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The West Country is an informal term for the area of south western Englandmarker roughly corresponding to the modern South West England government region. It is often defined to encompass the historic counties of Cornwallmarker, Devonmarker, Dorsetmarker and Somersetmarker and the City of Bristolmarker, while the counties of Gloucestershiremarker and Wiltshiremarker are also often included. Some usages of the term include even wider areas, while others are more specific though with little consistency of definition.

Geography

The area is mostly rural, with only a few sizeable towns and cities, such as Bristolmarker, Exetermarker, Plymouthmarker, Swindonmarker and Gloucestermarker. Tourism and agriculture, especially dairy farming, play a significant role in the economy. The landscape is principally granite moorland in the west, and chalk and limestone downland and clay vales in the east. Historically, tin mining and the fishery were sources of income and employment in the west of the area, but less so today, although the latter still contributes to the economy. The region is traditionally famous for its production of cider, clotted cream and pasties, but now at least equally well known for the Glastonbury Festivalmarker and other attractions.

Area boundaries

Apart from the Bristol Channelmarker and English Channelmarker, as with any informal area, the West Country's boundaries are difficult to define and as a consequence there are a number of different definitions used.

Some groups use the term as roughly synonymous with the South West Region, while others use it more specifically to refer to either the northern part of the region, or the southwestern part. The term is also used, for example, to refer to sports matches between such cities as Gloucester and Bath. West Country Carnival events take place in Somerset, Wiltshire and Dorset.

The "West Country" edition of the 2005 BBC TV series Seven Natural Wonders featured "wonders" in Wiltshire, Somerset, Gloucestershire, and Herefordshiremarker (Symonds Yatmarker), but not those in Devon or Cornwall which were the subject of a separate programme on the "South West", nor Dorset which was covered in a programme on "The South".

The West Country Clothing District was an area that made woollen cloth, but only part of the region described above. It covered east Somerset and parts of the counties of Gloucestershire and Wiltshire and at some periods extended into Oxfordshire and Berkshire. The clothing district around Tivertonmarker and Exetermarker in Devon and west Somerset tended to make different kinds of cloth and is best regarded as distinct.

"West Country Farmhouse Cheddar" is a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) that can only be applied to Cheddar cheese made in the traditional way in the four counties of Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall.

Westcountry Television is an ITV franchisee covering Devon, Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly and areas of Somerset and Dorset.

West Country and Wessex

The term "West Country" is sometimes associated with the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessexmarker. Wessex Regionalists seek to promote this as an alternative to the South-West region, including some counties in central southern England - Hampshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire and the Isle of Wightmarker - and excluding Devon and Cornwall which equate to historic Brythonic kingdom of Dumnonia.

Counties and unitary authorities

The following counties and unitary authorities are included within the most usual definitions of West Country:



Notable towns and cities







Cities in bold.

Places of interest



See also



References

  1. BBC - "ITV West Country staff to be axed", referring to Bristol and Plymouth
  2. Blue Badge Tourist Guides - The West Country
  3. Pictures of England - The West Country
  4. BBC - "Major flooding in Wiltshire has affected train services across the West Country"
  5. The Times - "Gloucester rough and ready for West Country derby"



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