Many foreigners say "England" and "English" when they mean Britain, or the UK, and the British. This is very annoying for the 5mil people who live in Scotland, the 2,8mil in Wales, and l,5 mil in N. Ireland who are certainly not English. However, the people from Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland and England are all British.
The UK of GB and NI is the political name of the country which is made of England, Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland (Ulster). Several islands off the Br.coast are also part of the UK (the Isle of Wight, the Orkneys, Hebrides and Shetlands, and the Isle of Scilly). GB is the name of the island which is made up of England, Scotland and Wales and it doesn't include N. Ireland. The southern part of the isle of Ireland is the Republic of Eire.
Britain is one of the world's smaller countries with an area of some 244 100 square km, with some 58 mil people. It stretches for 1000 km from the south to the extreme north, and for 500 km in the widest part.
About half the people live in a large belt stretching north-westwards from London across England. Other large concentrations of population are in the central lowlands of Scotland, south-east Wales and the Bristol area, parts of north-east England and along much of the English Channel coast.
The UK is washed by the Atlantic Ocean in the north-west, north and south-west, and is separated from the European continent by the North Sea, the Straight of Dover and the English Channel.
Britain is comparatively small, but there is hardly a country in the world where such a variety of scenery can be found in so small a compass. There are small and desolate mountains in the northern Highlands of Scotland -the home of the deer and the eagle - that are as lonely as any in Norway. There are flat tulip fields round the Fens (low marshy land with lots of waterways) that would make you think you were in Holland. Within a few miles of Manchester and Sheffield you can be in glorious heather-covered moors. Once the British Isles were part of the mainland of Europe - the nearest point is across the Strait of Dover, where the chalk cliffs of Britain are only 22 miles from those of France.
The seas round the British Isles are shallow. The North Sea is nowhere more than 600 feet deep, so that if St. Paul's cathedral where put down in any part of it some of the cathedral would still be above water. This shallowness is in some ways an advantage. Shallow water is warmer than deep water and helps to keep shores from extreme cold. It is, too, the home of millions of fish.
The coastline is very indented. This indentation gives a good supply of splendid harbours for ships. On the north-west the coasts are broken by high rocky cliffs. This is especially noticeable in north-west Scotland where you have long winding inlets and a great many islands.
In Scotland you have 3 distinct regions. There is the Highlands, then the central plain of Lowlands, finally there are the southern uplands with their gently rounded hills where the ship wander.
In England and Wales all the high land is in the west and north-west. The south-eastern plain reaches the west coast only at one or two places - at the Bristol Channel and by the mouths of the rivers Dee and Mersey.
In the north you find the Cheviots (a wool producing country in Britain), separating England from Scotland, the Pennines going down England like a backbone and the Cumbrian mountains of the Lake District, one of the loveliest and wettest parts of England. In the West are Cambrian mountains which occupy the greater part of Wales. The south-eastern part of England is a low-lying land with gentle hills and coast which is regular in outline, sandy or muddy, with occasional chalk cliffs, and inland a lovely pattern of green and gold - for most of England's wheat is grown here - and brown plough land with pleasant farms and cottages in their midst. Its rich brown soil is deeply cultivated - much of it is under wheat; fruit-growing is extensively carried on. A quarter of the sugar used in the country comes from sugar beet grown there, but the most important crop is potatoes.
The position of the mountains naturally determined the direction and length of the rivers, except the Severn and Clyde, flow into the North Sea. The rivers of Britain are of no great value as waterways - the longest, the Thames, is a little over 200 miles - and few of them are navigable except near the mouth for anything but the smaller vessels. In the estuaries of the Thames, Mersey, Tyne, Clyde, Tay, Forth, and Bristol Avon are some of the greatest ports.
The climate of the United Kingdom is classified as a mid-latitude oceanic climate, with warm summers, cool winters and plentiful precipitation throughout the year. The principal factors that influence the country's climate include its northerly latitude, the close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, and the warming of the surrounding waters by the Gulf Stream. The weather can be notoriously changeable from one day to the next but temperature variations throughout the year are relatively small.
The average total annual sunshine in the United Kingdom is 1339.7 hours, which is just under 30% of the maximum possible. The south coast of England often has the clearest skies because cumulus cloud formation generally takes place over land, and prevailing winds from the south-west keep this cloud from forming overhead. The counties of Dorset, Hampshire, Sussex and Kent have annual average totals of around 1,750 hours of sunshine a year. Northern, western and mountainous areas are generally the cloudiest areas of the UK, with some mountainous areas receiving less than 1,000 hours of sunshine a year.
