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The recent opening of the Channel Tumid has confirmed south-east England's status as the gateway to the Continent. But despite close links with its foreign neighbours, the region retains a quality all its own, and the landscape, although rarely spectacular, has much that is typical of the quintessential English scene — from close-grazed downland, dotted with sheep and serenaded by skylarks, to spacious village greens where cricket is played on lazy summer afternoons. Kent is traditionally known as the Garden of England, but the term could just as easily apply to Sussex and Surrey, for in addition to orchards, vineyards and hop-fields the region boasts some of the country's greatest gardens, such as Sissinghurst, Nymans, Sheffield Park and Wisley. Also found here in abundance, and within easy reach of London or the coast, are romantic ruins like Bodiam and Scotney, great cathedral cities like Canterbury and Chichester, magnificent castles like Hever, Leeds and Arundel, exotic princely residences like the Royal Pavilion at Brighton, historic houses like Chart-well and Bateman's, medieval cottages like the Clergy House at Alfriston and the Priest House at West Hoathly — and all set among some of the most fruitful countryside in England. Yet within the region the landscape varies considerably from wooded hills, undulating ridges and open heathland to bleak marshland, coastal plains and precipitous cliffs. The land of Winnie-the-Pooh and Pop Larkin, it has attracted many great writers like Charles Dickens, Henry James, Rudyard Kipling and E.M. Forster. It has also inspired Talbot and Whiteman, the 'two remarkable regional chroniclers' of the Weidenfeld Country Series, to produce one of their most handsome volumes yet — another superb celebratory guide packed with information, including a complete list of all the major properties in the area, and bursting with magnificent photographs.
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