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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Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Dubrovnik, the Dalmatian Coast & Montenegro
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Lisbon, Oporto and the Douro Valley
Lake Garda, Venice & Verona
Spain
Prices correct as of 30 January 2015
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links