As the owner of three holiday cottages at Middle Farm in Church Stretton, Shropshire, I welcome guests from all over the world.
A few live in the countryside themselves preferring to holiday in rural areas and taking only day trips to towns and cities. However, most live in cities or large towns and come here to retreat to the peace, quiet and slower pace of life.
As I see their shoulders physically relax, I am reminded of how lucky we are to be able to make this our home and living. And having spent many years living and working in the big smoke myself, I’m even more aware of what makes rural life magical.
Here are the top eight things I think are better in the country.
Moving for the first time to an old keeper’s cottage on a lane with grass growing down the middle (the lane not the house), it took me over a year to overcome my fear of the dark.
As an avid reader of detective fiction, Patricia Cornwell had me imagining all sorts of villainous characters jumping out from behind the bushes as I went to shut the chickens away at night.
Now I understand that proper stars (and a good torch) are a shining bonus of having no street lighting. That, coupled with fewer villains than expected.
Waking to the sound of the dawn chorus and sheep bleating in the surrounding fields couldn’t be further from the dull drone of traffic and alarming sirens.
One cottage guest from central Reading confided in me, that on waking his first morning, he thought his kids had changed the ringtone on his phone for a joke. We had to laugh as he settled into his week in the countryside and the “non-virtual” sound of new lambs outside.
Having space to grow your own vegetables, pigs, chickens and lambs is wonderful, valuable and inspiring. I do understand that not everyone appreciates a sink full of mud before preparing home-grown veg, but the extra flavour and lack of chemicals is so worth it.
On asking my seven-year-old what he loved about the countryside he answered: “All the beautiful animals and the different countries.”
By animals he doesn’t just refer to our farm animals but the newts, water boatman and caddis fly larvae that he discovers every summer in the surrounding ponds and streams.
Although clearly confused by the word “country”, it is clear that through the eyes of children, freedom to explore and create has all the benefits we know about and they are only too ready to remind us.
Picking roadside elderflower for cordials and woodland brambles for berries without them tasting of car fumes falls, very definitely, into the “better” category. Clean air is almost intoxicating if you’re not used to it and it’s where the lichen grows.
Of course, making time to pick the elderflowers and berries in the first place seems to go hand in hand with a different pace of life. It isn’t that life isn’t busy in the countryside – it is, but doing different things.
On trips to the city I notice immediately the bombardment on the senses, everything coming towards you at a million miles an hour. In the countryside time seems to slow down as the senses enjoy rather than just process.
Views, views, views
This goes for the views and beauty of our rural landscapes; a quieter, contemplative way of life that offers a totally different perspective to that of our towns and cities.
Dens, not Minecraft
Somehow the countryside helps get kids back to what it’s all about; it has meaning. It’s not about having the latest accessories or fitting in with a crowd; proper countryside is about making dens, growing things to eat and following our instincts.
That’s why small children, more often than not, when given the chance will prefer being outside making camp fires and nettle soup to building anything on Minecraft.
Doing it in Wellies is Sam Gray’s book about running her own smallholding. Price: £18