Wednesday, 5 January 2022

Town versus Country?

Harriet Walker, writing in today's Times 2, discusses the pros and cons of town and country living because many of her London friends are moving out into the country.   She hates the thought but also hates the size of house they can afford in the Capital.

I am - and always will be - a country girl at heart.  Born in the Lincolnshire countryside, at school in the county town, living seven miles outside Lincoln until my husband's job moved him to Lichfield - a Cathedral City but still like living in the country - I was in my early forties before we moved to a real town of any size and then it was because of work and school - that town was Wolverhampton.   I worked in an inner city Comprehensive but we lived on the Shropshire border almost out of the town.  My husband worked in Bromsgrove - thirty miles away.   So you could say that really greenery has always been a most important part of my life - never without a large garden.   Now up here - twenty five years of living and helping out on a Dales Farm and now living just two fields away from the farm on the very edge of a town with about three thousand inhabitants.

Last year Londoners left the smoke for the countryside in great numbers -  they bought 112,000 properties and spent £55billion on them and this was up from 73950 properties with £27.6 billion spent on them the previous year.  Eighty one percent intended to move permanently, the rest buy to let or second homes.

Rachel and John seem to both love going to London - Rachel often going to special exhibitions she wants to see (Durer this week - she writes about it today and gives such an interesting report - as usual better than an official one.)  John on the other hand often goes to meet friends pulling in an exhibition or a film or  Show at the same time

I have not been to London (apart from to catch a plane at Heathrow or Gatwick) for the last thirty years and have now no desire to go.   The first time we  went on holiday to America was the first time my farmer had been to London.   I loved it when I was mobile - it horrified the farmer.

But what I do know for certain is that people coming up here to live - to walk in beautiful scenery, to enjoy the beauty of our countryside and to buy up property with money they made from selling their houses 'down South' - have totally priced our young people out of the housing market.  A friend put his bungalow up for sale - pretty village, nice scenery, lovely walks - and by tea time the same day had had three offers (all for the asking price) and all were cash buyers.)

Our young people have a choice - rent or move away to a cheaper area.   I guess most of the people have a perfectly good reason for moving.   But I know that if you pass an Estate Agent's window on a Monday morning when all the new properties appear in the window, by Friday they will all have either a SOLD or a UNDER OFFER sticker on them.

Are you a town or a country dweller and were you born to it?   It would be good to do a count and see where we stand in the giant scheme of things.

Now to change the subject completely - still snow lying on the ground and more forecast,   It has just gone from about the first two feet of the lawn where the sun is on it all day.   Open the front door and stand in the hall out of the brisk wind and it is a really warm sun, two weeks yesterday since the Solstice and because the sky is clear there is a noticeable difference in the time it gets dark, and the violas on my front doorstep have today produced their first flower.   Spring is on its way wherever you live!

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38 comments:

jinxxxygirl said...

Born and raised and lived my adult life i'd say 90% in the country and perfer it 100% I'm one of those people that if i ever won the lottery i'd own a whole mountain.. put my house at the top and have my food , mail etc.. helicoptered in once a month.. lol I'd be a hermit for sure.. We just moved from living 20 miles out side of town in Arkansas to living in a housing development in Texas... Sitting here 6 months later wondering if we made a mistake.. But we are going to make the best of it... We are country people.. and even this development is 7 miles outside of town but people have different ideas of what living in the country means.. Hubby and i have always enjoyed the peace and quiet of the country but not everyone is looking for that.. They have 5 dogs and leave them outside barking their heads off 24/7.. i know they have to hear them too...do they just ignore it? They light up their house and yard like Ft.KNox... honestly i just want to see the stars... And lastly 4 wheelers and golf carts up and down and up and down the road past the house all day long.. the walls are not thick enough to block out the noise.. Do people never walk anywhere anymore?? So i think i'd have to win the lottery to buy a mountain to have any peace....but definitely country here Pat. I like to visit the city occasionally. debs

Susan said...

My preference is to live in rural forested areas or on the oceanfront. Currently, living on 7 acres of land, I am walking distance to nothing commercial or retail. A short drive (15 minutes) gives me access to these locations. A 30 minute to 1 hour drive gets me to Cambridge or Boston. I do miss living by the sea and one day I might return. In my current town, homes are selling fast exactly as you describe. Sellers often get 100K+ over asking price and bidding wars are common.

the veg artist said...

