South West England is one of the country’s nine official regions, as instituted in 1994. Its coastline is craggy and rugged, creating a haunting beauty that has lured travellers and residents from afar.
In addition, its landscape is characterised by vast expanses of natural flora, uninterrupted by industrial or residential development.
The sun sets on one of Dorset’s most dramatic coastal features - Durdle Door
As an official English region, the South West includes:
•Bristol (the largest city of the region) •Gloucestershire •Somerset •Dorset •Wiltshire •Devon (famous for its decadent cream teas) •Cornwall (a surfer’s paradise) •The Isles of Scilly
Although not the most populous of the English regions, the South West is the largest in terms of its geographical area. One of its most famous attractions is Stonehenge, which is one of the four UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the region. Major urban areas include:
•Plymouth •Swindon •Gloucester •Exeter •The South East Dorset conurbation (which consists of Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch)
Generally speaking, the South West region is rural, with small villages and towns dotting its ample landscape.
The largest proportion of the South West of England is flanked by the Bristol and English channels and has more coastline than any other of the English regions. This coastline is a very important part of the tourism industry and is valued by the local residents for its natural and economic contributions. Therefore, it is largely protected. Cornwall and West Devon are both characterised by their rocky coasts and high-lying grassy hills (or moors). The rocky deposits found here include granite, limestone and slate, which create gorgeous vistas. The eastern areas present spectators with limestone downs (chalk hills) and clay valleys with streams cutting through them. The Salisbury Plain is one of the most archaeologically relevant downs as well as one of the best known of its kind. Salisbury Plains, along with Cranborne Chase, the Dorset Downs and the Purbeck Hills are the main areas used for farming in the South West. Sheep farming is also particularly popular in the Cotswolds, Mendip Hills and Quantock Hills.
Due to this region’s close proximity to the ocean, the climate is affected by onshore winds and pressure systems. Although rainfall is higher and more frequent during the chilly winter months, the area experiences plenty of precipitation all year round. Summers are warm and pleasant, but seldom hot, and this region is known for its frequent winds. Typically, the moors are cooler, windier and wetter than the lower-lying areas.
South West England enjoys a rich history as it was one of the areas that were heavily populated during the Neolithic Era, Bronze Age and Iron Age. Ancient humans left behind them monuments as well as remnants of tools, money and other evidence that tells the story of their way of life back then. When the Roman invasion took place, this area was again heavily affected, adding another layer to its complex history and heritage. The remains of these ancient civilisations are a major part of the identity of the region, attracting visitors from the world over.
Today, the South West region is under the monarchy like the rest of England.
Mining was the area’s main industry in years past. However, that experienced a major decline. Today, agriculture and tourism are the region’s main industries and sources of income. Bristol, the M4 Corridor and South East Dorset generate most of the area’s economy.