South East England is a large region that includes the Home Counties (that surround London, popular with commuters). Most of this region is pretty near the sea, although there are lots of inland areas, from elegant spa towns to Weald countryside to traditional villages, complete with ponds.
This is a heavily populated area, although the numbers decrease as you go more towards the countryside. A lot of South East England is covered by The South Downs, a series of rolling hills and chalkland. It’s a county of contrast: from the cosmopolitan city of Brighton (home to England’s first Green MP) to the marshlands of Rye and Camber Sands, right through to sheer urbanism, in the form of Gatwick Aiport.
The Seaside Counties of South East England
- East Sussex stretches from the Kent border in the east to the vibrant city of Brighton in the west. Most of it lies on the coast, which benefits from some of best sunshine in England. Inland you can find pretty Weald villages. Tourism income comes from traditional resorts like Bexhill-On-Sea, or those who go on walking holidays in the South Downs holidays. The county town of Lewes has its own castle and its own currency.
- Hampshire faces Isle of Wight, a few miles over the water. The maritime city of Portsmouth is a major naval base, and a hub for ships to sail to the continent. Next door is the popular seaside resort of Southsea. Southampton (remember Howard’s Way?) has an affluent population of boating peeps, as does Lyndhurst (with a ferry to Isle of Wight). The historic town of Winchester used to be the capital of England.
- Kent is one of England’s largest counties, and sits on the southeast corner of England, just 20 miles or so from France. Famed for its ‘white cliffs of Dover’, of course it is the main hub for ferries to travel to the continent, alongside the Channel Tunnel. Also on the coast is the popular seaside resort of Margate. Inland, you can find elegant towns like Royal Tunbridge Wells (famed for its spa waters) and Sevenoaks (home to some of England’s best schools). Kent is orchard country, home to many lost apple and pear trees, and also home to many oast houses (used to dry hops, many are now converted to luxury homes, as local food has disappeared).
- Isle of Wight is England’s smallest county, as long as the tide is in (otherwise it’s Rutland). You can get there from Portsmouth by Hovercraft. It features sandy beaches, its own railway, coastal walks and The Needles, a natural wonder of chalk rocks (one’s missing, as it crashed to the sea in a storm). You’ll also find lavender and garlic farms and Cowes (the world’s biggest sailing regatta).
- West Sussex is a large county that travels inland to the affluent town of Horsham (near Gatwick Airport) to the pretty seaside resorts of Bognor Regis, West Wittering and Littlehampton (the sunniest places in England). Inland are pretty towns and villages, popular with commuters, as it’s not far from London. The sailing town of Chichester is also popular, with its beautiful marina.
The ‘Home Counties’ of South East England
- Berkshire is an affluent county not far from London, and is home to many beautiful villages. The main towns are Windsor (the castle was used for the wedding of Harry and Meghan) and Slough (more urban, used as the setting for Ricky Gervais’ comedy series The Office).
- Buckinghamshire is a beautiful little county, again not far from London. Home to many pretty villages (many are used for Midsomer Murders), a lot of this county sits in the Chiltern Hills, a huge portion of which will be destroyed if the proposed HS2 High-Speed Rail does go ahead (it will also kill a lot of wildlife each year, and remove people’s homes). It’s also home to England’s busiest wildlife hospital.
- Essex is a large county situated not far from London, more known for its urban lifestyle (Bluewater and reality TV shows). But most of the county is rural with pretty villages, pubs (Jamie Oliver grew up in one) and windmills. The coast has a busy shipping port, sadly used to often import people. Locals are known for being friendly: cheeky chappy!
- Hertfordshire is a pretty county, again packed with villages and ponds. Think of a scene from Miss Marple, and that’s what you get. Bordered by several counties, again it sits in the Chiltern Hills, and has many local food town markets. Not that touristy, but no doubt a lovely place to live.
- Oxfordshire is a mostly rural county, that sits on the river Thames. Oxford is home to a major university (although it is a lot busier than it looks on episodes of Inspector Morse). It’s surrounded by beautiful little towns and villages, many sitting on the river. Ideal to toast a beer to John Thaw!
- Surrey is England’s most affluent county (not including London). Home to many commuters who take the train into the capital, property here is just as expensive. For that reason, the councils don’t chop down the forests as the locals would likely go for them: it remains England’s most wooded county. The county contains several towns including Reigate (a lot of pilots live here, as it’s close to both airports). Pretty villages abound, nestled in the rolling hills of the North Downs.
Music Break: Old As The Sea
Passenger is a classically trained guitarist who grew up in Brighton. He had worldwide success due to a couple of hits, but this is even nicer. He still lives in the city.