Sunday, 29 July 2012

Is It Town Or Country (Is it time for a heated debate Mrs Merton?)

It's eleven years (Saturday) yesterday (28th of July) since we moved to live on my ancestors farm in rural southern Ireland, very close to the sea.  So I thought today I would (HOPEFULLY) start a debate about the town versus country.  I really welcome your thoughts.  Do you dream of living in the countryside or do you prefer the neon (even street) lights of the town and city?  Have you lived in the countryside and give it a whirl and chose to live back in the town? 
6 Reasons FOR Living in the Countryside:

1:  Peaceful.  You can say that all right.  No noisy neighbours, detached property.  Can go a week without speaking to anybody.  Lots of people drive along the roads and wave though.   

2:  We live in a house in the countryside overlooking the sea and mountains.  Some times I feel like we live in a beautiful oil painting.  My late grandmother used to say:

"The view won't feed you."

3:  We own our own property and have no mortgage and nobody will build in front of us because we own the land.  We hope so any way.

4:  I farm for sentiment.  It was my great, great grandparents farm and I feel that I am a tenant carrying it on to pass down to future generations.  I always wanted to live here, but holidays and permanent residence is a different story.

5:  We have livestock and grow vegetables and I wouldn't want anything else but a smallholding.

6:  We have contentment, clean air and amazing sunsets and scenery.


6 Reasons for NOT living in the countryside.

1:  Ireland and the UK are far too expensive.  Compare our countries to Eastern Europe and see that we are being ripped off!

2:  Remote.  There is no public transport, community centre, shop, jobs, pub....for miles.  Car dependent.  Some times the roads are sheets of ice and there are no pavements to walk on or street lights.

3:  We have very few friends near us.  Thank God for television, books and the Internet.

4:  The weather is very changeable and every body seems to be full of aches and pains.  Never seem to get the seasons in the right order any more.  More likely to get them all in one day.

5:  Unaffordable Property.  Most people can't afford to purchase property in the countryside and they have to move to the towns and cities for work and accommodation.  The young grow up and move away.  Cycle after cycle of emigration.

6:  Rural Isolation:  The smallholder often feels like they have a Sisyphus complex forever pushing that boulder up that hill for eternity.  You get older and get tired of struggling against the elements and wish that some times somebody would help you without having to wait for ever for them to turn up and charge you the earth.


There are some of my thoughts.  Like I say my situation could be unique?  Sorry to say that even the photographs aren't real farms.  They are re-constructions of times gone past.  Is there really a Rural Idyll?

Any thoughts please?


  1. I think it takes a particular type of person or outlook to live in a rural situation, and in most cases it's a way of life you have to be brought up to. I don't think many townies make the successful trasiton to country life, it's so different and a contrymans take on life is often in conflict to the townies attitudes.
    I can think of numerous examples of this different thought pattern. The ban on fox hunting is one that springs to mind; the supporters of the ban (usually if not universally townies) could only see as far as the (admittedly often bloody) demise to reynard, but I doubt if any of them have ever seen the carnage a fox can wreak on a farmers stock, chickens and lambs specifically.
    "Bloodsports" in general seem to provoke high feelings on both sides; seen as cruel and only satisfying a primitive blood-lust bt the antis, but a serious hobby and way of controlling vermin by the participants.
    Sadly the majority (townies) seem to be able to manipulate the rules against the minority who have to live with them (countyrmen)

    So a lot of the advantages of country living and associated healthy outdoor pursuits are being eroded by ever-more restraints, imposed by blinkered law-makers who probably never see the countryside except through the window of a car or train.

    But the sense of space, tranquility and closeness to nature is still there.
    That's about the only advantage left.

    I'm still working my way through the down-sides.

    Raggy cat came in late, asleep now.
    Bright gery sky, cool and damp but not raining.

  2. Thanks Cumbrian. I have read that forty percent of town people who move to the countryside return to the town. However that still leaves sixty percent who don't. I was brought up in a town but now I find the city very claustrophobic and can't wait to get back to the deafening silence that is rural living.

    I personally think that fox hunting is very cruel and there are other ways of culling vermin without members of the gentry and status quo (not the band) doing it for us all. Interestingly enough most landowners don't know the government is allowed to hunt on any lands they request unless you state no hunting is allowed in the local newspaper (can't remember what this is called). Totally understand that hunting creates country jobs and town people find this difficult to grasp. I also think that grouse shooting is very cruel and the birds don't stand a sporting chance to escape. However if you go down that road you could argue that fishing with hooks is cruel. Is meat murder?

    I personally think that governments spend very little money on the countryside in terms of infrastructure or jobs. They seem to me to have an attitude of:

    "If you can afford to live there become self reliant. Buy yourself a car (no public transport), invest in your own well and septic tank (no services) and get on with it."

    Is it any wonder people move to the towns or the countryside is full of weekend and holiday homes locked up for eleven months of the year?

    Watched the Cambridge folk festival yesterday on telly. Have a look on You Tube for: The Unthanks: The King Of Rome. It's absolutely amazing. Think you would like it Cumbrian.

