For the region in Norway translated as "West Country", see Vestlandet.
The West Country is a loosely defined area of south western England. The term usually encompasses the historic counties of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, and often the counties of Gloucestershire and Wiltshire. The region is host to distinctive regional dialects and accents.
Apart from the Bristol Channel and English Channel, the West Country's boundaries are not precisely defined and as a consequence there are a number of different definitions used. Some definitions are roughly synonymous with the administrative South West Region, while others use it more specifically to refer to just the southwestern part. The term is also used, for example, to refer to sports matches between such cities as Bristol and Bath or Gloucester and Bath.West Country Carnival events take place in Somerset, Devon, Wiltshire and Dorset.
ITV Westcountry is an ITV franchise covering Devon, Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly and areas of Somerset and Dorset. Local news and sport website "This is the Westcountry", part of the Newsquest group, similarly covers Devon, Cornwall and Somerset.
"West Country Lamb" and "West Country Beef" have EU Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status which can be applied only to lamb and beef products from animals born and reared in Devon, Cornwall, Wiltshire, Somerset, Dorset or Gloucestershire.
"West Country Farmhouse Cheddar" is a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) that can be applied to Cheddar cheese made in the traditional way only in the four counties of Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport-supported website "Icons of England" defines the West Country as including Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Wiltshire, and the former Avon area, but excluding Gloucestershire (defined as part of the "West Midlands") and Dorset (in "South England").
The "West Country" edition of the 2005 BBC TV series Seven Natural Wonders featured "wonders" in Wiltshire, Somerset, Gloucestershire, and Herefordshire (Symonds Yat), but not those in Devon or Cornwall which were the subject of a separate programme on the "South West", nor Dorset which was covered in a programme on "The South".
The "West Country Clothing District" was an area that made woollen cloth, but only part of the region described above. It covered east Somerset and parts of the counties of Gloucestershire and Wiltshire and at some periods extended into Oxfordshire and Berkshire. The clothing district around Tiverton and Exeter in Devon and west Somerset tended to make different kinds of cloth and is best regarded as distinct.
The former brewery in Cheltenham traded as West Country Ales, whose ceramic plaques can still be seen built into pub walls.
Pam AyresMBE (born 14 March 1947) is a British poet, comedian, songwriter and presenter of radio and television programmes. Her 1975 appearance on the television talent show Opportunity Knocks led to appearances on other TV and radio shows, a one-woman touring stage show and performing before the Queen.
Pam Ayres was born at Stanford in the Vale, Berkshire, now in Oxfordshire. After leaving Faringdon Secondary School at the age of 15, she joined the Civil Service as a clerical assistant and worked at the Army (RAOC) Central Ordnance Depot in Bicester. She soon left and signed up for the Women's Royal Air Force, where she worked in a drawing office dealing with operational maps. Whilst serving in the air force, she gained O-level passes in English language and English literature and began her career as an entertainer. She began reading her verses at the local folk club in Oxfordshire, and this led to an invitation to read on the local BBC Radio station in 1974. Her reading was re-broadcast nationally, and then broadcast again as one of the BBC's Pick of the Year.
Bob Dylan inspired Ayres to write poetry, and in a 2006 interview she added that, at the age of twelve, she enjoyed writing parodies of the Lonnie Donegan songs popular at that time.
In 1975, Ayres appeared on the television talent show Opportunity Knocks. This led to a wide variety of guest appearances on TV and radio shows. Since then she has published six books of poems, toured in a one-woman stage show, hosted her own TV show and performed her stage show for the Queen.
Her poetry has a deceptively simple style and deals with everyday subject matter. Her poem Oh, I Wish I'd Looked After Me Teeth, was voted into the Top 10 of a BBC poll to find the Nation's 100 Favourite Comic Poems. In the UK Arts Council's report on poetry, Ayres was identified as the fifth best-selling poet in Britain in 1998 and 1999.
