Voices Flooded fields around the River Tone seen from Windmill Hill, Somerset. Some parts of England have suffered the wettest January since records began

Three Independent letter writers covered the issue superbly

In Wales: Little England holds the key

Devolution

ENVIRONMENT Surfers at higher risk of hepatitis

Surfers are three times more likely to get the liver disease hepatitis A than the general public, a scientific survey has revealed.

Real men don't wear togs

Simon Calder joins the gentlemen bathers in Ireland's Forty Foot Pool

Flipper with a foot fetish

At Florida's Dolphins Plus, it's the humans who provide the entertainme nt, as David Sandhu found out

Sunset boulevards

Kowloon Tong by Paul Theroux, Hamish Hamilton, pounds 16.99

Sellafield discharges `have more impact than Chernobyl'

Radioactive discharges from a British nuclear processing plant are having a bigger impact on the Arctic than the Chernobyl disaster, it was claimed today. Data compiled by Canadian researchers showed that a plume of radioactive seawater from the Sellafield plant in Cumbria - said to be "between two and three times" the contamination from Chernobyl - had reached northern Canada at a depth of 200 metres, New Scientist magazine reported.

The nation famed for its rainfall may soon take water from the sea

One of Britain's largest water companies is planning to build the country's first desalination plant, to turn large quantities of sea water into drinking water.

postcard from languedoc

Before we embarked on our journey, we kept asking: "What happens if the children get ill?" Luckily, our first-aid book is among Tallulah's bedtime reading. We pore over methods of preserving amputated digits and rescuing an electrocuted woman by standing on a telephone directory and prodding her with a broom. I like the way the victim looks so absurdly content and clean. Of course, the answer to the question is obvious. We would call a doctor. But what if you are parked in the middle of nowhere? Oh, hypothetical - phooey.

Into something rich and strange

SALT WATER by Andrew Motion, Faber pounds 7.99

Book reivew / Painting pictures on land and sea

Salt Water by Andrew Motion, Faber, pounds 7.99, A Painted Field by Robin Robertson, Picador, pounds 6.99

Shell floats a greener future for the North Sea oil platform no one wanted

The first and most difficult step is to raise the Brent Spar (main picture) out of its deep-water, vertical position so that it can be brought ashore. This could be done by gradually pumping in compressed gas (1), which will in turn pump out the oily sea water inside into a nearby tanker. Slowly, like a huge bottle, the Spar would rise to float on its side - but the danger is that the structure would split and sink, because it was weakened when it was first placed in the vertical position after construction 20 years ago.

Seasonal bullshit and humbug in the House

You stagger into the House, Christmas lunch congealing in your digestive system

The not-so-funny farms; fishing lines

Fish farming has moved some way on from the days when monks scraped leftover beans-on-toast into their stewpond to fatten up the resident carp. The pounds 20bn industry has trebled in the past 10 years alone and is growing at more than 10 per cent annually. Many familiar sea fish - halibut, turbot, bass and bream - are becoming modern aquaculture's equivalent of battery chickens.

The happy reaper of the bullrushes

Felicity Irons has grown used to attention during the summer bullrush harvest. At six foot, the 29-year-old actress-turned-furniture maker cuts a striking figure among the pleasure boats on the Great Ouse. "People call me the wild woman of the Fens," she laughs, before shouting at passing river day-trippers to slow down. For the last three summers she has propelled her wobbly 17-foot punt alongside the river banks, chopping the clumps of dark-green bullrushes with a seven-foot scythe.

The Black Crowes Three Snakes and One Charm American 74321 38484

It'll probably grow on me over time, but for the moment this sounds like the most turgid offering yet from the Atlanta rockers. On their day, they're the best live band in the world, but here the layers of guitar and keyboards seem too densely packed to achieve lift-off, leaving several tracks straining to rise above their riffs.
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