Average hours of sunshine in winter range from 38–108 hours in some mountainous areas and western Scotland, up to 217 hours in the south and east of England; while average hours of sunshine in summer range from 294–420 hours in northern Scotland and Northern Ireland, to 592–726 hours in southern English coastal counties. The most sunshine recorded in one month was 383.9 hours at Eastbourne (East Sussex) in July 1911.
Rainfall amounts can vary greatly across the United Kingdom and generally the further west and the higher the elevation, the greater the rainfall. The Lake District is one of the wettest places in the country with an average annual rainfall total that exceeds 2000 mm. The mountains of Wales, Scotland, the Pennines and the moors of the south-west of England are the wettest parts of the country, and in some of these places up to and exceeding 5000 mm of rain falls annually, making these locations some of the wettest in Europe.
Parts of England are surprisingly dry, which is contrary to the stereotypical view—London receives less rain annually than Rome, Sydney or New York. In East Anglia it typically rains on about 113 days per year. Most of the south, south-east and East Anglia receive less than 700 mm of rain per year. The English counties of Essex and Cambridgeshire are amongst the driest in the UK, with an average annual rainfall of around 600 mm. In some years rainfall totals in Essex can be below 450 mm—less than the average annual rainfall in Jerusalem and Beirut.
Parts of the United Kingdom have had severe drought problems in recent years, particularly in the south-east of England, which experienced the driest period on record in 2006. Fires broke out in many areas, even across the normally damp higher ground of north-west England and Wales. The landscape in much of England and east Wales became very parched, even near the coast; water restrictions were in place in some areas.
July 2006 was the hottest month on record for the United Kingdom and much of Europe, however England has had warmer spells of 31 days which did not coincide with a calendar month—in 1976 and 1995. As well as low rainfall, drought problems were made worse by the fact that the driest parts of the England also have the highest population density, and therefore highest water consumption. The drought problems ended in the period from October 2006 to January 2007, which had well above average rainfall.
Generally the United Kingdom has cool to mild winters and warm summers with moderate variation in temperature throughout the year. In England the average annual temperature varies from 8.5 °C in the north to 11 °C in the south, but over the higher ground this can be several degrees lower. This small variation in temperature is to a large extent due to the moderating effect the Atlantic ocean has—water has a much greater specific heat capacity than air tends to heat and cool slowly throughout the year. This has a warming influence on coastal areas in winter and a cooling influence in summer.
The floors of inland valleys away from warming influence of the sea can be particularly cold as cold, dense air drains into them. A temperature of −26.1 °C was recorded under such conditions at Edgmond in Shropshire on 10 January 1982, the coldest temperature recorded in England and Wales. The following day the coldest maximum temperature in England, at −11.3 °C, was recorded at the same site.
On average the warmest winter temperatures occur on the south and west coasts, Temperatures in these areas can rise to 15 °C in winter on rare occasions This is a particularly unusual event in northern Scotland, mainly Aberdeenshire, where these high temperatures can occur in midwinter with just a couple of hours of sunlight.
July is on average the warmest month, and the highest temperatures tend to occur away from the Atlantic in southern, eastern and central England, where summer temperatures can rise above 30 °C. It soared to 38.5 °C in Kent in the summer of 2003, the highest temperature ever recorded in the United Kingdom.
2006 saw unprecedented warmth, with many more records being broken. While the year started off around average, and even fell well below average in early-March, the period from mid-April onwards saw a lack of any cooler than average weather. Early-May and June saw temperatures 10–12 °C above average at times. July was the hottest month on record, with records stretching back hundreds of years; the highest maximum temperature for July was also broken in 2006. September was the warmest September on record and October was one of the warmest on record. November was also extremely mild, making it the warmest Autumn on record by some margin. May to October was also the warmest consecutive six months on record.
While the United Kingdom is not particularly noted for extreme weather, it does occur, and conditions have been known to reach extreme levels on occasions.
There have been occurrences of severe flash floods caused by intense rainfall, the most severe was the Lynmouth disaster of 1952 in which 34 people died and 38 houses and buildings were completely destroyed. In the summer of 2004, a severe flash flood devastated the town of Boscastle in Cornwall.