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Berkshire

Berkshire is a historic county in the South East of England. It is also often referred to as the Royal County of Berkshire because of the presence of the royal residence of Windsor Castle in the county; this usage, which dates to the 19th century at least, was recognised by the Queen in 1958, and letters patent issued confirming this in 1974.

Berkshire borders the counties of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Surrey, Wiltshire and Hampshire, and is usually regarded as one of the home counties. Under boundary changes in 1995, it also acquired a boundary with Greater London.

Historically the county town was Abingdon, but in 1867 the town of Reading, by then much larger, superseded Abingdon in this role. In 1974 local government reorganisation moved Abingdon and several other north-west Berkshire towns into Oxfordshire. A later reorganisation, in 1998, abolished Berkshire County Council, although retaining Berkshire as a ceremonial county. The highest tier of local government in Berkshire are now the unitary authorities of Bracknell Forest, Reading, Slough, West Berkshire, Windsor and Maidenhead and Wokingham.

Geology, landscape and ecology

From a landscape perspective, Berkshire divides into two clearly distinct sections with the boundary lying roughly on a north-south line through the centre of Reading.

The eastern section of Berkshire lies largely to the south of the River Thames, with that river forming the northern boundary of the county. In two places (Slough and Reading) the county now includes land to the north of the river. Tributaries of the Thames, including the Loddon and Blackwater increase the amount of low lying riverine land in the area. Beyond the flood plains, the land rises gently to the county boundaries with

Surrey and Hampshire. Much of this area is still well wooded, especially around Bracknell and Windsor Great Park.

In the west of the county and heading upstream, the Thames veers away to the north of the (current) county boundary, leaving the county behind at the Goring Gap. This is a narrow part of the otherwise quite broad river valley where, at the end of the last Ice Age, the Thames forced its way between the Chiltern Hills (to the north of the river in Oxfordshire) and the Berkshire Downs.

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