian mountains especially mean a lot to me. I love them in all seasons.

Richard Bolt, British, who works at the Teacher Training College in Łódź

The British countryside recalls childhood holidays on my grandmother’s smallholding in Somerset but today there is less wildlife. It reminds me of lots of rain, mud, sun and wind, so it gives ambivalent feelings – both pleasure and frustration. Private signs remind me of a sense of conflict and the power a small number of people have over the land, whereas open moorlands with their smell as well as sight give me a sense of space. As a student I used to go on walking holidays, which meant youth hostelling in moorland national parks and I also enjoy coastal walking and blackberrying.

I associate the Polish countryside with much more freedom of access, an active rural way of life not dominated by appearances. I also think compared to Britain it is less hilly, has bigger distances and poorer people. Staying in a family summer house, isolated at the edge of a forest, I had a very strong sense of peace and rest (and bonfires and singing every night). What I’ve noticed about peoples’ behaviour is that it’s very different than in England.

Do I feel close to the countryside? I would name it a love-hate relationship; I’m rather emotionally connected with it, but am aware how hard it is both socially and environmentally.

Anna Kosmahl, Poland, living in Warsaw

When I think about the British countryside I see open areas of land, beautiful cottages, modern bungalows and charming manors with big gardens around. This is a place where I can rest and relax and where I can meet friendly people. I spent some time in Leicestershire and in Wales camping with a group of students from the whole of Europe. As for the Welsh mountains I wasn’t impressed because it’s the Tatra mountains that I admire.

I didn’t appreciate our Polish countryside when I spent my holidays abroad, but for some years I have visited some quiet spots in my country. I especially like camping in the Mazurian region, walking among its hills, swimming and canoeing on lakes and breathing fresh air. I have also discovered the seaside, walking along our incomparable romantic beaches.

I feel very close to the countryside although I live in a big city. I run away from Warsaw whenever I can or at least go to one of its stunning parks.

Petr Fejt, from the Czech Republic, lives in a rural area of the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands

The British countryside for me represents traditions and peace. I couldn’t find many forest areas there. There are lots of fields and meadows, hedges or fences everywhere. Generally the people I met were good-hearted, hospitable and polite with a sense of humour. I have been there four times: in a beautiful area of Herefordshire, then twice in a tourist area of Devon, and finally in Bangor, north Wales. I liked the British countryside very much and if I could choose to settle down somewhere I would stay there.

What is the Polish countryside to me? Forests more diverse than Czech ones? Pines? Birches? Storks I can see everywhere? I think all these elements create the Polish countryside. There must be a lot of people employed in agriculture though I can see a lot of uncultivated land. The area around Starbienino is very nice - I have met a few local people here and most of them were friendly.

As I live in the countryside I feel close to it and despite all its disadvantages like unemployment and lack of sports facilities in my view it’s a place worth living.

Tatiana Kramer from Poland, an English teacher in Warsaw

I associate the British countryside with peace. When thinking about it I can see quiet cottages, green grass dotted with white sheep, friendly country pubs and lovely restaurants in the middle of nowhere, country estates and castles. I have spent some time in Suffolk and Nottinghamshire where I visited my friends. In the picture I'm in the countryside with Chatsworth castle in the background.

The Polish countryside basically means to me going there and relaxing at weekends as well as on holidays. My parents have got a summer cottage in the Pojezierze Łęczyńsko-Włodawskie where there are the cleanest lakes in Poland. That's where I 're-charge my battery'. I just love being there. I feel close to the countryside only on holiday.

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