South East England
South East England
The South East, centred on London, has a population and wealth to match many nation-states. This is the dominant area of England and the most rapidly growing one, although planning controls such as greenbelts have restricted the urban sprawl of London since the mid-20th century. While fully one-third of the South East is still devoted to farming or horticulture, the region as a whole also has an extensive range of manufacturing industry. With improvements in the transportation systems, however, nuclear and space research facilities, retailing, advertising, high-technology industries, and some services have moved to areas outside London, including Surrey, Buckinghamshire, and Hertfordshire.
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About South East England
With its theatres, concert halls, museums, and art galleries, London is the cultural capital of the country. It is the administrative headquarters of not only government but also many of Britain’s industrial, financial, and commercial undertakings. Moreover, it is the focus of the national transport system, acting as a hub for the United Kingdom’s international and domestic air traffic and its mainline railway network. At Tilbury, 26 miles (42 km) downstream from London proper, the Port of London Authority oversees the largest and commercially most important port facilities in Britain. Whether the people of the South East feel a regional identity is questionable. Sussex and Bedfordshire or Oxfordshire, Hampshire, and Kent have nothing much in common apart from being within the magnetic pull of London. Loyalties are more specifically to towns, such as St. Albans or Brighton, and within London there is a sense of belonging more to localities—such as Chelsea or Hampstead, which acquire something of the character of urban villages—than to the metropolis as a whole.
A horseshoe-shaped ring of chalk hills known as the Downs run down to the sea through Kent and Sussex. The South Downs reach the coast near Brighton, the North Downs at Dover, where they end in the famous white cliffs, which are the first sight of England for travellers by sea from continental Europe.
The Southeast has mainly light industries and is also home to the largest oil refinery at Fawley, near Southhampton. There are hovercraft factories on the Isle of Wight. Kent has paper mills, shipyards, and a nuclear power station at Dungeness. Away from the towns, there are hundreds of small farms, with orchards and fruit farms. Kent, known as the 'Garden of England', is famous for its apples and for hops, used in brewing beer. Lamberhurst is known for its vineyards and produces English wines.
Industry in Berkshire centres around Bracknell, Maidenhead, Reading and Slough, with electronics concentrated in Milton Keynes. Hertforshire is known for engineering, mostly at St Albans, Hatfield, Letchworth and Watford. The Oxford suburb of Cowly has huge car factories and was the birthplace of the classic Morris Minor.
Places to stay in South East England
Surrounded by trees in Braunstone Park, this upscale hotel set in a stately, Georgian-era home is a mile from the A563 road, and 3 miles from both the King Richard III Visitor Centre and the M1 motorway.
Stylish rooms offering period features come with tea and coffeemaking facilities, flat-screen TVs and free Wi-Fi. Upgraded rooms add sitting areas, while a suite provides a separate living room.
Breakfast is complimentary. There's also a sophisticated restaurant and a trendy bar.
Laura Ashley Hotels - The Iliffe
This Victorian hotel with an exposed wood beam and redbrick facade is 3 miles from Coventry Cathedral, 4 miles from Coombe Country Park and 8 miles from Kenilworth Castle.
The unfussy rooms have free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, and tea and coffeemaking equipment. Upgraded rooms add formal decor with a warm vibe. Room service is available.
There's a sophisticated restaurant with original mullioned windows and an ornate fireplace. Other amenities include a wood-panelled lounge and landscaped gardens. Parking is included.
Brownsover Hall Hotel
Set in a Victorian Gothic mansion, this charming hotel is 1.7 miles from Rugby Golf Club and 2 miles from the Rugby Art Gallery and Museum.
Cosy simple rooms are split among the mansion, a coach house and converted stables. All offer traditional furnishings, tea and coffeemaking equipment and free WiFi; some feature exposed oak beams and/or separate seating areas.
Amenities include an upscale restaurant, meeting rooms and access to 7 acres of gardens and woodland. On-site parking is complimentary.
Places to eat in South East
Perfectly secluded, yet just a short drive from the capital, historic Stoke Park – star of many a Hollywood hit – continues to make waves as a five-star country-house getaway. Like the mansion itself, Humphry's – a welcoming cocoon of thick carpets and opulent furnishings – affords stunning views over the 300-acre estate’s attractive golf course and woodland.
Executive chef Chris Wheeler has headed up the kitchen since 2003, and many of his refined ‘greatest hits’ now feature on a tasting menu celebrating his decade-long tenure – from a single firm scallop atop rich red wine and mushroom risotto (circa 2004), via a juicy lamb cutlet crowned with lentil soufflé (2007) to a pretty assortment of apple-flavoured parfait, jelly and wafer (2012).
The whole show runs like clockwork, thanks to excellent staff who woo the Home Counties’ set with their unstarched manner and light touch.
Gilbey's Old Amersham
Crammed-in bistro tables and printed menus have replaced desks and blackboards at this sibling of Gilbey’s Eton, housed in the shell of Dr Challoner’s 17th-century grammar school. A lovely sheltered courtyard fills up quickly when the sun peeps out, while the beamed dining room has a real local buzz with colourful artwork on the walls and a “very reliable” repertoire of vibrant modern food at very fair prices.
Come here for duck liver parfait brûlée with kumquat compote or tandoori-spied monkfish with smoked oyster mousse followed by noisette and breast of Cornish lamb with compressed tomatoes, broad beans, girolles and parsley root or fillet of stone bass with linguine, samphire, baby fennel and lemony dill emulsion, with, perhaps, lemon tart or dark chocolate and mango delice to finish.
The Gilbey family are also importers of French wines, so expect plenty of decent stuff on their carefully chosen list. Engaging staff also get full marks for their “friendly service”.
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