Essay About England Countryside

Live in the country? Then you're happier than your city-dwelling friends... Rural folk more optimistic than those in urban areas

  • Satisfaction ratings from people in rural areas higher than in urban areas
  • People in town and cities more worried about crime and the economy
By Sarah Bridge for The Mail on Sunday

Published: 09:31 GMT, 15 October 2013 | Updated: 11:31 GMT, 15 October 2013

People living in rural areas of Britain are more optimistic about the future and happier about their quality of life than people in cities and towns, a new survey has found.

The Countryside Living Index carried out to record how people feel about their lives, found that the satisfaction ratings of people living in the countryside leapt by 10.7 per cent between the first and second quarters of 2013, with their views about the cost of living, education and crime all improving.

Country living (left) versus city life: people in rural areas are feeling more optimistic than their city counterparts

Meanwhile confidence about jobs and the economy fell 3.8 per cent in urban areas.

People in both rural and urban areas said that they felt more optimistic about health, education and the environment, but the positive change was much more pronounced among country-dwellers than city inhabitants.

People from urban areas also said that they were increasingly more worried about crime than those in the countryside and overall the rise in perceived quality of life was three times higher in the countryside than in the cities. 

Tim Price, rural affairs specialist at NFU Mutual, who carried out the study, said: 'The recession made life in the countryside very tough for many people, so it’s great news to see concerns about the cost of living easing.

'Over the last two years we have seen firms struggle to stay afloat. We think that many have only managed to survive thanks to innovative management combined with measures such as freezing fuel duty and support for small and medium-sized enterprises.

Many people choose to escape the bustling city life for the tranquility of the countryside

However, for young people the lack of rural jobs paying a living wage and high transport and housing costs continue to make it hard for them to live in the countryside, and we urge the Government to support this group to prevent country homes being affordable only for second homeowners and city commuters.'

Last week senior Conversative MP Graham Stuart claimed that rural areas were still suffering a serious 'injustice' in the amount of money they receive for local services.

He said that the coalition’s failure to address the shortfall in funding endured by councils in rural parts of the country was 'inexcusable'.

Stuart, MP for Beverley and Holderness, said that rural councils received around half the funding of their urban counterparts per head of population – a so-called 'rural penalty' – due to the way Government funding formulas work.

'The rural penalty of 50 per cent more per head going to urban areas is just not right,' Stuart told the Commons.

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Besides those mentioned above, the CPRE's top 10 also consisted of post boxes and post offices, traditional livestock breeds, home gardens, village greens and the Lake District.

But Bryson said: "It is heartbreaking to travel the country and see these icons vanishing everywhere when they deserve to be treasured as the ancient features that, more often than not they are."

"It is an inescapable fact that some of the features we fondly associate with the countryside have little practical or economic justification in the 21st century, but to my mind, the imminent loss of England’s distinctiveness would be profoundly regrettable."

These features were "not merely decorative follies that illustrate our national quirks", he argued, but "superlative historical monuments forming relationships between people and the landscape previously unimaginable to this American."

He concluded: "Our European cousins like France, Italy and Germany seem to have held on to their national character much more successfully, which makes this all the more chastening."

Some 4,000 village pubs have disappeared since 1980, according to the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA).

Over the last decade 5,400 post offices have closed, many in rural areas, while about 1,200 village shops have closed in the last two years, according to the Rural Shops alliance.

Commenting on pubs, Bryson said: "It is a shrinking market and the dominance of a few chains has contributed to the disappearance of traditional British pub names, and led to a profusion of bland corporate makeovers."

Paul Kingsnorth, author of the 2008 book Real England, advised: "The key to fighting what I’ve called the ‘battle against the bland’ is to keep an eye on the small things and make the alternatives work: the local patterns of life, the particularity of place, the detail and the individuality of our landscapes, urban and rural."

The top 10 list was picked from 100 chosen by personalities such as Adrian Chiles and Jonathan Dimbleby for a CPRE book called Icons of England.

*Telegraph readers have the chance to have an essay published on their chosen 'Icon of England' in a new paperback version of the CPRE book. See Weekend section.

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