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THE WEATHER IN GREAT BRITAIN



It is never too hot or too cold m Great Britain. This is because of the sea, which keeps the island warm in winter and makes the air cool in summer. The winds are also very often in Great Britain. They blow from the south-west two days out of every three. But the warm winds from the Atlantic are very wet. They also bring a lot of rain to the island. The east or north-east winds are cold and dry.

The weather very often changes in Great Britain. You can never have the same kind of weather for a long time. In spring, for example, sunshine and showers follow each other so often during the day that an umbrella or a rain-coat are really necessary in Great Britain. The weather in spring is generally mild, but sometimes the days are really cold. The summer is not so cold as on the continent, and warm days in autumn are beautiful. In winter they have all sorts of weather. Sometimes it rains and sometimes it snows. Still, in Great Britain it is never so cold in winter as in our country and they do not get so much snow there as we get here in Russia. The rivers and lakes are seldom covered with ice. As the ice, if there is any, is not thick enough, they seldom go skating on the rivers in Great Britain.

But the worst thing about the climate in Great Britain is the thick fog they so often have in autumn and in winter. In London it often mixes with the smoke of plants and factories and they call it the “smog”. It is sometimes so thick that cars may run into one another.

 

VEGETATION AND WILDLIFE

Britain was originally a land of vast forests, mainly oak and beech in the Lowlands and pine and birch in the Highlands, with great stretches of marshland and smaller areas of moors. In the course of time, much forest land was cleared and almost all Lowlands outside the industrial areas were put under cultivation. Today only about 6 per cent of the total land area remains wooded.

Extensive forests remain in eastern and northern Scotland and in south-eastern and western England. Oak, elm, ash, and beech are the commonest trees in England, while Scotland has much pine and birch. The Highlands with thin soil are largely moorland with heather and grasses. In the cultivated areas that make up most of Britain there are many wild flowers, flowering plants and grasses.

The fauna or animal life of Britain is much like that of north-western Europe, to which it was once joined. Many larger mammals such as bear, wolf have been hunted to extinction, others are now protected by law. There are many foxes. Otters are common along rivers and streams, and seals live along much of the coast. Hedgehogs, hares, rabbits, rats and mice are numerous. Deer live in some of the forests in the Highlands of Scotland and England.

Some 230 kinds of birds live in Britain, and another 200 are regular visitors, many are songbirds. The most numerous are blackbirds, sparrows and starlings. Robin Redbreast is the national bird of Britain. The number of ducks, geese and other water fowl has diminished during recent years.

There are many threats to wildlife and ecological balance around the coast. The biggest threat to the coastline is pollution. Even much-loved Blackpool is not officially safe. More than 3.500 million tons of industrial waste is pumped into the North Sea every year. “We cannot continue to use our seas as a dustbin and expect our coastline to survive,” says Greenpeace. Many other ecological problems may be caused by privatization of the coast. Many of the rivers are ''biologically dead'', i.e. unable to support fish and wildlife.

 

SPORTS IN GREAT BRITAIN

English people are fond of all kinds of sports. During the autumn and winter shooting and fox-hunting are the great sports in Great Britain. Boxing is very popular especially in the large towns and important boxing matches are attended by many spectators. Horse-racing is also a great national sport. Among games football and cricket take the first place in public interest. Huge crowds watch the matches between the most important clubs, while practically every school or large business firm has its own particular cricket and football clubs. Tennis is another very popular game while golf has firmly established itself in favour and there are golf-links all over the country.

The numerous rivers afford excellent opportunities for swimming and rowing and the Oxford and Cambridge boat-race, in which crews from these two universities compete, take place every spring on the Thames.

SIGHTSEEINGS OF LONDON

The Tower of London is the most famous of all the historical buildings in London. It stands today almost unchanged since first it was built in the 11th century. In the past the Tower of London served both as a palace and as a state prison, but it is only a museum today.

St Paul's Cathedral is the greatest work of England's greatest architect Christopher Wren. The cathedral was begun in 1675. It was opened in 1697 but was finished only in 1710, when Wren was almost eighty years old. There are memorials to many famous men of England in the Cathedral.

Trafalgar Square is in the centre of the West End of London. On the north side is the National Gallery; in the north-east corner is the National Portrait Gallery, and in the centre is Nelson's Column with the figure of the great seamen. Trafalgar Square is the place where mass meetings and demonstrations for peace and for working people's rights take place.

"Big Ben" is the name of the great bell which strikes the hour. It is in the clock Tower of the Houses of Parliament.

Westminster Abbey is the historic building in London to which every visitor sooner or later goes. The Abbey was founded in the 11th century. Many of Great Britain's famous men are buried in Westminster Abbey.

Piccadilly Circus is a square in the central part of London. London's best-known theatres and cinemas and most famous restaurants are on Piccadilly Circus. In the square you can see people of many nationalities and hear a lot of different languages.

Hyde Park is the largest park in the West End of London. In the 19th century it became a popular place for public meetings.

