Terrain shapes and bedrock
The UK consists partly of highlands in the north and west and partly of lowland areas, especially in the south-east.
The highlands are built up of old and hard rocks, while the lowland part of the UK rests on softer rocks, which were formed during the Triassic to Tertiary (about 245-30 million years old). The main alternating relief of the main island and the course of the coastline are closely related to the composition and structure of the bedrock. Some of the highlands are part of the Caledonian Mountain Range (see Caledonian Orogenesis), namely Scotland, Northern Ireland, Northwest England and Northern Wales, while others are part of the Varian system (360–250 million years ago; see Varian orogenesis). The archipelago in the north shows similarity to Scotland as well as Northern Ireland, where a basalt plateau with Britain’s largest lake, Lough Neagh, available. The ground cover varies locally with moraine clay on some plains and pod sun in the highlands.
For Northern Ireland’s terrain forms and climate, see Ireland (Terrain forms and bedrock and Climate).
According to COUNTRYAAH, the Northwest Scottish Highlands at the far north and the Grampian Mountains south of the Great Glen fault basin with Lake Loch Ness are mainly built up by gneisses and mica slates older than 570 million years, with elements of old granite intrusive and belts of old red sandstone from Devon (about 400 million years old). Ben Nevis in the Grampian Mountains is a granite dome with Britain’s highest point, 1,345 m above sea level. Southern Scottish Highlands which is a 700-800m high plateau, the Cumbrian Mountains south of the Solway Firth, forming the scenic Lake District with the top Scafell Pike 977m above sea level, and Northern Wales with Snowdon, 1,085m above sea level. are all built up of sedimentary rocks. The latest inland ice has sculpted the land surface and left shapes like round pours,niches, elongated lakes and fjords.
The Pennine Mountains in Northern England with Cross Fell, 893 meters above sea level, are a north-south elevation of hard limestone and sandstone with collages on both sides, which are varically affected. So is Southern Wales with limestone, slate and collages, and Cornwall with hills of granite.
Lowlands in the UK made up except the Scottish lowlands of the plains around the Pennine mountains and the North Sea bay The Wash and the Thames outlet. Like the London basin, they are built up of clay, sand and limestone. The latter often form cuesta ridges (see cuesta), e.g. North and South Downs.
The rivers in the UK are short, e.g. Tyne, Tees, Trent, the Great Ouse River (see Ouse) and the Thames flowing east. The rivers Clyde, Eden, Mersey and Severn flow west.
The UK has a warm temperate humid climate with mild winters and cool summers. Due to its northern location in the Western Wind Belt, the UK is exposed to the lively low-pressure activity on the North Atlantic polar front, which causes stormy and unstable weather with high cloudiness. The weather can be rapidly changing and no major differences occur in the different parts of the country. Compared to the eastern parts, however, the western parts are usually slightly cloudy, milder and rainier during the winter and cooler during the summer.
The average temperature in winter is 3–5 °C, in summer 12–16 °C in Scotland and 17 °C in England. Precipitation falls all seasons and amounts to about 2,500 mm per year in the highlands, locally more than twice as much, while the lowlands receive 600–800 mm. Snow can fall in wintertime, but any snow cover is usually only a few days except in the highlands (over about 500 m above sea level). Tropical air from the Azorean high pressure often produces dense fog.
Plant-and animal life
The nature of the UK is characterized by the Atlantic with mild winters and a lot of rain all year round. Scotland in the north is dominated by steep, rocky coasts, majestic mountains and many rivers and lakes (lochs). England in the south exhibits a friendlier landscape with deciduous forests, cultivated plains, often framed by hedges, and a mainly low-lying coast where sometimes the limestone mountain passes during the day, forming steep sections such as the famous “white cliffs of Dover”. At the far west and southwest, Celtic Wales and Cornwall exhibit a dramatic face where the mountain falls in many places directly into the Atlantic, but also longer sections with sandy beaches and dunes, such as the “Cornwall Riviera” and Pembrokeshire in Wales with popular beaches.
In eastern England lies Norfolk Broads with the UK’s largest protected wetland area. Seven smaller rivers coalesce here, forming small lakes, larger reeds, mosses and marshes where Britain’s only cranes nest side by side with gray goose, beard dipping, pipe drum and other waterfowl. Norfolk Broads was the last outpost for the marsh gold wing (Lycaena dispar). Due to extensive digressions, this beautiful day butterfly disappeared as early as the 1860s, but after recreating some of the original environment, you are now considering re-implanting the species in Norfolk Broads with butterflies derived from the Netherlands.