    Thanks for your very welcome comments.

  3. I'm very surprised at 60% of townies moving to the rural areas stay there, I don't know what sort of people make up these figures, I just know from what I've seen in some Cumbrian villages, I would estimate a few more returns. Although that % might be skewed by the numbers in retirement, and those who can't aford to move back.

    Like you I do find town living a bit claustrophobic, but it does have advantages.

    ......... Duty calls, to be continued

  4. Yes I don't if there are statistics are to believed but that's what I have read Cumbrian. Never thought about how many people can't afford to return. I know a lot of people who moved over to Ireland from the UK are in that predicament with a very strong Euro and Irish property prices dropping by fifty percent. Smallholdings seem to be a lot cheaper over in Ireland than the UK. What you do for a living is another story.

    Towns or even better villages, with shops, public transport, community centres, medical centres, pubs, restaurants, allotments, jobs... do have their advantages over country living.

    Back to the farm work before the rain arrives.

    Thanks Cumbrian.

  5. continued..............

    Yes, the Lake Distict, and indeed a lot of rural Cumbrtia, went through a period, co-inciding with the phenominal rise in property prices, especially in London and the affluent South of England, when lots of people could sell a 2-bed terrace in the capitol and buy a magnificent detached mansion here. This drove property prices, particularly in the tourist areas, well out of the reach of locals A lot of the new-comers didn't really settle to rural life, as we've said before, it's different from an idyllic 2 or 3 weeks holiday in summer to actually living here all year. It also, inevitably, led to a certain amount of resentment from locals towards affluent in-comers. But a lot of them couldn't afford to buy back where they came from, they're stuck here.
    And as you correctly point out, a lot of holiday homes occupied 1 month per year.

    Down-sides to country living, what I can think of.
    1. Lack of transport - Services reduced by privatised profit-driven owners.
    2. Lack of social facilities - Pubs closing daily, lots of villages don't even have one left, various reasons for this, not least the extortionate amount of tax on beer and the smoking ban; accelerated by the affluent in-comers who drink from their cocktail cabinets and empty holiday homes. No community centres, cinemas, theatres, clubs, discos or anything.
    3. Lack of shops - hardly any village shops left, reasons as (2) accelerated by on-line shopping and out-of-town superstores.
    4. Lack of enployment - Agriculture tends to bigger and bigger farms, with bigger and bigger machines needing less and less workers.
    5. Lack of services - Village schools and post offices closed, police houses all sold off, no garage / filling station left. Chip shops, restaurants, doctors, dentists, banks, libraries, all non-existent; even a lot of churches seem abandoned or derelict-looking.

    I'm sure there's more.

    Sunny morning, raggy cat came in, asked for some fat from the ham shank, and went out again; must be too nice for cats to be indoors.

  6. Thanks Cumbrian. Your list of the downsides of country living is very accurate and mirrors my experience of living in rural Ireland.

    When will breweries realise that their prices are far too dear? Why are smokers treated like second class citizens? Why don't country pubs have 'happy hour's or club together to provide a subsidised minibus transport system?

    I have noticed in Ireland that a lot of drinkers don't go in the pubs until ten at night because they are empty and too expensive. No doubt having a drink at home (you say cocktail cabinets) before paying over the odds.

    No public transport and the closing of rural police stations means that people will drink and drive. People should not be stranded in the countryside. They pay taxes in the same way that city people do. Yet they get no public transport unlike the cities.

    Unemployment is always a problem in rural areas because of seasonal agricultural work, bigger machinery and no investment in road building, social housing, paying people to strim the verges and pull the ragwort....

    I agree with you about lack of village services. A lot of the shops are too expensive and the holiday home owners/tenants load up the car at the cheap supermarkets on the way down.

    Can't believe how many empty and derelict buildings there are in the countryside. Surely governments could set up a scheme to provide cheap renovated social housing to rent and buy and most importantly jobs?

    Thanks Cumbrian for your very concise and finger on the pulse list of the problems facing rural dwellers.

    Alan the cat came in and had his milk then had had a wash and is now fast asleep. It's raining here for a change.


  7. Yes, I've noticed that trend, it started here years ago, men go to the pub for the last hour, it's all they can afford.
    I don't think it's only the breweries, it's more the government tax; and the fact that a lot of pubs now are owned by chains run on corporate lines by accountants, and getting greedier.
    I think the old system of local breweries serving their own pubs, usually within a 15-mile radius (the distance a horse-drawn dray could reasonably deliver in a day) was a good one. We had 2, Workington John Peel and Cockermouth Jennings. John Peel sold to Matthew Brown, who used the brewery to make Slalom D lager for a while, the as a depot for a bit longer, then sold it for conversion to living units. Jennings is still going, but no longer in local hands, it's owned by some big organisation but still brews real ales, they're very good due to the water from their own well so they can't move it; and in a conservation area, so they can't espand or alter it.
    Most pubs were one or the other, with a smattering of others thrown in, Youngers, Vaux, Greenhall-Whitley, Matthew Brown.
    Some clubs still had something called Fed Keg, a weak bitter by the state federation brewery at Carlisle set up during the war years to brew very weak keg beer for sale to the workers at the munitions factory near the city. This state brewery survived until the 70s I think it was.
    Jennings still has some, but most of them are "Free" houses now.

