Rural England, Agriculture, and the Southeast

Just as the British Highlands stand primarily for sheep-raising and their borders for manufacturing, so the British Lowlands stand for ordinary agriculture and their seaward borders for commerce.

Southeastern England

The main agricultural portion of Great Britain is the low southeastern section of England and its extension through the Midland Gap to Cheshire and Liverpool. The lowland is by no means flat. Near its northwestern margin, as we have seen, it is broken by the flat-topped but sharply defined hills of the Jurassic Escarpment from the Humber southward. A second escarpment, composed of Cretaceous chalk to the east of the Jurassic Escarpment. South of London an upward doming of the strata has produced another chalk escarpment which faces inward and forms a loop south of London surrounding the hilly tract of the Weald. Only in East Anglia do we find a broad and really fiat plain. Elsewhere southeastern England consists of a pleasant alteration of rolling fertile vales and low, flat-topped ranges of hills. The hills of the two main escarpments are generally steeper on the west than on the eastern slope which dips with the strata. In the Weald the steep side faces inward, and the slopes which fall with the dip of the rock toward London and the English Channel are gentler. The hills of the Weald, although not good for agriculture, make very picturesque residence suburbs for London.

Nowhere is the scenery of the English Lowland grand, but almost everywhere it has a mild, delightful beauty. This is due partly to green hills and plains, hedges of hawthorne, and stately trees in old baronial parks or scattered among the fields of the farmers. It is also due to rich pastures full of sleek cattle, to picturesque old gray churches, and to quiet villages with pretty gardens hidden carefully by walls or hedges. Fruit trees standing in well-kept orchards or trained against sunny walls present a comfortable, careful, prosperous aspect, while thoroughfares and railways alive with busy traffic moving toward London give a feeling of energy and power.

This lowland, as we have seen, was the dominant part of England before the manufacturing era; it was long the home of the most influential section of the British aristocracy, and from it came a great many of the leaders who built the British Empire and gave England its fame in art, literature, religion, and science. Today the leadership is still here, but now far more than ever before it centers in London. Such seats of learning as Cambridge and Oxford, although fifty miles away, are today practically suburbs of the great metropolis. So, too, are the slightly more distant ports of Southampton, Dover, and Harwich, for the vast majority of the people who pass through them are traveling to or from London.

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