At a rough count I'm about 50/50 country vs. living in small market towns, all in West Wales. I much prefer country. The property market here has been affected by 'incomers' for years, proximity to the coastline being a major draw.
My husband is a Londoner who had Welsh grandparents who settled in SE London. He loves it down here, but I quite fancy living in London for a year or two, to take proper advantage of a cultural life. Travelling to an exhibition or on a short trip like John is way more time consuming from here than it is for him from North Wales for some reason - a good 4/4.5hrs each way.
I don't know how I'd cope without greenery though, or hills. I was once asked by a bus driver in Bath if I had my passport, although the part of Wales I'm from does not come with a strong Welsh accent!

Derek Faulkner said...

Despite living my childhood in a small town on an island in North Kent, the countryside was never more than half a mile away and when I got married in my early twenties I moved into the countryside and have lived in it for the rest of my life. London for me is one of those places that I have suffered on odd occasions and no more than once every 3-4 years. I've never been to a museum or exhibition there and find travelling on London transport, especially the Tube, a very unhealthy experience. My heart lies in the countryside.

Joan (Devon) said...

I have lived mostly in the country although I did work in a city for a short time in my teens. We could never get used to the amount of people and traffic there were when we visited my family in Yorkshire after living in Devon. Apart from having to use the airports for a few long haul flights we've taken, I have only been to London two or three times and I always get a headache, so cities and in particular London doesn't have any appeal for me.

The Feminine Energy said...

We won't see or smell or hear any hints of spring for months, here in Indiana. We are deep into the throes of winter. As to your question about city vs. country, it used to be that the only people living in the country were farming families. Most people didn't own a car and had to either walk to work or take public transportation so living in the country for the heck of it was just not feasible. Then, the invention of the automobile and people could live in the country but work in the city. That's where all the pollution came from and the use of fossil fuels, etc. etc. etc. Now, in today's day & age, people don't worry about any of that & simply hop in their car (one of two or three that they own) and go wherever they wish. Personally I wish our world could go back to walking, taking buses, neighborhood schools, neighborhood grocery stores, neighborhood churches, and all the rest. I think we would all be happier and the earth would be too. ~Andrea xoxoxo

Rachel Phillips said...

Country girl who also likes big cities and all the things they can offer in the way of life that you don't get in the countryside. But I like living in the country and cannot imagine living anywhere else. I like to be near a mainline railway station so that I can get out and about though when the mood takes me.

Melinda from Ontario said...

You've hit on a subject that I think about regularly. I grew up in a small town surrounded by country. In fact, there was a marsh behind our house that spread for miles. I now live in a subdivision that was built around an old mill town. In the past 20+ years, the farm land around our little town has been converted into more subdivisions. Almost daily, I check a real estate app for houses in the country, (for entertainment purposes only.) I now realize my husband and I missed the boat on making the move to a house with acreage. Prices have skyrocketed. So, I've decided to make the best of things. I garden like I live in the country and on hot days, I sit by my little pond with my feet in the water and pretend.

northsider said...

I think I would like a place on the edge of a town and to live here in the countryside next to the sea. Job opportunities, big stores and rock concerts and public transport are the things I miss the most living in the countryside.

Will said...

As a child I lived on a farm some 4 miles outside a small Sussex market town, and my first experience of city living was when I went to Uni. Having spent the next 5 decades living beside the countryside on the edge of a city I think that in many respects has been the best of both worlds, although it is now being spoilt by the relentless housebuilding going on everywhere.

Unknown said...

Countryside all the way for me. I lived in London for 10 months in my early twenties, otherwise rural Dorset has always been my home. A county without motorways, a Cathedral or much rural public transport. Wonderful walking, uplifting views and a good sense of community in the village I reside. I spent 34 years at the end of a rough track so now grateful for the civilisation of a small village. There is a surprisingly good Arts scene here, lots of small Theatres and some good cinema complexes alongside visiting companies who perform in loads of village halls, so the best of both worlds. I rarely hear a siren or any industrial noise. Just local shoots and farm machinery, how it should be. Sarah Browne

gz said...

I have yo-yoed between country and town...right from the start...
And right from the start, my heart as always been in the country.
When in art college in Cardiff we had to do two visits to London every term. I used to go on the very early train and walk around the galleries..and get home as soon as!
Living in the Welsh Valleys I was only happiest nearly 1000 feet higher up with my Mountain man!!
Now we are in a village of 1940 onwards housing schemes. We live on the edge.... thankfully!!
When did we last go to Glasgow centre?....two years ago...and about two years before that!!

Ellen D. said...

