February 2009 issue

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Quintessential Britain

Studying in rural Britain could literally be a breath of fresh air for those tired of life in the city. Rolling hills, quaint villages and countryside walks await those keen to escape to the country. Nicola Hancox reports.

City life isn’t to everyone’s liking and students after something a little more sedentary (and quintessentially British) will certainly find what they’re looking for in the quieter corners of the UK.

Bernadette Wall from RLI Language Services in London organises language study holidays at Fleetham Lodge, a family home in North Yorkshire, and she notes that the benefits of studying in rural surrounds are plentiful. “Our students want to get away from all the hustle and bustle and concentrate on the job in hand – improving their language skills,” she says. Boasting extensive gardens and picturesque views of the Yorkshire Moors and the Yorkshire Dales (two expansive national parks), students can enjoy cream teas between lectures or should they feel up to it, a brisk walk in the wilds.

The quaint little village of Kirkby Fleetham is located one mile down the road from the lodge and here students can mix with the locals during some of its more seasonal festivities, notes Wall. “The village has an annual agricultural show called The Feast in August. There are activities throughout the week culminating in a fun-day on the Saturday and an evening dance,” she says. She also mentions that students can enjoy cricket matches on the village green during the summer, keep hands and feet warm round the village bonfire in the autumn and experience the local hunt in early winter.

Meanwhile, the Lake District – a particularly mountainous area in the North West of England – is the perfect place to get the heart pumping and Tim Melling boasts that his school, English Language in the Lakes, is at the very heart of the National Park there. The area attracts walkers, climbers, mountain bikers and canoeists, says Melling, and he notes that there are plenty of activities on offer should students fancy a little adventure. “There are many beautiful walks directly from the cottage, incorporating waterfalls, rivers, lakes, caves and woods,” he relates.

On the doorstep of the Yorkshire Dales rests Harrogate – a medium-sized town famed for its tea rooms and mineral springs. However, according to David Chippett from Harrogate Tutorial College, it manages to maintain a small town feel. “Harrogate is a beautiful town to work in, avoiding the traffic and crowds of larger cities such as York and Leeds,” he relates. Chippett strongly advises students to explore the 800 or so acres at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Deer Park. “Fountains Abbey is a Cistercian ruin in a beautiful valley. It is also a designated Unesco world heritage site,” he notes. For those with a little more get up and go, extra-curricular activities such as pony trekking and hiking are also close by. “Students at the college are provided with a leaflet describing local walks in the nearby Valley Gardens Park as well as a cycle map of the area,” adds Chippett.

According to James Rogers at Severnvale Academy in Shrewsbury, overseas students at their school are in the right place to experience the country way of living. “Here in Shrewsbury it’s easy for students to talk to the local people, to socialise with them and to really involve themselves in local life. To our local population, the foreign student is positively interesting, not a social burden,” he comments. As a historic market town – and within easy reach of Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool – the county of which Shrewsbury is a part (Shropshire) is extremely rural and sparsely populated. “Step outside of Shrewsbury,” begins Rogers, “and in almost every direction there’s rolling countryside, stately homes, beautiful villages and wild hills.” Indeed, students can explore the Wales/England border by walking along Offa’s Dyke, a man-made border stretching 177 miles from Shropshire in England to Powys in Wales.

The county of Oxfordshire is another region riddled with places well worth a visit. David Evans from ELT Banbury in Banbury notes that the school is within striking distance of the Cotswolds (a hilly area noted for its natural beauty), Stratford-upon-Avon (the home of William Shakespeare) and the historical city of Warwick. However, he also notes that there are some local sights sure to appeal. “The Hook Norton brewery is about seven miles out of Banbury and students can visit a working brewery and sample its produce,” he relates.

Sarah Moorhouse at Oxford House School of English in nearby Wheatley recommends students visit the RSPB reserve at Otmoor – a wetland reserve teeming with various species of birds and a whole manner of flora and fauna. There’s also chance for students to become honorary citizens by popping down to the local pub for a game of skittles or attending talks by local community members. “We recently had a visit from our MP, Boris Johnson, now Mayor of London!” enthuses Moorhouse.

