Chapter 2: The pressures and the challenges of rural life

All the residents know that life in their village will change over the next thirty years. Quite apart from the really huge challenges our society faces – from climate change to the impact of digital technologies on our lives – there some very specific pressures on rural life. Just to remind us, a few of those are summarised at (link).

Our village’s Parish Council are worried about some real risks to their community:

  • the population is ageing. More young people are leaving for work or to find somewhere they can afford to live.
  • added to that, rising house prices mean that the only people moving in are the wealthy, many of them already retired and searching for a ‘rural idyll’. The Parish have no objection to new people joining their community, but they do want to maintain a mix of generations.
  • the change in the make-up of the community is putting facilities like the shop and pub at risk. Changes in the way people live – like shopping on-line or going to theatres, gyms and cinemas in the bigger towns – threaten a whole host of local facilities, as well as village clubs and societies, and of course the village school.

There is a real fear that the village will become a faceless and characterless commuter town, lots of pretty houses but no life.

To add to their worries, our villagers see that the countryside they value so much is changing dramatically. Farmers are squeezed, with costs rising and income falling. They, like many other rural businesses, are becoming unviable.

At the same time valued local habitats – woods, meadows and ponds – are being lost. Some of that is because of land being used to intensify food production, but other pressures like housing or energy generation are destroying places which are home to wildlife.

And so the rural economy declines and nature is depleted. Many worry that the fields will be dominated by solar farms, the roads by cars. They worry that their community will die.

But it’s not all gloom and doom. There are little glimmers of hope:

  • people like the Taylors are encouraging a new generation of rural businesses and bringing jobs to the village.
  • Bill and Ellie share a vision for keeping nature in the village and surrounding countryside. They’ve encouraged the Parish Council to set up a committee to look how nature can be brought back into people’s lives.

Chapter 3: Things can be different