Best of British: 60 things that make Britain great

Imagine you're cut off in a far-off land. What longings would be uppermost in your mind? Here we celebrate those aspects of life that make our islands distinct and beguiling.

47. Chalkstreams

Clear water of meandering River Kennet chalk stream at Axford, Wiltshire, England

Described by Ruskin as ‘trembling and pure, like a body of light’, English chalkstreams are the envy of the world. Some 160 (80%) of the world’s 210 chalk rivers are here. They trickle gently through tranquil countryside, from the becks of the Yorkshire Wolds to the Itchen in Hampshire and the endearing Piddle in Dorset. These mineral-rich, alkaline waters, revered for the superior fly-fishing that can be enjoyed on them, support a host of other wildlife, from kingfishers to otters, and are regarded by countrymen as a liquid national treasure.

‘When trout waved lazy in the clear chalk streams, Glory was in me’
(Sir John Betjeman, writing of the Kennett)

Next page Previous page