Rural or urban?

Villages vs. towns

Once I had a choice of where to live, I chose to live in a village rather than in town. Now someone who is about to move house has asked me about the advantages and disadvantages of living in a village, and rather than just mailing them back, I've made up this web page as a reference... mail with further comments is welcome!


I'm sure most people would agree that living in the countryside is generally more aesthetically pleasant than living in town, although that depends to some extent on where in the countryside and to a large extent on where in town.

I live on the edge of a largish commuter village, and am glad I'm on the edge of it... the inside of the village is a housing estate, more spacious than those in town but still more similar than different, and with the same problems such as yoof hanging around with nothing constructive to do.


It seems that most people do most of their regular shopping at large supermarkets either on the edges of towns or outside town, so for bulk shopping it's not going to make much difference. Most villages still have local shops, despite the efforts of supermarkets to change the way Britain shops (and what better advertisment could there be for the small traditional shops? Supermarkets are just not my scene!)... and these typically open similar hours to small shops in town. Villages tend not to have late-night shops as such, but you may find that there's a garage shop in reasonably easy reach that will be open until late, or possibly all night.


The extra travelling required is probably seen as a major disadvantage of living out of town... I reckon in fact it's not that bad. Let's look at the different local travel needs separately:

To social activities

For certain social activities in town, this can be a problem... having to keep off alcohol, or monitor very carefully how much I have, so I can drive back. Fortunately the parties I go to are rarely `smart' ones, so I can cycle and people don't mind if I turn up in cycling clothes. Driving or cycling back after films etc is no problem, unless you don't like being on the road at night.

For visitors

One thing that I missed when I first moved to a village was that I didn't get people just dropping round like they used to... but I think that had more to do with moving out of a university College than with moving into a village. After a while I found friends in the village, too... whether that happens depends partly on what the village is like socially, and partly on how much you involve yourself in it. Where I live now is mostly a commuter village, and I haven't got into it socially (although it obviously does have a social life with quite a range of activities).

Once you're away from living pretty centrally in a town, you'll find that people don't just drop round on an offchance as much as they do if you're in the centre (or in college / on campus, for students)... it depends on your friends' perception of convenient walking or cycling distance, I suppose (in the Cambridge social milieu, many people either don't have cars, or wouldn't take a drive on the offchance of someone being in)... and taking a bus on the offchance seems unlikely. For some reason, people don't seem to think of phoning up first... perhaps that's more like inviting oneself round than just turning up on the doorstep is!

The advantage for visitors with cars is that it's usually much easier to find somewhere to park! In the town near here (Cambridge, UK) there are residents' parking schemes, by which residents have to pay to park near their own homes, and others can't park there unless they first obtain a day pass via their hosts (who have to pay for it).

For a while I felt a bit lonely out there, until a friend of mine I'd invited round said ``Don't you get lonely out here?'' and when I said I did sometimes, she added wistfully ``People can get lonely in town too...'' -- that made a big difference to my understanding of this! I can't remember who the quote is from, but it has been said ``Towns are places where large numbers of people can be lonely together'', with which I agree.

To work

When I first wrote this page, I worked in a village, and so would have had to travel from town anyway. I have a car, and some bikes, so I'm not dependent on public transport. If I were to work in town, I'd find the bus service adequate (although, for myself, I'd prefer to cycle except in the worst weather); however, working in another village, I'd find it awkward to make one bus journey into town, make a connection there and take another bus out. Bus cover outside towns in Britain is pretty variable!

The problem of urbanization

Unfortunately, some people moving from town to countryside spoil the countryside by urbanizing it, for example by fitting streetlighting. When I moved into the village, there was no streetlighting along that road; it was subsequently installed, and I've been unable to do anything about it (although they did put some paint on the back of the lamp nearest my house, when I made a fuss) as, presumably to be able to force streetlighting on people (as it is officially regarded as a good thing, saving money on policing), planning permission for it is not required, and there are no statutory warning notices to be put up to give people a chance to object. Next time I move, I'll check that there's no risk of getting streetlighting installed in the area!

I consider rural streetlighting to be a foot in the door for urbanization, since it opens up more of the country to drips who will then want further urbanization -- a few years after the lamp post, a noticeboard and a bus shelter appeared -- and I suspect that in a while the parish council will start making a fuss about the puddles in the footpath that also serves as a driveway for this group of houses, so the poor little things won't need to wear boots in wet weather; if you know of a campaign to get it legislated against, or would like to join in starting such a campaign, please do mail me about it.

It's interesting to note that these people who're afraid of the dark are obviously happy to force their solution on everyone else, rather than carry torches for use as needed (which will go with them wherever they are, rather than just being where the streetlighting is) or learn to use their other senses properly; and would probably be quite offended (I suspect I'm going to test this sometime) by having it pointed out to them that this is a phobia, and phobia treatment is one of psychiatric medicine's real triumphs. I wonder how many beautiful mountains similar people would like funicular railways on, so they can go up them without the effort, never mind the effects?

Isolated vs. Villages

I've now moved to somewhere that's not even in a village... I like my quiet! Depending on quite how far from villages you go, there are further potential problems as well as further advantages. For example, you could go somewhere without (mains) electricity -- which some might see as a disadvantage, but which also has its good points, such as more of a tendency towards a better daily pattern following the sunlight (but that may get you out of step with the people around you).

I've also started a page about my ideas for how a town (with Cambridge as an example) could be improved.

John C. G. Sturdy
[John's home] Last modified: Sun Jun 10 22:12:57 GMT Daylight Time 2007