Ayres continues to perform her work, the humorous quality of which is enhanced by her idiosyncratic delivery and by her distinctive accent from the Vale of the White Horse in Oxfordshire.
From 1996, Ayres has appeared frequently on BBC Radio: from 1996 until 1999 Ayres presented a two-hour music and chat show every Sunday afternoon on BBC Radio 2; this was followed by two series of Pam Ayres’ Open Road, in which she visited various parts of the United Kingdom, interviewing people with interesting stories to tell about their lives and local areas. More recently Ayres has become a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4, appearing in programmes such as Just a Minute, Say the Word, That Reminds Me, and two series of her own show, Ayres on the Air, a radio show of her poetry and sketches.
In 2007, Ayres acted in a radio sitcom, Potting On for Radio 4, co-starring Geoffrey Whitehead. She wrote and recorded three series of her Radio 4 programme Ayres on the Air, the latest of which was broadcast in 2009.
Since 2002 Ayres has appeared a number of times on Channel 4 in Countdown's Dictionary Corner alongside Susie Dent.
In 2009, she made her first appearance on the BBC TV programme, QI. In 2011 she said in a Daily Telegraph magazine interview that she was "about to go on my 14th tour of Australia".
Her biography, The Necessary Aptitude: A Memoir, was published in 2011. It traces her life and career from growing as the youngest of six children in a council house in the Vale of White Horse, Berkshire, her time in the Women's Royal Air Force and the string of events that led to Opportunity Knocks. The title refers to the number of times she was told in her life she "did not have the necessary aptitude".
In 2013 she published her latest book of poems, entitled You Made me Late Again!
The poet John Cooper Clarke has cited Ayres' early success on Opportunity Knocks as being highly influential on his career.
Ayres is married to theatre producer Dudley Russell, and they have two sons, William and James. They live in the Cotswolds and keep rare breeds of cattle, as well as sheep, pigs, chickens, and guinea fowl. Ayres is a keen gardener and beekeeper. She is a patron of the British Hen Welfare Trust, Cheltenham Animal Shelter and Oak and Furrows Wildlife Rescue Center. In 2004, she was appointed MBE for services to literature and entertainment.
Select bibliography and discography
- 1976: Some of Me Poems. London: Galaxy Records ISBN 0-9504774-0-0
- 1976: Some More of Me Poems and Songs. London: Galaxy Records ISBN 0-9504774-1-9
- 1978: Thoughts of a Late-Night Knitter. London: Arrow Books ISBN 0-09-134380-1
- 1978: All of Pam's Poetry; illustrated by Roy Garnham Elmore. London: Hutchinson ISBN 0-09-134380-1 (including the contents of her first three books)
- 1985: Dear Mum: Poems for Mums and their Babies. London: Severn House Publishers ISBN 0-7278-2066-4
- 1992: Pam Ayres: the Works. London: BBC Books, Sep 1992 ISBN 0-563-36751-2
- 1998: With These Hands: a collection. London: Orion, Feb 1998 ISBN 0-7528-1553-9
- 2006: Surgically Enhanced. London: Hodder & Stoughton, Sep 2006 ISBN 0-340-92278-8
- 2013: You Made me Late Again!. London: Ebury Press, Sep 2013 ISBN 9780091940461
- 2005: Ayres on the Air. BBC Audio, highlights from BBC Radio 4 series ISBN 0-563-52435-9
- 2006: Pam Ayres: Ancient and Modern. London: Hodder & Stoughton, Nov 2006 ISBN 1-84456-318-9
- 2006: Pam Ayres: In Her Own Words (Acorn Media, March 2006); recorded live at The Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham in September 2005
- 2011: Pam Ayres, Word Perfect. A new DVD has been filmed at the Theatre Royal in Windsor and will be released by Acorn Media in late 2011
- 2011: The Necessary Aptitude: A Memoir. Ebury Press, September 2011 ISBN 0-09-194048-6
- Eunice Salmond "A life in the day of Pam Ayres"; The Sunday Times Magazine; 24 May 1981
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