Snug Old England
The chances that most people will get a Christmas card with a picture of an English village on the front are not exceptional. Perhaps you might find a gathering of Victorian carol singers under an old gas lamp surrounded by pretty, beamed cottages with snug real fires burning in the grate.
It conjures up thoughts of Dickens’ seasonal masterpiece, `a Christmas Carol’. Our old picturesque villages still exist and are beloved of locals and visitors alike although life is distinctly modern these days aside from the possibility of being `cut off’ by snow or floods, thanks to our tiny country lanes and rapidly changing weather.
The truth about the English village is that there is no distinctly English village; in fact, every county has its own style of village mainly based upon the materials available locally. Our attitude to building is perhaps, summed up in the old nursery rhyme, `London Bridge is Falling Down,’ in which a variety of materials are tested during the construction of our famous landmark.
Stone comes out triumphant as it suits the climate well but there are many types available.
Portland stone from Dorset is still quarried on the island and found all over the world. In Cornwall, hard, grey, radioactive granite is used and this has led to higher than expected levels of Radon gas. Cotswold stone, by contrast, is sandy coloured and porous.
Many traditional cottages are made of `cob’ a mixture of earth, lime, water and straw and these can last hundreds of years but even cob style cottages vary.
Suffolk is famous for its pink houses in which the paint was once made partly of the buttermilk and pigs blood to create the distinctive colour.
A thatched roof, made out of reeds, has to be replaced about every seventy years but otherwise provides perfectly good cover.
Finally, you will find a great variety of buildings from many historical eras. You might be treated to the sight of a Victorian cottage with bright red bricks, steeply slanting slate roofs and large picture windows and elegant fireplace.
The very striking black and white Tudor beamed buildings are visible in many villages although you might find something even older here and there.
I hope you get a chance to look around at lovely things as you make your way through the Christmas shops.