Flowers ' Trees and Woods • Animals • Birds • Symbols and National Emblems • Threats to Wildlife
The humid and mild climate of Great Britain is good for plants and flowers. Some of them have become symbols in the UK. Probably you know that the poppy1 is the symbol of peace, the red rose2 is the national emblem of England, the thistle is the national emblem of Scotland and the Edinburgh International Festival. The daffodils3 and the leek4 arc the emblems of Wales, the shamrock5 (a kind of clover)6 is the emblem of Ireland.
The UK was originally a land of vast forests, mainly oak and beech7 in the Lowlands and pine and birch in the Highlands, with great stretches of marshland and smaller areas of moors8. In the course of time, much forest land was cleared and almost all the 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 southeastern and western England. Oak, elm and beech are the commonest trees in England, while Scotland has much pine and birch. The Highlands with thin soil are largely moorland with heather9 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 the UK is much like that of northwestern Europe, to which it was once joined. Many larger mammals such as bear and wolf have been hunted to extinction; others are now protected by law. About 50 land mammals are still found in the UK. There are many foxes. Others are common along rivers and streams, and seals live along parts of the coast. Hedgehogs, hares, rabbits, rats and mice are neighbors. Deer live in some of the forests in the Highlands of Scotland and in England. There are several small lizards, two or three kinds of snakes, and several kinds of frogs and toads.
You may think that there are crocodiles in the British Isles if you read that'... a traditional jazz band led the three-mile crocodile in a musical protest to 10 Downing Street'. But it is not a real crocodile. It is what the English usually say about schoolchildren walking in procession, two by two.
Some 230 kinds of birds live in the UK, another 200 are regular visitors, and many are songbirds. The most numerous are blackbird, sparrow and starling. Robin Redbreast10 is the national bird of the UK. The number of ducks, geese and other waterfowl has diminished during recent years. Law protects partridges, pheasants and other large and rare birds. Gulls and other sea birds nest near the coast.
There are many threats to wildlife and ecological balance around the coast. The biggest threat to the coastline is pollution. Even much-loved Blackpool11 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 Greenpeace12. Many other ecological problems may be caused by privatization of the coast. The past decade of Tory rule has seen a decline in the quality of rivers. Many of them are 'biologically dead', i. e. unable to support fish and wildlife.
Can You Answer These Questions?
1. What are the main countries of the UK and their capitals?
2. Why is the UK also called Great Britain, England or the British Isles?
3. Which countries of the UK occupy the two main islands?
4. What is the area of the UK?
5. Is Great Britain a large or a small country in area and in population?
6. Which is the highest point in the British Isles?
7. Which river is associated with the name of Shakespeare?
8. Which is the swiftest-flowing river in the UK?
9. What is the Lake District known for?
10. Which is the largest industrial and most densely-populated country of the UK?
11. How long is the longest river in the UK and which river is it?
12. What is the population of London?
13. What parts does London consist of?
14. Which part of London can be called its centre?
15. Which are the best-known streets of London?
16. What makes London important for the life of Great Britain?
17. What other cities in the world with a population of nearly 7 million people do you know?
What Do You Know About...
1) the UK as an island state?
2) the languages spoken in the UK?
3) the chief rivers of Great Britain and their importance in the life of people?
4) the largest lakes in the British Isles and what they are associated with?
5) the countries and largest cities hi the UK?
6) the distribution of population in the UK?
7) the reason why Scotland is not densely populated?
8) the reason why the Highlands is the most underpopulated area of Scotland?
9) the reason why Aberdeen is the most important city in the Highlands?
10) the reason why Glasgow was a grim city?
11) the reasons why the sea has been important in the jiistory of England?
12) industries of London?
13) the history of Ireland and the Irish people?
14) the national emblems of England, Scotland, Wales Northern Ireland?