Flag: St Patrick’s cross (see above) – also known as the Red Hand Flag
(St Patrick is the patron saint of Northern Ireland (the saint’s day – 17 March))
Plant: shamrock (a three-leafed clover)
The shamrock is often confused with the four-leaf clover. While the four-leaf clover is a symbol of good luck, the three-leafed shamrock is mainly an Irish Christian symbol of the Holy Trinity and has a different significance.
4. The UK physical geography
The physical geography of the UK varies greatly.
The geography of England consists of lowland terrain, with mountainous terrain north-west of the Tees-Exe line including the Cumbrian Mountains of the Lake District (with the highest peak in England – Scaffel Pike, 977 m), the Pennines and limestone hills of the Peak District, Exmoor and Dartmoor. London, on the River Thames, is the capital of England and the United Kingdom as well. Other important cities in England are Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Southampton, Plymouth, Bristol, Nottingham and Sheffield amongst many others. Major rivers are the Severn (the longest river in England and in the UK, 354 km), Thames(346 km), Ouse, Trent, Tyne and Mersey.
The geography of Scotland consists of uplands in the south and the north, called Southern Uplands and Northwest Highlands. The highest mountain range is the Grampian Mountains with Ben Nevis at 1343 meters above sea level, being the highest peak of Scotland and the British Isles. There are also numerous bodies of freshwater especially in the Northwest Highlands and the Grampian Mountains including Loch Lomond (the largest lake in Scotland) and Loch Ness. The longest river in Scotland is the River Tay (188 km). Edinburgh is the capital and second largest city. The largest city is Glasgow, other urban areas include Aberdeen, Dundee, Inverness, Ayr and Fort William.
The geography of Wales is mostly mountainous. Snowdon at 1085 m is the highest elevation in Wales. Cardiff, on the Bristol Channel, is the capital of Wales. Other important cities in Wales are Swansea, Cardigan, Welshpool, Barmouth, Newport, Bangor, Flint and Wrexham. The longest river in Wales is the River Tywi (103 km).
The geography of Northern Ireland includes the Mourne Mountains with its highest peak – Slieve Donard (852 m) – as well as Lough Neagh (388 km2) – the largest lake in Northern Ireland and the largest body of water in the UK. The longest river in Northern Ireland is the River Bann (122 km). Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland. There are five settlements with city status: Belfast, Londonderry, Newry, Armagh and Lisburn.
4.1. The UK climate. The UK’s climate varies greatly according to season and location but on the whole can be described as temperate, though significantly warmer than some other locations at similar latitude due to the warming of the waters of the Gulf Stream.
The prevailing winds are southwesterly, from the North Atlantic Current. More than 50% of the days are overcast. There are few natural hazards, although there can be strong winds and floods, especially in winter.
Average annual rainfall varies from over 3,000 mm in the Scottish Highlands down to 553 mm in Cambridge. The driest period in the UK is late winter/spring, the wettest periods are autumn and winter. The county of Essex is one of the driest in the UK, the Lake District is the wettest region.
July and August are normally the warmest month in throughout the UK. Around the coasts, February is normally the coldest month; but inland January and February as the coldest months. The highest temperature recorded in the UK was 38,5 °C at Brogdale, near Faversham, in the county of Kent, on 10 August 2003. The lowest was – 27,2 °C recorded at Braemar in the Grampian Mountains, Scotland, on 11 February 1895 and 10 January 1982 and Altnaharra, also in Scotland, on 30 December 1995.
4.2. The UK natural resources. The UK has a variety of natural resources including:
· Geological: coal, petroleum, natural gas (the major ones), limestone, chalk, gypsum, silica, rock salt, china clay, iron ore, tin, silver, gold, lead (produced in small quantities). Coal mining is concentrated in Yorkshire, Northumberland-Darem and Southern-Welsh basins. Oil and gas was discovered under the North Sea during the 1960s and new supplies are still being found today.
· Agricultural: arable land, wheat, barley, hill farms, sheep.
4.3. The UK demographics. The UK has a population of about 59 million people (according to the 2001 census). It is the third-largest country in the European Union (behind Germany and metropolitan France) and the 21st-largest in the world. Its overall population density is one of the highest in the world, due to the particularly high population density in England. Almost one-third of the population lives in England’s southeast and is predominantly urban and suburban, with about 8,2 million in the capital of London.
The UK’s population is predominantly white (92%). Other ethnic groups in the UK include: mixed – 1 %; Asian or British Asian – 4 %; Black or Black British – 2 %; Chinese – 0,5 %; other – 0,5 %*.
English is the main language spoken in UK, although with many regional variations in terms of accents and phraseology. About one fifth of the population of Wales speak the Welsh language. Gaelic is spoken by some 70 000 people in Scotland. People in the central lowland of Scotland have for centuries spoken Scots. Many other languages are spoken by the minority ethnic communities of the UK.