With the Olympics and Queen's Diamond Jubilee, tourism in the UK faces a massive year. The Magazine asked non-British born people to describe the part of the UK that sums up a more unusual aspect of British life. Here, Chinese writer Xinran relishes the countryside of Wiltshire, England.
Love letters to UK places
Penned by those born abroad
I came to England in the summer of 1997 with a vision of England created by Chinese textbooks and my grandmother's stories - of rolling green fields, yellow daffodils in spring, red poppies in summer, red and golden trees in autumn, white snow and red berries in winter. Of gentlemen wearing top hats and ladies holding their silk parasols, rowing their boats on park lakes like descriptions from a Jane Austen novel.
The reality of the London I encountered was very different - crowded with people, new buildings mixed in with the old and everybody speaking their own version of English.
Four years later, love and writing led me to a British man, and every day since then my husband, Toby Eady, has shown me his England, the real England.
From 1,000-year-old Roman roads - Fosse Way and Port Way - across Somerset to medieval houses in York containing antique Michael Thonet Bentwood chairs, and early 19th Century hand-painted Josiah Spode porcelain dishes, 17th Century George Ravenscroft wine glasses, antique shops displaying beautiful oriental china or furniture.
British-Chinese journalist and broadcaster Xinran was born in Beijing. She is the author of a number of books, including The Good Women of China, which has been translated into more than 30 languages.
On our long march through British culture, we take breaks at our 17th Century cottage near the Stourhead estate. Compared with the magnificent Palladian mansion next door, our cottage is tiny. An old farmhouse, modernised in the 1960s, it comprises an open-plan living room, dining area and kitchen, with two small bedrooms upstairs.
There are only five families on our lane but it covers every level of society - a sculptor, a lorry driver, a post office worker, a literary agent and a banker. We don't bump into each other every day like in a Chinese village, but we meet up for seasonal gatherings, Easter egg-hunts and parties.
Sometimes, there is a local fair where every generation takes the chance to show off their local produce. Mothers, fathers, sons and daughters bring their cottage pies, pates, fruitcakes, home-grown beans and potatoes, flowers and even butterfly collections.
Every morning I wake up in the cottage to birdsong, a solo quickly becoming a chorus. I often hear my husband's conversation with our neighbours. They talk as if every garden in Britain has as many birds as ours.
When the baby birds hatch, our garden becomes a "pilot training school", and our windows often confuse their uneducated minds and baby birds bump into the clear glass. When I help the dazed birds back to their parents, they wobble around like they are drunk.
I have created five "bird kitchens" outside our cottage window. The great tits are always the first ones to taste their weekend food, but we get chaffinches, robins, blue tits and greenfinches visiting in large groups - once there were 12 different varieties eating at the same time.
I feed the birds twice a day, but sometimes they are really impatient. If we have a drinks party or a picnic under their trees, they will fly around shouting at us until we leave.
I think of the goldfinches as messengers from my mother-in-law, Mary Wesley. The day she passed away, a charm of goldfinches came to say goodbye to her, and now every time they come they bring back memories of her.
My favourite is the siskin. They are tiny but are very brave, and in their large families they are never frightened by other larger, mischievous birds. One woodpecker family comes every day to play, they eat and circle above us at the same time.
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When the trees turn to green to announce spring is coming, the swallows arrive, bringing back memories of a traditional Chinese nursery rhyme:
Little swallow wearing beautiful cloth, come to see me every spring
I ask her why you come back each year?
Swallow says, because you have the most beautiful spring
A pair of doves made a nest in a tree just right front of our cottage, they let their baby play around between the easily reachable branches. One day we saw it was trying to fly. That day we didn't want to go back to London, we wanted to wait for that moment she took her first flight.
Once we returned from a walk and were surprised to see a peacock with his huge glossy tail in our cottage, wandering around and shouting at the top of his voice. He obviously didn't care that it was our home and we observed his regal behaviour as he made himself at home, oblivious to my husband's anxiety over his precious keepsakes and books.
They are travellers from foreign cultures that change with the seasons. They paint the English landscape with their colours and dancing flowers. Every time we go to the cottage, my husband and I pick them for their beauty and to show our love for each other - over 10 years together and we are still not bored with them.
I often write Chinese messages on these English-born leaves for my Chinese friends and make bookmarks with them for my editors from over 25 countries. I have sent some back to my mother with a greeting from England and with love from my heart.
I can't help thinking back to my grandmother - this is the England she told us about in our bedtime stories, this is the England I dreamt of and I tell everyone of the beauty of the country I have fallen in love with.
I hope the beauty of my birthplace, China, won't be left only in the ancient paintings and classical novels, as its cities spread so fast - from about 470 in 2008 to more than 660 in 2010.