New Forest in southern England is a unique natural area throughout Europe. As early as 1079, New Forest was set aside as royal hunting grounds by William the Conqueror and the landscape has since been characterized by free-ranging deer, deer, deer, ponies (new forest), cattle and pigs, creating a mosaic of open meadows and trees with ancient trees. Many believe that large parts of Britain and the continent looked like this even before humans began to breed, when species such as uroxia, wild horse, deer, willow and wild boar were given space to shape wild Europe. Thanks to its long continuity, New Forest is one of the richest places in the UK, where several plants and animals have their only habitat (including dark red sable lily,Gladiolus illyricus) or its strongest mounts (including 13 bat species)..
In Dartmoor in south-west England there is a national park with a rich mosaic of moorlands, oak forests, pastures, mosses and granite cliffs. In the heathlands, red hen (Alectoris rufa) and ring-trust thrive. In the spring, the oak forests are sounded by the song of black and white flycatchers, finches and various blades, and tree sleepers utilize the day’s dark hours for hunting. The pastures are rich in day butterflies and the black-spotted blueberry had its last known occurrence in the United Kingdom. After the last discovery in 1979, suitable biotopes were re-created and butterfly larvae from Öland were introduced with good results. The mosses have marsh snapits southernmost nesting site in the world and klipputsprången provides appropriate bohyllor the raven and peregrine falcon.
Off the coast of Pembrokeshire in Wales are two of the UK’s most valuable bird islands – Skomer Island and Skokholm. They are famous especially for their large colonies of smaller lira; more than half of all the world’s breeding pairs here produce their young. Other waterfowl is sea sole, lunnefågel, shag, storm cool (Hydro’bates pela’gicus) and kittiwakes. Pilgrim falcon and alp crow find suitable places in the cliff top. In the sea outside there are gray seals, porpoises, bridges and killer whales. Every now and then, blue whales are seen.
In the north-west of England there is Britain’s largest tidal area, Merocombe Bay. During the winter season, there are more than a quarter of a million birds here, most notably beachcat, marsh snap, coast snap and big spaw. Otter, salmon and sea trout utilize the nutrient-rich tidal zone but also flowing rivers.
A little further north lies England’s largest national park, the Lake District. With its many lakes and streams, the national park is an attractive tourist destination for millions of tourists. Osprey has become one of the national park’s most important symbols and attractions. From re-implants in Scotland, the osprey colonized the Lake District in 2001 after 150 years away and has since increased in number. Through special cameras and vantage points, more than 100,000 spectators can view the oyster’s nesting board annually without interruption.
Cairngorms in central Scotland with high mountains, moorlands, clear lakes, rivers and wetlands are the UK’s largest national park. Here live wildcats and a long line of birds of prey – king eagle, blue swamp, osprey, pilgrim falcon and rock falcon. Moripa, a subspecies of dalripa, lives on the moorlands and is a favorite prey for the many birds of prey. Squirrel has one of its last bastions in the country after being forced back by the larger gray squirrelafter implants from North America in the early 1900s. There is a large and individual strain of red deer. The species is an attractive hunting game and artificially high densities are maintained to create good hunting income. This hampers the return of the famous Caledonian forests with, among other things, pine, aspen, spring birch and glass birch, where less than 1% of the original distribution remains. Re-implantation of the wolf has been proposed to reduce the problems surrounding deer, but the hunting and financial interests are so far too strong for consent.
On the Taynish Peninsula in western Scotland, one of the best examples of Atlantic oak forests is growing in Europe. With a rich undergrowth of various ferns, mosses and lichens, they also go by the name Celtic rainforests.
In the far west and north of Scotland, the Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland spread with an extensive archipelago of islands. On the wine-lined islands there is an interesting bird fauna with barley grain, smallmouth, rock pigeon and sea eagle. With the start and release of Norwegian birds in 1975 on the island of Rum in the Inner Hebrides, the sea eagle has slowly begun to recolonize Scotland, where it was once widely used. The population in western Scotland is now estimated to be more than 200 individuals and attracts a growing tourism – on the island of Mull in the Inner Hebrides the sea eagle tourism generates an annual income of the equivalent of over SEK 20 million. The coasts and the more solitary islands attract millions of nesting seabirds each year and surrounding water gray seals, seal seals, sea otters, porpoises, killer whales, dolphins and folding whales.
In 2012, there were fifteen national park status areas, the largest of which are Cairngorms (Scotland), the Lake District (north-west England) and Snowdonia (Wales). There are, moreover, a very large number of nature-protected areas, most bird-protection areas and areas that are protected because of the landscape.