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Meet the Team: rural living

a heather covered moorland looking towards fields and trees with fliffy clouds in a bright blue sky

Hard work but well worth it - the ins and outs of rural living for our Meet the Team series

By Amy Worley, Features Commissioning Editor 

 

a purple heather covered moorland looking towards fields and trees in a cloud strewn blue sky through the ears of a black horse
A horse ride on the moors (Amy Worley)

Are you thinking of finding work in a rural area of the UK? Moving from the city to the countryside for work is an option. Historically people moved the other way, from rural areas in to urban conurbations because that was where the work lay, albeit in industry. Rural living is, in the most part, a joy but I thought I’d take you on a little bit of a run through the challenges we face when living in many of the most beautiful parts of the UK. 

As a child I used to stay with a relative in London and I was amazed that people wore outside shoes in the house! Having always lived rurally the outdoor shoes came off at the door because they are inevitably covered in mud. In one of the wettest winters on record (even if it is not, it feels like it) I have been living in wellies now for around 8 months. Just to get from the house to the car I can get covered - a warning to passengers is ‘mind your trousers on the side of the car’ because the car is also covered in mud. I did actually wash it a few weeks ago which revealed quite a large number of scratches and scrapes and bare metal, all covered up nicely again by the mud as soon as I’d driven home.

So, there is the mud to contend with. What next?

 

I was incredibly lucky to be in the right place at the right time and know the person selling our house when we bought it over 20 years ago. Even then there was a lack of affordable housing; the situation is even worse now. In our village there is very little social housing and although the Parish Council has been talking about and trying to find a site to build some for years, nothing has happened. Planning rules within National Parks mean new house builds are few and far between. Social housing is even less likely to happen because the land cannot be found and the planning permission cannot be gained.

You are therefore going to struggle to purchase a property unless you have a large pot of money. Country villages and areas, certainly during and since the pandemic, have seen prices sky-rocket as the ability to work from home has enabled city workers to live and work in rural areas.

Long-term let properties are pretty much non-existent because anyone with a second home (of which there are many) is either lucky enough to use it just for themselves or will rent it out to holidaymakers.

You could live in your car? There are increasing reports of these being the measures people go to in order to a) remain in the area they grew up in and work or b) put some form of roof over their heads. We have had a number of people living in their cars near us. I find it difficult to decide whether it would be better in the freezing cold winter or the boiling hot summer – either way it’s not an ideal situation for anyone to be in.

Accommodation is going to be tricky. Right onwards…

  

I want to do my bit for the environment but there is very little chance of saving the planet when you live rurally. You will need a car and be able to drive because the public transport links are ever decreasing. I would have to walk 2 miles to get to a bus stop that is serviced by 4 buses a day to the local town.

We have no mains gas, indeed my neighbour was cold-called asking if she wanted to move gas suppliers, to which she retorted, “that’s great that you are prepared to lay mains gas lines to my property”!

So, your options are electric heating or solid fuel – we have a solid fuel Rayburn which runs on smokeless fuel along with a woodburning stove. The house is warm enough if you close doors to keep the heat in the room you are in. We did put a good depth of insulation in the roof space (my job as I was the only one small enough to get in to some of the spaces) but the walls are ½ metre thick and solid so we are unable to install cavity wall insulation. The rooms are relatively small because many of the properties in rural areas were built as workers’ cottages for the railways or mines, so there is little scope to insulate internally. We can not therefore be as energy efficient and least polluting as the Government wants us to be.

a large green marrow next to a wooden marrow on a trophy stand and a brown dog in a garden
The heaviest marrow trophy sandwiched between a heavy marrow and Ted the dog (Katy Watson)

Just a warning, you will struggle to do your bit for the environment – although these are not the only ways you can help save the planet.

 

Living anywhere can be lonely but if the closest property to you is a mile away and it’s a holiday cottage it’s even more isolating. We are lucky in Goathland to still have 4 pubs but this is predominantly down to the tourist trade; other rural areas are not so lucky. The loss of social hubs like pubs is a real problem but when trade is low a living can not be made. Over the last few years there has been a move for local communities to buy and manage pubs and shops to ensure these vital hubs remain with funding available for this.

It can be hard moving to a new place but I think one of the best things to do is to volunteer within the community. I volunteer for our Village Hall Trust - it looks after Goathland Village Hall, a vital community hub. In doing so I met other people living in the village who introduced me to other people and before you know it you have lots of villagers you can have a chat with. I like to include newcomers to my area by inviting them to the Heaviest Marrow Competition my husband and I set up when we moved in. A lovely annual get together with stiff rivalry for the coveted marrow trophy. 

The lesson is always not to hesitate to get involved and get to know people.

  

I can’t believe I’ve got to here and haven’t mentioned the dreaded internet yet. Coming from an urban area to a rural location you will notice the slower speed of the internet. No, you can not work whilst the children are streaming a movie and your other half is on a Zoom call. A regular shout during the school holidays used to be ‘everyone get off the internet, I’m trying to work!’ The majority of rural areas are still receiving broadband down ageing copper wires in waterlogged soil so the max speed I can get is 6MBps. Because the internet is vital for my work, and I am sick of shouting, we have joined our neighbours and installed Starlink. Although I am loath to give Elon Musk more money, it’s currently one of the only options if you want better speeds. Because we are able to share the cost, it is working out for us. Rural areas are also not well served by the mobile network, whichever G it’s supposed to be now. I have to be standing on my head on top of the kettle to get a signal in the house and when out walking, the place you will inevitably break your leg is in a dip with no signal, because that’s the law of sod.

a deer standing near trees on a snow covered track
Coming across a deer on a lunchtime walk with the dog (Kerryn Humphreys)

Be prepared to work at a slower pace.

 

It’s not just rural North Yorkshire, for more comments about the problems encountered in rural communities from across the UK read this article in the Telegraph here.

 

Sounds like all I’m doing is complaining, I’m quite good at it but no, living in a rural area is joyful a large proportion of the time. The skies are big, I regularly see shooting stars over the moor – the views are spectacular – the walking is fabulous – cycling I believe is fun but there are too many hills for me.

The array of wildlife I am privileged to share my day with is second to none. Indeed, this morning as I drove the children the 1½ miles to catch the school bus, we had to stop for a tiny leveret running down the middle of the road, oblivious to the fact that my metal box on wheels could herald an end to its life. Make sure you’re observant to allow you to see all that is around you and keep it safe. It’s also an idea to keep your ears open, I love listening to the sound of nature.

There isn’t a day goes by when I don’t see a deer on my morning dog walk. And the chance to get out in such beauty is an amazing boost to the spirit before the day’s work begins. 

 

It is not an easy life but it is very much worth it if you are lucky enough to move to the country.

There are not many jobs that offer accommodation with the role, but that’s great if you can get it. 

I recently watched an episode of Ben Fogle’s New Lives in the Wild in which a couple lived on Great Blasket Island, the most westerly point in Europe off the coast of Ireland. If you really do feel like going extremely rural keep an eye on the job coming up in the future.

Although not long-term positions there are opportunities every year to volunteer on remote islands with wildlife

https://www.landmarktrust.org.uk/lundyisland/get-involved/volunteering/volunteers-long-term/

https://www.welshwildlife.org/volunteering-opportunities/skomer-island-long-term-volunteering

https://volunteer.rspb.org.uk/opportunities/23985-residential-on-reserve-more-than-4-weeks-ramsey-island-2022-01-01

And of course if you sign up for CJS Daily email you’ll receive all the jobs we advertise on a daily basis and can start on your rural journey.

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