East Versus West Country

Britain is an island, and not a very big one, but this often hides the huge regional differences, especially between the East and West coasts. Much of our weather comes from the Atlantic, which bears the brunt of strong winds, but also most of the rain. The term green and pleasant land tends to obscure the regions where rain is often short. Droughts are increasingly common, but they have long been known, especially in the east. This is from Henry Williamson’s Life on a Norfolk Farm. He became a writer on nature and conservation, producing Ring of Bright Water and Tarka The Otter, as well as many pieces of journalism which helped support the purchase of his farm where he promoted English agriculture in the face of cheap imports.

I was beginning to know and love the pale sun of East Anglia, and the clear, remote sky over the pine-trees. The West Country sun was lusty, their skies were big and wide and strong with colour, the wind from off he Atlantic blew with ocean’s power and make a man small yet exhilarated as he met the wet draughts and held himself against them: it was wind, a giant element: but 300 miles took from it the rain-clouds of its sea-god’s strength: it was but air in motion, bodiless, without meaning. The Winds which ruled in East Anglia came with the spirit of Polar icefields, the blank breath of elemental lifelessness, bitter and frustrate amidst magnetic storms and zones of coloured light glowing to the very stars. So one night, soon after Christmas, we had seen them from the cottage door, and had come out to stare and wonder, the children speaking in whispers and asking what they meant, and Robert saying that God was moving in the heavens, and the lights were coming from His eyes. a marvellous moment, transcending all the differences and problems and worries of the petty material life; giving to a man a sense of freedom, and then of truth, that ‘the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life’.



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