Another school in the heart of the Oxfordshire countryside is Gornall School of English and Sebastian Lesniewski, Director of Studies there, says there are many advantages to being rurally located (in Witney). “The greatest advantage of our school is definitely size – our capacity is about 40 students. This means lots of focus can be given to individuals,” he says. He adds that some of his favourite places to visit are Blenheim Palace and Minster Lovell. “Minster Lovell is a magical place with ruins of a castle and a lovely riverside – an ideal place for a picnic,” he states.

The aptly named Heart of England Language School in Leamington Spa (situated in the Midlands – the very centre of the British Isles) offers students the chance to sample English culture at its very best and Louisa Enock at the school relates that being so situated means students aren’t surrounded by too many fellow internationals. “We do not have a lot of English language schools in the area and so our clients feel that they are experiencing real English life and aren’t surrounded by too many other foreigners and non-native speakers.” She also relates that many of their extra-curricular activities are traditionally themed. “On May Day (May 1) the local Morris Dancers welcome in the summer by performing at a local windmill.” she observes.

David Lewis from Riversdown House in Warnford, Hampshire – close to the historic town of Winchester – meanwhile, says rural living is part of this school’s concept. He notes that the locals are extremely forthcoming when it comes to welcoming overseas students. “We organise various trips to help students get involved with the local community including a visit to the village of West Meon, a trip to the city of Winchester and visits to charming country pubs,” he says.

Many villages and towns have managed to avoid urbanisation entirely and Longhope in Gloucestershire and Bishopstrow in Wiltshire are two such examples. Longhope, a small village in the county of Gloucestershire, sits on the edge of the Royal Forest of Dean, and is, according to Lady Elizabeth Hollingrove from the Hollingrove Language Academy, delightfully rustic. Even the school – situated within seven acres of garden – is a haven for wildlife, and kingfishers, buzzards, pheasants, ducks, deer and squirrels can often be seen on site. “It is a rural community,” notes Hollingrove, “with traditional sports activities available, namely, archery, llama trekking, horse-riding, clay pigeon shooting, canoeing, abseiling, raft-building, kayaking and cycling!”

Fran Henson, meanwhile, from Bishopstrow College, agrees that students are encouraged to make the most of their rural surroundings. “We are in a conservation area and so [students can] orienteer, hill walk, cycle off road, or horse ride on Sailsbury plain,” she says. Getting involved in community life is a great way to familiarise oneself with country living and Norman Renshaw from InTuition Languages – a company that specialises in home tuition placements in the UK – says this is exactly the kind of thing they can supply. “Some host tutors have taken their students to local sheep auctions or church bell ringing which is a experience that can’t be achieved by an ordinary tourist!” he enthuses.

Agent viewpoint

 Peter Rupp, Biku Languages AG, Switzerland
“Students want to get off of the beaten track – to find a more personalised atmosphere. Small is the main word; small schools, small classes lead to better possibilities to get in touch with the locals which is important. People are less hectic. Students find it much easier to become part of the community in smaller, more anonymous environments. This all is, of course, only possible, if the quality of the school is grade A. Small is not automatically beautiful. In the case of Oxford House, however, it definitely is, 100 per cent!”

 Agustin Aguilera Torres, A.L. Thamesis, Spain
“We specialise in language training for companies and their executives and management teams. The best response to their needs is an intensive one-to-one programme and a total dedication to learn and practise the language. The best place for it is in a residential centre in the countryside, away from the distractions of the city. They find full dedication and concentration and they can practise language outside the classroom through social activities. It represents more than 12 hours daily practice and gives incredibly positive results. Spain is quite a dry country. England offers lovely countryside and landscapes quite different to what we are used to. This scenery makes people, their way of life and their activities different. It facilitates a human approach and contact, and you have the sensation that you get closer to people and that you get to know the country, its people, and their customs in a deeper way. The countryside is a more adequate scenario for such purpose. Finally, the higher cost of living and crowds of people from your own country might influence students to avoid big cities.”

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The following language schools, associations and accommodation providers advertised in the latest edition of Language Travel Magazine. If you would like more information on any of these advertisers, tick the relevant boxes, fill out your details and send.





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