Villages are doing it for themselves
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