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English Channel

845 of 1169 nominations


English Channel

Is this an icon?


English Channel

This is the strip of water which lies between the south coast of England and the French coastline and it’s this gap, no more than 34 km wide (21 miles) at its narrowest point, that gives us our island mentality and our physical separation from the rest of Europe. It wasn’t always so. Before the end of the last Ice Age – around 10,000 years ago – we and mainland Europe were one and the same. When the ice melted and chalk was eroded we ended up separated by sea – and we continue to grow further apart as the tides gradually erode the soft chalk cliffs on the south coast. We may have been separated from our old countrymen, but the Channel has come in useful over the centuries as a natural form of defence and it’s allowed us to get involved in European conflicts, often with less risk than our continental counterparts. When we’re not using it as a form of defence, we’re trying to cross it - usually by the most dangerous, gruelling methods possible. The first person to swim it was Matthew Web in 1875 and Bryan Allen pedalled across in an aircraft in 1979.

Photo: Courtesy Channel Swimming Association Ltd


Your comments

The English Channel is the most important strip of shallow water in the world. This body of water creates the 'Island Nation' and is the single most important physical chacteristic to influnce the culture, politics and economy of England.

Jim Conner

The stretch of water that has protected England from centuries of invasions from the Vikings through Hitler.
Russell Hougham

It is the most well known stretch of water all over the world, especially for those who want to swim it. It has connections to the Wars...a remarkable piece of water, with much history behind it. 'White Clifs of Dover' as Vera Lynn sang! It is the 'Blue riband' of marathon swimming and has been influencial in my life, up to the present day (recently been awarded MBE for services to swimming and charity'), a career that started off with conquering this stretch of water as a 15 year old in 1979. Twenty three years on, and I did it again butterfly.
Julie Bradshaw MBE

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I believe rice, peas and jerk chicken is an Icon of England.

Ade Adeluwoye