A few years back, probably encouraged by steps towards greater establishment of a Welsh identity with the increase of learning the Welsh language from the late 1970s onwards and the Welsh Assembly more recently, the Cornish began to rediscover their identity and to promote the Cornish language. Cornish, like Welsh, is a Celtic language and its popularity has now reached an extent that there is now a Cornish language Wikipedia. Anyway, the flag of the white cross on the black background often accompanied by the Cornish word for Cornwall, 'Kernow' began appearing on cars right across the South of England. Even when you are two or three counties away from Cornwall you will see it emblazoned in numerous places. Partly I think this stems from the English love of tiny states, a sense of wanting your locale to be independent and of esoteric languages. The Cornish flag is the negative of the medieval flag of the kingdom later duchy of Brittany, another state with Celtic people many of whom came from Cornwall to settle. However, Brittany part of France from the 14th century remodelled their flag in the 1930s to resemble the US flag though keeping the black and white colours.
In online discussions there was a debate that with Devon ,which borders Dorset to the West adopting even unofficially such a flag, Dorset should have one too. In a vote ran by the county council, the winning design won 2,086 votes (54% of the share) with the next nearest of the four designs put forward, winning only 856 votes (22% of the share). This is a small proportion of the county's population (145,000 people live in Poole alone) but it follows the theme established by Cornwall and Devon, so I guess it is not going to cause offence. The gold and red were in Dorset's coat of arms and in the badge of the county regiment and it was the colour of the Wessex dragon too, plus, as people have pointed out, local landmarks like Gold Hill and Golden Cap. One of the two designers lives in Sweden and as with the Danish, Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish flags which all share the cross of St. Olaf as their basis, you can see a developing shape with the South-West flags, though attributed to different saints.
It is certainly bright and colourful. I know the red lines are in keeping with the black ones of Devon's flag but they are sensible, as from the numerous examples of this flag that I have seen flying this weekend, the gold becomes very pale in sunlight and it would be difficult to distingush this from the white cross if the red did not mark it out.
The flag of Wessex
Wiltshire, the other county in the South-West (it borders Dorset, Somerset and Hampshire) seems to have gone for something entirely more exotic and which looks more like a flag of some Caribbean island. It was introduced in 2007. The golden bird is a Great Bustard extinct in the UK since 1832 but has been re-introduced in the county. The green and white represent grass on chalk hills of Wiltshire. The circle apparently represents the standing stones at Stone Henge and Avebury in the county and the three white and three green refer to the six counties that currently border Wiltshire. So lots of references in there. However, it does not look that English.
Like many people I prefer Chrys Fear's 2006 alternative which was stimulated by chalk horse carvings on hillsides in Wiltshire and seems to sum up the prehistoric culture of the region. The green also echoes that of the Devon flag, a nearby county.
Chrys Fear's flag for Wiltshire
I like the fact that there is cross-referencing between these newly appearing county flags and I hope that Hampshire, unlike Wiltshire, adopts something sensible and that people of the county can be proud of. To show how different things can be when you move to a new region, I include the flag of Mercia which covers what is primarily today the West Midlands of England. This has a Cross of St. Andrew, also known as the saltaire, best known from the flag of Scotland. This could far too easily be mixed with the Scottish flag or even just iconography of the SNP (Scottish Nationalist Party).