The furthest you can get away from the sea in the UK is about 70 miles and it is up a hill in Derbyshire. I wonder what is the furthest place away from the countryside? I am guessing that it will be some point in central London – maybe the House of Commons itself? – but it can only be, at the most, 15 miles or so.
I live in something that I regard as a large village in east Northants but I am told it is a small town. It’s about 400 yards (or metres) from my computer to the nearest arable field. Does that make me rural or urban?
And is my mindset urban or rural? I’m not quite sure – I do miss easy access to good opera, theatre and football but the compensation of being able to walk in woods, grasslands and wetlands near to where I live more than makes up for it in my view. And watching art or sport on TV is a better substitute than watching nature on TV, I believe.
So when I see that there is a campaign to save the post of the ‘Rural Advocate’ I wonder whether this is someone who is advocating for me or for those people whose landholding starts 400 yards (or metres) from here.
Lord Euan Cameron, a former holder of this post ‘begged’ ministers to think again according to The Independent on Sunday and talked of the ‘unrecognised issues of rural deprivation’ which, I guess, include issues such as poor public transport (I am so glad that I am able financially and physically to drive), poor internet and phone reception (yes, these seem like essentials these days), loss of local shops and pubs and potential loss of libraries.
But in the Observer there were a bunch of letters criticising the supermarkets for their impacts on farmers, producers in developing countries, town centres and their, allegedly, cosy relationship with the Conservative Party (does that remind you of anything else that might have been in the news recently?).
Apparently it is Countryside Week – whatever that means?! This is the brainchild of the Prince of Wales and is supported by a couple of supermarkets too according to a letter in Monday’s Daily Telegraph. Apparently the countryside needs saving, but most of the focus appears to be on farmers rather than the majority of people who live in the countryside. Maybe those supermarkets could do a little more in their day jobs?
The Countryside Alliance sounds like it ought to be the organisation to join for those, like me, who love the countryside and there is much to recommend it in that it does deal with issues such as fly-tipping and rural broadband. However, if you aren’t terribly keen on killing wildlife then you might be put off the Alliance. On its home page there are four revolving images: a pretty stone cottage, some sausages, a kid with a firearm and a huntsman and fox hounds. And look at its campaigns and the rural issues that are not hunting, shooting or fishing come way down the list.
If being rural means that I have to be a farmer or go out and kill things then I’m not very rural at all.
I really don’t know whether I am rural or urban – I’d rather like to be both if that’s OK with everyone? I’d like to be ‘rurban’ please.
The issues of poverty, deprivation and unfairness are different in urban and rural areas but neither is more nor less important than the other. Does it really help to talk up, or talk down, either the countryside or the non-countryside?
But here’s one thing that you urban people could do to be nicer to you rural people, and it is something on which I can agree with the NFU (gasp of surprise!). Please don’t firebomb the countryside. I first saw chinese lanterns moving slowly and beautifully through the sky in Stratford-upon-Avon last November 5th. They looked very pretty. But sending fires out into the countryside isn’t very fair or very clever is it?