Vil­lages are do­ing it for them­selves

Country Life Every Week - - Country Life -

The Ir­ish poet W. B. Yeats wrote that it’s pos­si­ble to ‘set­tle all the af­fairs of the uni­verse’ in a vil­lage inn. he wasn’t talk­ing about the bar bore, but was say­ing that, whereas in a town or city, one can ‘drift into our mi­nor­ity’, there can be no di­vi­sion into mi­nori­ties in a vil­lage be­cause there aren’t enough peo­ple to cre­ate one. ‘You must see the world there,’ Yeats de­clared. Vil­lage com­pact­ness cre­ates unity and helps get things done; ev­ery­one counts and can be counted.

There’s a beloved vil­lage im­age, evoked by Two Ron­nies sketches, of yokels held to­gether by baler twine, chew­ing on blades of hay, not com­pre­hend­ing jokes and gib­ber­ing at par­ish-coun­cil meet­ings, but there was al­ways a sharper side to vil­lage life and it’s resur­fac­ing.

Clive Aslet, who ex­plored 500 such places for a book, sug­gests that we’re on the cusp of a golden age for the vil­lage (page 50). he pre­dicts that broad­band (when it works), the trend for money-sav­ing home work­ing, the in­creas­ing aw­ful­ness of com­mut­ing, the bet­ter health of pen­sion­ers and a less sus­pi­cious at­ti­tude to­wards able in­com­ers are bring­ing about a ru­ral re­nais­sance.

Gov­ern­ment isn’t al­ways sym­pa­thetic to­wards vil­lage life, but en­light­ened groups of peo­ple with time and en­ergy are prov­ing that they can man­age with­out West­min­ster. Vol­un­teers are res­ur­rect­ing vil­lage shops— of­ten with a home-de­liv­ery ser­vice for the el­derly—pubs, li­braries and lo­cal car ser­vices. De­spite the hunt­ing ban, no one has stopped hunt­ing, so there are still horses to be groomed, shod and fed. The bur­geon­ing cul­ture of the fes­ti­val, whether literary, cheese or mu­sic, ra­di­ates busi­ness into the near­est vil­lage.

There’s tan­gi­ble ev­i­dence that own­ers of high-end prop­er­ties are opt­ing to spend puni­tive Stamp Duty money on home im­prove­ments, a boon for lo­cal builders, dec­o­ra­tors and crafts­peo­ple. De­mand for com­mer­cial shoot­ing, al­beit not wel­come ev­ery­where, is a life­line to pubs, B&BS and shops in win­ter and the nag­ging of the health po­lice brings a rise in walk­ers and Pi­lates teach­ers. Pan­tos, con­certs and ex­hi­bi­tions, how­ever home­spun, bring peo­ple to­gether. So do threats from un­wanted de­vel­op­ment—a united front co-or­di­nated by a knowl­edge­able, or­gan­ised res­i­dent can be sur­pris­ingly pow­er­ful.

None of this is to in­fer that there is no hard­ship, iso­la­tion or un­em­ploy­ment in ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties, but many vil­lages are redis­cov­er­ing the do-it-your­self spirit and mak­ing life work.

Vil­lage com­pact­ness cre­ates unity and helps get things done: ev­ery­one counts

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