I have lived most of my life in a suburb of Chicago. We moved here to Naperville in the 1960s when it was a town of 14,000 and there were still farms on the edges of town. It has grown to over 140,000 now! It is cold, cold, cold today and we won't see Spring until May!

Debby said...

I have lived both in the city and in the country. There are wonderful benefits to both of them. When I was in the city, I loved that there was so much to do. I loved ethnic restaurants. When I was in the country, I loved the aloneness of it, and being able to hear the wind. I live in a small town now. It's okay. We will be moving back to the country in the next year or two. I'm not sorry about that either.

vic said...

I have lived primarily in small towns. I'm living now in a small University town (about 80 thousand people but half of those are students). Housing is a real concern around here. So many of the small affordable houses are being bought out and turned into rentals. With students being the primary renters the buyers of these can charge what seems to me outrageous rents and find plenty of takers. As a result the going price for these formerly affordable houses has gone up tremendously making it difficult for first time home buyers to come up with the money to buy one. Not a good situation. Not only that the rentals increasingly encroach on established, stable neighborhoods which then fill up with transient renters (a couple of years here and then off and gone) which is not good for the stability of the neighborhood and makes the area less inviting for young marrieds or people with young children.

Heather said...

It's the country for me - I grew up in Buckinghamshire many years ago, and have managed to live near countryside ever since. Trips to London were usually for some special event and always exciting but I wouldn't want to live there or in any other city or town.
It is sad that young people are being priced out of living in their own villages and are having to move to towns and cities to find work and accommodation. I wish I knew the answer to that problem.

DUTA said...

UK is an island, albeit a big one. From what we know now about islands in Climate Change, what is important is not country vs town but proximity to the sea. It's rather odd that people are still willing to pay an exorbitant sum of money for a house by the sea knowing that it could mean trouble.

The Weaver of Grass said...

So far your replies are bearing out what I thought. Like attracts like as far as blogging is concerned. Nobody so far has said they couldn't bear to move away from city life - you all seem to want the ountrysie looming large in your life.

Nikki - Notes of Life said...

I've always lived in a village... Once small, it has doubled, if not tripled, in size since I was a kid. A new housing estate is in the middle of being built and the houses are being snapped up since covid started with people moving away from towns and cities. I really enjoy trips to cities, but always love coming back home too.

Happy New Year!

marlane said...

Are you a Sagittarius LOL they love to travel. I was raised in the countryside near Kington in Herefordshire, the Welsh border lands. I am now in Southern California USA and have been in California, coming from England as a new bride in 1974 when I was 21. I am writing a blog about my horse memoirs which start with me aged 7 or 8 in England and will work up to the present.

The Furry Gnome said...

We have the exact same roblem here. I worry for my young caregivers, all local. Will they ever be able to afford a home?

Joanne Noragon said...

All the land around me that was country thirty odd years ago has houses done or houses going up. I tell myself, Everyone must live somewhere.

Chris said...

Urban liver here but with some outdoor space. No chance of Spring here for at least another two months. Are people there still going to shows? Everything is closed down here again and there are over 5000 people in hospital with Covid.

Cro Magnon said...

I'm a country boy (Surrey/Sussex), but also love the buzz of city life. I have often said that if I had the money, I'd buy a little Mews House in S Ken; but I'd still need my country home in France in order to breathe.

Hilde said...

I grew up in a small town, moved to a bigger one (100 000 inhabitants), then to one with half a million and then back to a village. There were good and bad things everywhere. The sad thing is that our village of 2500 inhabitants has lost all its infrastructure over the last 30 years. The last shop closed at the end of the year.
Hilde in Germany

Anonymous said...

I love the country, my husband loves the city. I prefer deserts and heat, husband loves the cold ,sea. and mountains. We have shifted many times, so that in 4o+ years of an otherwise well-suited marriage only one of us truly prefers the physical environment in which we live. As Melinda says, you make the best of things, and like her, I now garden like I live in the country, hollyhocks, citrus trees, roses herbs and veggies in an environment where people find gardening too time intensive and not the least bit interested. I am happiest with a chicken run, but that has gone by the wayside. Needless to say husband is very happy in the city, as is our daughter - they both found the country life a bit constricting. The Australian desert is my favourite. My husband says he would go mad not having access to the sea. Pam, Aust.

thelma said...

I sometimes think that we are moved by circumstance and not by what we want. So yes countryside for me against town, but living in Bath and I appreciated its gloss and sophistication, its very city feeling but also to look up and see the hills surrounding it.
It is much easier to raise children in a town, shops to hand and also entertainment. Living in the country you have to rely on a car in Britain.

Librarian said...

