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1 de juny de 2006

Kent loses its Garden of England title to North Yorkshire


The Guardian (Regne Unit) [Cr˛nica]

The proud title of Garden of England has slipped from the grasp of Kent after more than 400 years, according to a survey which condemns the county as overrun with railways, traffic jams and chavs.
The title - dating back to a dish of Kentish cherries which particularly satisfied King Henry VIII - has been taken 250 miles north and awarded to the wide-open spaces of North Yorkshire, with a rating of 31.1%. More than 4,000 people surveyed across the country left Kent trailing with 5.2% in a final run-off which saw North Yorkshire win, comfortably ahead of Devon, Derbyshire and Gloucestershire, home of the Cotswolds.

The criteria were wider than the initial fame for orchards and allotments which won Kent its name, and included scenery, hidden corners, village traditions and wildlife variety. "Respondents feel that Kent is slipping down the ranks because of congestion, pollution and the adverse affects of over-building," says the report from a panel of gardening experts who sifted the opinion poll.
"The county is seen as losing its original charm because of thousands of London commuters, new housing in the green belt and tourist exploitation of once secret nooks."

The Channel tunnel rail link is also thought by more than a third of respondents to be a negative factor. The county's national image as the source of chavs - dim young fashion slaves alleged to have appeared first in Chatham - is a further blow.

The poll, for Style Gardens on the UKTV channel, opted for big, rural counties far from London and - in the case of the top three - rich in national parks. North Yorkshire took an overwhelming lead with 31.1% of the vote and particular praise for its rugged scenery, lack of litter, stately homes and dramatic coastline. Other counties in the top 10 include Suffolk, Dorset and Cheshire, while the wooden spoon is taken by Middlesex, largely swallowed up by London and described as "entirely devoid of natural beauty."

The chairman of the judging panel, the gardener Diarmuid Gavin, did his best to console the losers, saying: "This poll should not discourage their residents. It simply shows what an embarrassment of riches England has to offer."

Kent county council was defiant about its status, listing cauliflowers and cabbages as new assets among the many garden crops it still supplies. A spokesman said: "We are happy to rest our case with Charles Dickens's comment, 'Kent, sir, everyone knows Kent. Apples, cherries, hops and women.' We also do the strawberries for Wimbledon."

David Andrews, chief executive of the Yorkshire Tourist Board said: "My commiserations to Kent but it isn't really fair to compare other areas in the country with North Yorkshire. We simply have the most varied and beautiful countryside in the UK."


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