Sunday, 19 July 2009

Wiltshire/ Wiltunscir: Place in Bernard Cornwell'sSaxon Series ****


Wiltshire (pronounced /ˈwɪltʃər/ or /ˈwɪltʃɪər/; also abbreviated Wilts) is a ceremonial county in the south west of England. It is landlocked and borders the counties of Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire. It contains the unitary authority of Swindon and covers 3,485 km² (861,162 acres). The ancient county town was Wilton, but since 1930 has been Trowbridge, where Wiltshire Council is based.
Wiltshire is characterised by its high downland and wide valleys. Salisbury Plain is famous as the location of the Stonehenge stone circle and other ancient landmarks and as the main training area in the UK of the British Army.



Salisbury Cathedral
The city of Salisbury is notable for its medieval cathedral, and important country houses open to the public include Longleat, near Warminster, and the National Trust's Stourhead, near Mere.






Lake at Stourhead Gardens

Etymology
The county, in the 9th century written as Wiltunscir, later Wiltonshire, is named after the former county town of Wilton, itself named after the river Wylye, one of eight rivers which drain the county.

Avebury

History
Wiltshire is notable for its pre-Roman archaeology. The Mesolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Age people that occupied southern Britain built settlements on the hills and downland that cover Wiltshire. Stonehenge and Avebury are perhaps the most famous Neolithic sites in the UK.

Barberry Castle

In the 6th and 7th centuries Wiltshire was at the western edge of Saxon Britain, as Cranborne Chase and the Somerset Levels prevented the advance to the west.






Wulfhere Map
The Battle of Bedwyn was fought in 675 between Escuin, a Wessex nobleman who had seized the throne of Queen Saxburga, and King Wulfhere of Mercia. In 878 the Danes invaded the county, and, following the Norman Conquest, large areas of the country came into the possession of the crown and the church.
At the time of the Domesday Survey the industry of Wiltshire was largely agricultural; 390 mills are mentioned, and vineyards at Tollard and Lacock. In the succeeding centuries sheep-farming was vigorously pursued, and the Cistercian monasteries of Kingswood and Stanley exported wool to the Florentine and Flemish markets in the 13th and 14th centuries.
In the 17th century English Civil War Wiltshire was largely Parliamentarian. The Battle of Roundway Down, a decisive Royalist victory, was fought near Devizes.
Around 1800 the Kennet and Avon Canal was built through Wiltshire providing a route for transporting cargoes from Bristol to London until the development of the Great Western Railway.
Tale of Moonrakers
The local nickname for Wiltshire natives is moonrakers. This originated from a story of smugglers who managed to foil the local Excise men by hiding their alcohol, possibly French brandy in barrels or kegs, in a village pond. When confronted by the excise men they raked the surface in order to conceal the submerged contraband with ripples, and claimed that they were trying to rake in a large round cheese visible in the pond, really a reflection of the full moon. The officials took them for simple yokels or mad and left them alone, allowing them to continue with their illegal activities. Many villages claim the tale for their own village pond, but the story is most commonly linked The Crammer in Devizes.
Geology, landscape and ecology

Cherhill White Horse

Wiltshire is a mostly rural landscape, two thirds of the county lying on chalk, a kind of soft, white, porous limestone that is resistant to erosion, giving it a high chalk downland landscape. This chalk is part of the Southern England Chalk Formation that underlies large areas of Southern England from the Dorset Downs in the west to Dover in the east. The largest area of chalk in Wiltshire is Salisbury Plain, a semi-wilderness used mainly for arable agriculture and by the British Army as training ranges. The highest point of the county is the Tan Hill-Milk Hill ridge in the Pewsey Vale on the northern edge of Salisbury Plain, at 294m (965 ft) above sea level.
The chalk runs northeast into West Berkshire in the Marlborough Downs ridge, and southwest into Dorset as Cranborne Chase. Cranborne Chase, which straddles the border, has, like Salisbury Plain, yielded much Stone Age and Bronze Age archaeology. The Marlborough Downs are part of the North Wessex Downs AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), a 1,730 km² (668 square mile) conservation area.
In the north west of the county, on the border with Gloucestershire and Bath and North East Somerset, the underlying rock is the resistant oolite limestone of the Cotswolds. Part of the Cotswolds AONB is also in Wiltshire.

Avon Mouth
Between the areas of chalk and limestone downland are clay valleys and vales. The largest of these vales is the Avon Vale. The Avon cuts diagonally through the north of the county, flowing through Bradford on Avon and into Bath and Bristol. The Vale of Pewsey has been cut through the chalk into Greensand and Oxford Clay in the centre of the county. In the south west of the county is the Vale of Wardour. The south east of the county lies on the sandy soils of the New Forest.
Chalk is a porous rock so the chalk hills have little surface water. The main settlements in the county are therefore situated at wet points. Notably, Salisbury is situated between the chalk of Salisbury Plain and marshy flood plains.
Climate
As with the rest of South West England, Wiltshire has a temperate climate which is generally wetter and milder than the rest of England. The annual mean temperature is 10 °C (50 °F) and shows a seasonal and a diurnal variation. January is the coldest month with mean minimum temperatures between 1 and 2 °C (33-35°F). July and August are the warmest months in the region with mean daily maxima around 21 °C (70 °F).
The number of hours of bright sunshine is controlled by the length of day and by cloudiness. In general December is the dullest month, June the sunniest. The south-west of England has a favoured location with respect to the Azores high pressure when it extends its influence north-eastwards towards the UK, particularly in summer. Convective cloud often forms inland, especially near hills, and acts to reduce sunshine amounts. The average annual sunshine totals 1600 hours.
Rainfall tends to be associated with Atlantic depressions or with convection. The Atlantic depressions are more vigorous in autumn and winter and most of the rain which falls in those seasons in the south-west is from this source. In summer, convection caused by solar surface heating sometimes forms shower clouds and a large proportion of rainfall falls from showers and thunderstorms at this time of year. Average rainfall is around 800–900 mm (31–35 in). About 8–15 days of snowfall is typical. November to March have the highest mean wind speeds, with June to August having the lightest winds. The predominant wind direction is from the South West

Economy
The Wiltshire economy benefits from the "M4 corridor effect", which attracts business, and the attractiveness of its countryside, towns and villages. The northern part of the county is richer than the southern part, particularly since Swindon is home to national and international corporations such as Honda, Intel, Motorola, Alcatel-Lucent, Patheon, Catalent (formerly know as Cardinal Health), Becton-Dickinson WHSmith, Early Learning Centre and Nationwide, with Dyson (company) located in nearby Malmesbury. Wiltshire’s employment structure is distinctive in having a significantly higher number of people in various forms of manufacturing (especially electrical equipment and apparatus, food products, and beverages, furniture, rubber, pharmaceuticals, and plastic goods) than the national average.




Rivers













Thames at Norton


Village

Mere

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