Hilde‘s place is of the same size as O.K.‘s village, where I spend most of my weekends and can imagine to live permanently. However, unlike Hilde‘s, this one still has a few shops and even a Health Centre, more and more important as our population ages. For someone like me who does not drive, easy access to public transport is vital, and my hometown of about 90,000 inhabitants provides that. I live within easy walking distance of the train station, town centre, my parents and my sister, shops and hairdresser‘s etc., but it also takes me no more than 10-15 minutes to walk out on the fields in several directions. For me, I have the best of both worlds, but am far away from real countryside, and even further from the Sea (800 km or so to the North Sea).
I was born in this town and have seen big changes over the last 45 years, but it is still essentially my hometown.

JayCee said...

I was born in West London and lived there until my twenties, then moved down to the Sussex coast. After a brief stint overseas I moved here to our small island and lived for 30 years in a rural area, which I loved. Now, however, I am aware of the limitations that my advancing years will pose and so am very happy to have moved to a house on the edge of a reasonable sized town with good amenities within walking distance. And a three minute stroll to the sea! Best of both worlds I suppose.

Rachel Phillips said...

Living in the country in any country you have to rely on a car I would imagine.

Jules said...

Definitely countryside. I couldn't bear to be without wide open spaces. X

A Smaller Life said...

I was born, was raised and worked in the city, moved to a town, then a village. Then lived and owned a shop in a market town, before moving onto a farm in the middle of nowhere. Country life for 11 years and now back to the outskirts of a small market town once again. Here we have the best of both worlds with countryside on our doorstep and the sea only a 30 minute drive away.

Blogging about Our New Life in the Country was brilliant and I lots of very interested readers following our progress, plus lots of media enquiries for my take on the country versus town life.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Rachel's comment about needing a car is interesting and food for thought - our parents oftten didn't drive - neither of mine did they never went to London. Holidays were taken in Skegness or just occasionally in Llandudno - a long way and they went by bus with a party.
JayCee I always think IoM has the bst of all worlds. I have a friend who was a Headmaster there. Now he is retired he has kept his cottage there abd also has one in Windermere so can commute between the two.

What an interesting lot you are - fascinating reading and so widespread. Thank you so much for fillinng me in - now I have a much better idea about yu all.

Rachel Phillips said...

What's happened to wonder woman? Has she been given the sack?

Mary said...

Such a wonderful post and very interesting comments Pat.
Born and raised in a village on the outskirts of Torquay, Devon - lucky me, it was so beautiful back then! Beach just a 10 min. bus ride - parents never owned a car - and Dartmoor 15 mins. car ride in the other direction. Best friends's parents had a car and we always 'did the moors' on Sunday afternoons. Walked everywhere within a few miles of the house, especially into surrounding fields (dairy farms mostly) and woodland - biked later. Absolutely loved the countryside and beach, and my childhood was perfect.
Left Devon for Washington D.C. at 19 to work for what was to be a year - and has turned into almost 60 years! Having never lived in a city, it was a huge change and quite an education - hi-rise apartment living took some getting used to. Regrets? Not really. Homesick for England? Always!!!!!
Lived in smaller New England cities before moving south to Raleigh, North Carolina. Now a huge city compared to the sleepy southern location it was when we arrived in 1977. Countryside is out there but one has to drive farther to reach it. Our 'cottage' sits on what was a farm - we unearthed a tractor seat in the back garden!
The city has enveloped our once quiet location and currently we are the real estate 'hot spot' in Raleigh. Our small homes are sold immediately (price wars of course), razed, and huge $2-3 million monster houses are going up left and right of us. Influx of people from California, NY etc., employees of Google, Apple, Amazon etc. all of whom are moving here too, are coming with their money and sadly our once cozy neighborhood is disappearing.

I would love to up sticks and move to a small town in the country (no real villages here!) but hubby is a city guy and won't even consider it. Meanwhile, for many reasons, yes including COVID, we must hunker down, make the most of life and the changes around us. . . . . .and be thankful for so much.

Anne Bee said...

Not quite everyone Pat. I grew up in the countryside and have spent my life moving nearer and nearer cities. I now live in the middle of Sheffield and love the fact I no longer have to rely on my car. x

Anne Bee said...

To be fair this part of Sheffield has a lot of greenery and wide open spaces and trees.

Granny Sue said...

Born in the country, raised in a very small town that suddenly burgeoned in the 60's, so I got back to the country as soon as I got married the first time, 53 years ago. Cities are interesting to visit, but can't imagine having to live in one.