British Studies Web Pages

The Countryside


The Countryside Links

This section offers an opportunity for those of you with a particular interest in the countryside and associated themes to follow it up by getting information direct from the UK. Comments are given at the head of each section to help you interpret and evaluate those kinds of site. The sites will not be of much use unless you have a clear idea of what you are looking for however like much of the internet - so prepare your questions first. Some Polish sites are given too so you can see parallel examples.

Note - The language level of all these sites is rather advanced as they are meant for natives and assume the shared knowledge of those who live in the UK.

If you find any problems with these links or know of any others which would be helpful, especially those which have many links themselves and can act as entry points for further study - let us know.

The countryside is recovering from the foot and mouth crisis last year and the government has launched to encourage people to visit and revive the rural economy.

UK Government

Note 1 - Remember when visiting the sites of government departments that they are interested in promoting government policy - what the government hopes to achieve - not necessarily presenting facts. Readbetween the lines - how often do governments achieve their aims - imagine an equivalent Polish site and your reaction to it.

Note 2 - Government sites can take some time to get into and find your way around to get to the information you want. Trying to give more detailed site names can be a long awkward business - the one for EU agriculture statistics occupied 123 characters! It’s usually easier to go to the main site and use an internal search engine there e.g. agriculture.

General A government search engine for all its departments eg. if you want updates on BSE or foot and mouth type them in. It seems very user friendly. (See the UKonline review) The Office for National Statistics A big site - for actual figures go from the home page to Statbase, or to the site directory where there are internal search engines.

Ministries The Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The Ministry for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries (MAFF) disappeared after the last election as a direct consequence of the foot and mouth crisis. It was considered to favour the interests of big business, not the whole countryside, as well as being popularly considered to have handled the crisis ‘clumsily’ DEFRA brings together parts of several ministries in a coordinated department representing all aspects of rural life - whether it will succeed remains to be seen. The Department of the Transport, Local government and the Regions  (DTLR). Before the last election it was DETR with the word 'environment' in its title but now some of its functions have been lost to the department above. It doesn't deal with the countryside directly but with many aspects which have a big impact there e.g. housing, local government and transport.

Ireland, Wales and Scotland

These are the sites for finding out policies in specific parts of the UK. The Scottish and Welsh are the of the newly-devolved parliament and assembly. Agriculture and countryside issues can easily be found through them as they come under their newly-devolved powers. The site of the Scottish Parliament. The site of the Welsh Assembly/Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru - also available in Welsh.


Note - Quangos are quasi-autonomous national governmental organisations - this means they are set up by the government but are not directly responsible to it and can be critical of its policy. The site of the Countryside Agency responsible for research and advice on such issues as rural communities, rural services, protection of and access to the countryside and so on. It has a very good links section (via reception on the home page) not only to other government organisations. The Environment Agency is an advisory and regulatory body for such areas as pollution, the environmental impact of development, flooding, water supply and sewage treatment and so on. English Nature isresponsible for nature conservation and national nature reserves. There are equivalent organisations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The site of the Forestry Commission. The government national park website - from here you can link into the individual park websites including the planned and controversial lowland parks.

EU links

Polish government links

Note - Comparing the statistics of one country with those of another is an art. Figures have a appearance of truth they can never actually possess, and at best can only give an indication of the real position. Statisticians are fully aware of this and allow for it when they speak (e.g. ‘from a small sample only....’, ‘the figures for April 2001 were....’ and ‘with a +/- 5% error....’) but others (notoriously politicians) conveniently confuse statistics with reality. When two countries are involved it means two different sets of statisticians using different basic definitions (e.g. what is a village), different methods of collecting and analysing data, and different methods of presentation - the problems proliferate. The Official Polish State website, with its own internal search engine and lots of links. The English version of the above. Ministerstwo Rolnictwa i Rozwoju Wsi (An English version is available) The site for G³ówny Urz¹d Statystyczny (GUS) (The quality of the English version is variable and not to the level of the previous)

Local newspapers

Note 1 - Local newspapers have great value when investigating an aspect of life in the UK because they have the space to give a fuller picture if it is one affecting their area. For instance an item may ‘run’ for several days allowing you to follow the progress of a story, items may appear in editorials, in columns or on letter pages (offering competing pints of view). There may be more pictures and interviews as well as case studies of the impact on individuals lives.

Note 2 - For teachers this may give you material which is more accessible for students and possibly in more ‘natural’ language.

Note 3 - Most papers unfortunately put very little news on their websites - but you will find their ‘small ads’ or ‘classifieds’ there.

Here are three for strongly rural areas:

The pattern ‘’ with the county name may give a number of other local papers.

Protest groups

Note - The countryside is affected by many contentious issues - here are some organisations dedicated to promoting viewpoints or defending interests. In some cases they are directly involved against one another. All will use figures and other information selectively to favour their position - so read between the lines, look for what’s not there. The Ramblers Association is committed to the rights of walkers in the countryside. In England and Wales the trespass laws make this a different issue to many other countries (and to Scotland). Before the war their direct action was a significant influence in opening up access to the countryside, and to the establishment of National Parks. A recent homepage featured articles on such issues as windfarms, mobile phone masts, foot and mouth and the use of national parks by the army. Friends of the Earth - a long established protest group on environmental issues. is famous for its direct action campaigns - not only in the UK. The Council for the Preservation of Rural England campaign on behalf of the countryside and those who live in it. The National Farmer’s Union - dedicated to protecting and promoting the interests of farmers. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is a long-established organisation dedicated to protecting the welfare of animals in human care whether as pets, working animals, farm animals or so on.

Environmental alternatives The Centre for Alternative Technology based in Machynlleth in Wales - with lots of links, educational ideas and so on. The Soil Association for details of organic farming - standards, how to do it etc.

Organisations for protecting ‘heritage’ countryside

Note - These will include lots of places open for visiting. The National Trust is a long-established organisation dedicated to preserving large country houses, stately homes and the traditional countryside. Its work on protecting the coastline is particularly important. By supporting the interests of those who live in the countryside as well as those from cities who want to see it preserved, it finds itself in endless internal controversy on issues such as hunting. Scottish National Trust - an equivalent organisation in Scotland.

Further links Lots of information and links to all aspects of the countryside from an environmental point of view. The site of the Countryside Agency has a very good links section (via reception on the home page) and not only to other government organisations. A government search engine through all its departments e.g. if you want updates on BSE or foot and mouth type them in. It seems very user friendly. The former website is now part of Ukonline and can be immediately reached via the homepage. It gives links to all government websites but you will have to find out their names first. The Regional Environmental Centre for Central and Eastern Europe There is a Polish office and a very full set of links to all things environmental in Poland. This can also be accessed directly from

The environment and schools A site run by the Foundation for Environmental Education in Europe. It arranges links between schools with an interest in environmental issues across Europe. For a British Council scheme - The Green Path Project - organised in Poland.

Links for Exchanges and Visits to the UK

Click here

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