chapter  1
33 Pages

The Land and the Study of the Past

The briefest and most cursory acquaintance with the south-western peninsula of England is enough to convince the visitor that the most powerful influence upon the region is the sea. At no point in Devon is the sea more than 40 km away: for Cornwall the figure is scarcely more than 25. The long winding estuaries and the drowned valleys of the south coast carry sight and smell of the sea deep inland. In no other part of England are sea and land so intimately bound together. There are profound effects on much more than landscape. The traveller here soon discovers that he has come to one of the wetter parts of Britain. He may find comfort in the mild winters bestowed by a maritime climate, but the cooler summers than much of southern Britain enjoys may be an unwelcome surprise. It is easier to describe the land than it is the sea. But the sea is always present in the South West and human affairs have been subtly moulded by it since Britain became an island. It is not chance that the best known natives of the peninsula are Raleigh and Drake, and that the first south-westerner whom we can name was a sailor (below, p. 235).