Project Britain

The Southeast of England

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The Southeast

Counties: Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, Kent, Isle of Wight, Surrey,
East Sussex, West Sussex

The Southeast is more densely populated than any other part of England.


A mixture of lowlands and chains of small hills. To the far north west are the Cotswold Hills, while the Chilterns extend from Oxfordshire across Buckinghamshire into Hertfordshire.

A horseshoe-shaped ring of chalk hills known as the Downs run down to the sea through Kent and Sussex. The South Downs reach the coast near Brighton, the North Downs at Dover, where they end in the famous white cliffs, which are the first sight of England for travellers by sea from continental Europe.

Important towns and cities

OxfordOxford is the largest city in the region and is home to one of Britain's oldest universities.

The M25, the motorway which rings London, is linked by other motorways with the Channel ports of Dover, Southhampton and Portsmouth. Dover is England's busiest port. Ferries carry passengers and freight to and from the continent of Europe. The terminus for the Channel Tunnel, which opened in 1994 and links English mainland with the rest of Europe, is at Folkestone.

There are several busy seaside resorts in the Southeast, including Margate, Worthing, Brighton and Eastbourne. The cathedral cities of Canterbury and Winchester also attract many visitors each year.

Other important towns include Reading and Windsor in Berkshire.


Heathrow Airport is located 15 miles west of Central London. It is the UK’s largest airport and Europe’s busiest airport for passenger traffic. It also handles more international traffic than any other airport in the world.

Gatwick Airport, the UK's second busiest airport, is about 15 miles south west of London.

Industry and farming

The Southeast has mainly light industries and is also home to the largest oil refinery at Fawley, near Southhampton. There are hovercraft factories on the Isle of Wight. Kent has paper mills, shipyards, and a nuclear power station at Dungeness. Away from the towns, there are hundreds of small farms, with orchards and fruit farms. Kent, known as the 'Garden of England', is famous for its apples and for hops, used in brewing beer. Lamberhurst is known for its vineyards and produces English wines.

Industry in Berkshire centres around Bracknell, Maidenhead, Reading and Slough, with electronics concentrated in Milton Keynes. Hertforshire is known for engineering, mostly at St Albans, Hatfield, Letchworth and Watford. The Oxford suburb of Cowly has huge car factories and was the birthplace of the classic Morris Minor.

The Garden of England - The county of Kent is known as the Garden of England because it produces a lot of fruit and vegetables. It is also famous for growing a fruit called hops, used to make beer, Britain 's favourite alcoholic drink. Hops used to be dried in oast-houses (see picture) an unusual building and a very popular sight in Kent. Nowadays, they are not used, but have been converted to fashionable, unique houses.

The Weald - An area in the south of England which separates the North Downs and South Downs.

Cinque Ports - (pronounced 'sink' ports). Five seaports on the south coast of Kent and Sussex - Hastings, Romney, Hythe, Dover and Sandwich, later increased with Winchelsea and Rye who were ordered in the Middle Ages to produce ships for service and were granted special privileges for doing so. Only Dover, Hastings and Hythe are still on the coast.


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