The grass is greener…

June 20, 2012 5:18 pm

Those of us who have always lived in the town fall into a number of camps when it comes to the prospect of living in the countryside. Camp one hates the idea; where are all the shops? Camp two likes the idea, but after a bit of consideration appreciates it probably isn’t really their cup of tea after all. Camp three, which is the one that I slot into, would jump at the chance; when can we go?

Well, I did recently get the opportunity to move from a town to a village and obviously I took it. You have an idea of your head about what it’s going to be like, but what is village life actually like?

Coming from a street where everyone but our immediate neighbours had kept themselves to themselves, it was a breath of fresh air to find that it isn’t just a myth about people being more neighbourly in a smaller community. Within a day our neighbours had introduced themselves and one had offered for me to use her washing line should I run out of room on ours. It’s nice that people say “hello” to you when they walk past you in the street, you certainly don’t get that from strangers in towns and cities.

People are also more trusting. I’ve noticed a number of people on our road leave their front doors open when it’s a sunny day and it is very tempting not to lock up when you nip over the road. This is also demonstrated at the newsagents – we have vouchers behind the counter and they are happy for you just to walk in and pick up our paper; I suppose they soon get to know their customers.

The idea in your head of village fêtes and the whole village getting together to mark special occasions actually does happen. In the run up to the Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend the main street was zigzagged with colourful bunting. We knew something must be on the cards and one look at the village notice board informed us of the forthcoming events. The village school held a fête and a hog roast with live music on the village green celebrated the Diamond Jubilee. Community spirit is definitely alive and well in the village.

The obvious benefit of living in a village can’t be overlooked; you have the countryside on your doorstep. No longer do you need to jump in the car, surrounded by fields, you have footpaths within a five-minute walk of your house. For those of us who like to enjoy the world on two wheels, there are quiet country lanes at your disposal and cycling is the perfect way to explore neighbouring villages.

The village isn’t deathly quiet; in fairness it isn’t that small, the population is meant to be 1800, though I think the presence of a boarding school might push that figure up somewhat. With four pubs, a beach and a caravan site, not to mention being the start of a long-distance footpath, it does tend to draw in a lot of visitors. I’m not going to complain about that, as these extra faces support the local services, bringing money into the area and helping to keep services open for those of us who live here. With so many closing in recent years, I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was a post office in the village. This also acts as a general store and newsagents, providing essentials for packed lunches before walkers set off on their way, which no doubt helps to keep it going.

Not only do I like to support local services, but I’m in favour of eating local produce. There’s nothing nicer than getting free range eggs fresh from the local farm and this week the general store has started to sell potatoes from a nearby village. I’m yet to visit one of the farmers’ markets, but it’s on the “to do” list.

I won’t deny that there are some downsides to village life. At first it does seem like everyone knows everyone else, but give it time and you soon become acquainted. There’s no more popping to the corner shop in the evening when you fancy that bar of chocolate and 24 hour 365 day a year pharmacies don’t exist, so on a bank holiday when you really need something you might struggle; it just means you need to be a bit more prepared. The nearest town to us does not have many high street stores, so a longer journey would be required to buy something specific, but with internet shopping this problem is reduced greatly. Public transport is not very frequent, so journeys need to be planned around times of buses and trains, but we’re still lucky to have those services, so I shouldn’t really grumble.

With so many positive aspects to living in a village, for me it far outweighs the negatives and just like any change, requires a little adjustment. However, I appreciate village life isn’t for everyone and can see why many people would rather stay close to the hustle and bustle of a city. For others living in a village just isn’t practical; so I count myself lucky that this opportunity has come my way.

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