The British Museum is one of the largest museums in the world. It consists of the National Library and Museum of History, Archeology, Art and Ethnography.

 

THE HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT

The houses of Parliament in London, known also as the Palace of Westminster is the place where members of Parliament gather to make laws. The Palace of Westminster stands on the riverside near Westminster Abbey. Tourists always go to see them. Those who visit the Houses of Parliament may sit in the Strangers’ Gallery looking down into the House of Commons and listen to the debates.

The members of each Houses meet in sessions which begin at the end of October and last for about one hundred and sixty days. The sittings usually begin at 10 o’clock in the morning and end in the late afternoon; but if Parliament is discussing an important question sittings may go on till late at night. All the time Parliament is in session, a flag can be seen over the building, and when the House of Commons is still sitting after dark, there is a light over the face of Big Ben. The members of the House of Commons sit on two sides of the hall. The Speaker is the chairperson at all the debates in the House of Commons, and it is duty to keep order. The Speaker is elected by all the members of the House of Commons. He belongs to one of the political parties in Parliament.

The chairperson of the House of Lords is Lord Chancellor. He sits on the Woolsack, a large bag of wool covered with red cloth. If shows that wool made England rich.

 

THEATRE IN GREAT BRITAIN

The centre of theatrical activity in Britain is London. There are some 48 principal theatres in or near the West End and some 8 in the suburbs. Most of the theatres are let to producing managements on a commercial basis but some are occupied by important subsided companies, including the National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Companies.

The former stages classical and modern plays from all countries; the latter presents Shakespearean plays in Stratford-upon-Avon and a mixed repertoire in London. Many non-repertoire theatres outside London present all kinds of drama and many also put on variety shows and other entertainment. Music in all its forms — pop music, folk music, jazz, light music and brass bands — plays an important role in British cultural life.

The widespread interest in classical music is reflected in the large audiences at orchestral concerts and at performances of opera, ballet and chamber music. Regular seasons of opera and ballet are given at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London. Seasons of opera and operetta in English are given by the English National Opera.

There are several thousands of amateur dramatic societies in Britain (some 200 amateur youth theatres among them). Most Universities have active amateur drama clubs and societies.

 

FAMOUS ENGLISHMEN

London has been home of many famous Englishmen. Some were born there. Some lived there all their lives. Others lived in London only for a short time but all gave something to this great city.

One of the first names of importance is that of Geoffrey Chaucer, the poet. He lived most of his life in London. He knew the courts of King Richard II and King Henry IV. His most famous work, “The Canterbury Tales”, opens at the Tabard Inn, in Southwark. Chaucer is buried in Westminster Abbey.

William Shakespeare also lived in London. He lived there for more than twenty years. He acted at the Globe Theatre and wrote his plays in London. But London's famous men are not only writers. Sir Christopher Wren, the architect, spent most of his life in London. He designed many beautiful churches, including St. Paul's Cathedral. He also designed palaces and fine houses.

Music is represented by a very interesting figure. This is George Frederick Handel. He came to London from Hanover in 1710. He lived for a time at Burlington House, Piccadilly, now the Royal Academy. After some success and some failure he at last became famous. This happened when he composed "The Messiah", "Judas Maccabeus" and 'The Music for the Royal Fireworks". Like Chaucer and many other great artists Handel is buried in Westminster Abbey.

Another famous London figure is one of England's greatest seamen Admiral Lord Nelson. He has a very special memorial in Trafalgar Square. The monument consists of a very tall column. On top of it stands a figure of Nelson. It is called the Nelson Column. Equally famous is the general who led the army at the battle of Waterloo in 1815. This was the Duke of Wellington. His house stands at Hyde Park Corner. It is sometimes known as Number One, London. Like Admiral Nelson, the Duke of Wellington is buried in St. Paul's Cathedral.

STRATFORD-UPON-AVON

Stratford-upon-Avon lies at the very heart of England. It attracts people not only by its history and connection with William Shakespeare, but also by its wonderful nature and typical English character.

Stratford stands on the river Avon and is one of the oldest market towns. It has still preserved its own character and atmosphere. The houses are small and lots of them are very old. Some of them date back to Shakespeare’s time.

Here you can visit Shakespeare’s birthplace (it is a museum now), Anna Hathaway’s cottage (the early home of Shakespeare’s wife), the foundations of the New Place, where Shakespeare lived when he retired and died in 1616. Just round the corner there is Grammar school that Shakespeare used to attend.

Here in Stratford there is Holy Trinity Church where William Shakespeare was buried. Thousands of people from all parts of England and foreign visitors come here on Shakespeare’s birthday (23rd April) to pay tribute to the great poet.

Among other sights connected with the name of Shakespeare there is an interesting monument with the statue of the great poet on top and with characters from his plays round it. And, of course, you should visit the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, a red-brick building standing on the banks of the Avon. It was opened on 1932 as a living memorial to the poet’s work. The Royal Shakespeare Company, which is one of the best known and largest theatre companies in the world, regularly performs here and in the Barbican Centre in London.





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