Rural life – peace and quiet or isolation and claustrophobia?
IT’S raining outside as I write this. Apart from dropping the kids off at nursery, I’ve not spoken to a single person all day. And, to cap it all, the electricity supply and broadband keep cutting out, returning for a few tantalising minutes, and then stopping again. Working from home when you live in the countryside isn’t always as idyllic as it sounds.
Lots of us fantasise about making a move to the countryside in search of a better life. Lower crime rates, local food, a better quality of life and wanting to feel connected to nature are top of people’s wish-list, but not everyone is prepared for the realities of rural living. Some people jump off the city treadmill only to find themselves isolated in a damp cottage miles from anywhere.
It’s not surprising almost half the people who move from city to country up sticks and return to town. But for every person gives up on rural living, there’s another person who moves, stays and loves their new life. For them, the countryside represents a more peaceful, fulfilling lifestyle with better surroundings, more free time and a greater sense of wellbeing. It’s no surprise that life expectancy and levels of general health are higher in rural areas.
So what sets apart the stayers from the scarpers? Ask almost anyone who’s made a successful move to the countryside and they’ll tell you that having realistic expectations about rural life is vital. Understanding what’s different about country life – attitudes, pace of life, social life, access to amenities – all these change when you move from the city. Some improve. Some worsen. How you adapt to these changes is central to how quickly you’ll settle.
Preparation is key. You need to establish what kind of country dweller you want to be. It might sound blatantly obvious but knowing yourself and your family, and what you really want from country life is the first, and most important, step to living the good life. If you love the countryside but can’t let go of the city, you might be a weekender at heart. Weekenders get the best of both worlds – the buzz of metropolitan life during the week with relaxing, fresh air Friday to Sunday night. Unfortunately weekenders can also be unpopular with locals who often feel priced out of the rural housing market by second home owners. Top tip: try and redress the balance by frequenting the village pub, supporting local shops and making friends in the community. If city living has lost its sheen but you can’t give up the day job, you may want to consider commuting. You often get more house for your money when you sell up in the city and buy a rural property, so it’s no surprise that commuting is a real favourite among growing families. Unfortunately, it can mean lots of travelling, high transport costs and time away from your loved ones. Top tip: research has shown that most people who make a success of commuting use the rural train station rather than rely on the car. This takes some of the stress of the daily journey and hopefully means you can work on the train.
If, however, your idea of heaven is close-knit communities and even closer neighbours, village life can be a great source of support, social life and friendships. With the seasons marked out by village events and get-togethers it’s difficult to feel lonely in the heart of a community. For some, living on top of each other is just too claustrophobic. Top tip: resist the urge to divulge every piece of personal information to your new neighbours – you may find your private life counts as local news. Want total peace and seclusion? Head for the hills. You don’t have to be in the middle of nowhere, just far enough to feel that it’s you, nature and no-one else. Just remember there might not even be a pub in walking distance – life without a vehicle will be difficult. Family life off the beaten track can also be hard work, especially as your children reach adolescence. Top tip: consider the effect of your move on the entire family short and long term.