    So high profits demanded by shareholders and high taxes by governments, as well as increased brewery and delivery costs, the breathaliser and soaring fuel prices (more tax) have all helped the demise of the country pub. And as you say, the smoking ban hasn't helped any.

    All transport routes now in private ownership need to be profitable, they, unlike publicly-owned systems, will not allow profitable routes to subsidise non-profitable ones; leaving a lot of remoter, and sometimes not so remote, villages with no, or very restricted, public transport.
    Compare that with Manchester where I lived for 2 years, with a bus every 15 minutes 0600-2400, then only every 30 minutes 0001-0600.

    And, in the not-too-distant past, there were a lot of rural railway lines, now mostly lifted and sometimes serving as cycle tracks. These trains carried mail, milk and other produce as well as people, keeping a lot of traffic off the country lanes.

    People strimming the verges and pulling ragwort? In this area they have tractors mowing the verges and keeping the hedges down with a circular saw-blade on a tractor-mounted swinging arm, a fearsome-lookin contraption. There's a few men with strimmers/brushcutters sometimes seen doing the odd little bits the machines can't reach.

    Strangely enough, there's not many derelicts in our area, the Lake District Special Planning Board forbids most forms of new construction, so every available disused agricultural building has been converted into very expensive housing or holiday letting units. Even in the less desirable areas, barn conversions are very sought-after and expesive properties.

    Nice to hear you've got a bit of rain at last, suppose the gardens could do with it? It's sunny here, got the front grass civilised this morning, been threatened with rain later.
    Lady in my local charity shop, who has 8 horses and a field, has just had it cut 2 days ago, couldn't wait any longer, but can't get it turned it's still too wet, she's thinking to make haylage instead of her usual hay. If it's any interest, £30 a big bale off the field, or £5 a big bale for farmer to make the big bales.

    Pork spare rib chops wit a couple of chopped onions and stock cubes in the slow cooker, baby new potatoes, baby carrots, baby broccoli, stringless runner beans.
    Raggy cat sun-bathing.

  8. Thanks Cumbrian.

    Diageo own Guinness and a heck of a lot more breweries and whiskey distilleries now. Everything seems to get more expensive and the pubs keep closing. I also think people having thirty five year mortgages doesn't help the small pub. Some house mortgages here cost 1500 Euros+ a month. So there can't be much left for a few pints in the local, which is probably several miles away.

    I noticed that one of the German supermarkets is selling six bottles of red South African wine for less than 20 quid? So perhaps people are choosing to stay in, buy cheap booze or even brew it themselves like you do Cumbrian?

    How long may I ask you will my home brew bitter take before I can drink it?

    The locals don't seem to complain (unlike me) about the lack of public transport. Perhaps it's because they have never known it? I think that there's never been a public transport system in the world that makes a profit? Even London transport is subsidized.

    The ground is saturated and the silage contractors are having problems cutting up the land. Wet weather predicted all week.

    Five pounds a bale sounds reasonable. My silage contractor tells me that my Shetland pony will will be able to eat our silage because it's never had any fertilizer, which horses can't have. Saying that Shetlands are supposed to be very hardy and can stay outside all year round. They survive on a staple diet of rough grass and heather.

    Organic beef stew tonight with our own vegetables, Paprika and a tin of chopped tomatoes to give it a bit of humph.

    Alan the cat is still asleep. Must have been busy hunting all night?


  9. Forgot to say Cumbrian, rural Ireland is full of new houses. The planners used to be very receptive to people with housing needs (like us who couldn't afford to buy anywhere and gave us planning) or to people who lived in the area for at least five years. There's not a lot of sites being sold now because the banks won't give people mortgages. The new house building created a lot of jobs during the Celtic Tiger boom.

  10. Usually takes mine about 5-6 days in the bucket to ferment, then another 2-3 weeks in the keg to settle/clear and absorb some gas. Bottling you usually put a teaspoon of sugar into a pint bottle to give a secondary ferment, this sometimes is quicker but throws a sediment in the bottle, so pour very carefully and try to leave all the sediment in the bottom. You'll see when it's clear if it's in clear bottles, better if they're kept in the dark; since beer bottles are usually brown, it's just a case of try it and see; I'd be trying one after about 10 days. I used to use Newcastle Brown bottles, being pints and clear glass they're ideal; good ones now are the Grolsh type, swing-top as they call them, they're good as you can re-use them almost indefintely, at least till the rubber ring seal wears out.

    Lots of wine drinkers, I like wine and used to visit France via Hull - Zeebruge every so often to stock up at French prices, they're still a lot cheaper than English, but were be even cheaper in the just-joined-EEU days. Dunno if it would be worth the trip from where you are, but if you looked on it as a holiday trip, might make it viable, take a big vehicle (but not too big to qualify as commercial on the ferry or shuttle) and get a years supply, 2 people drinking a bottle each per night, at £1 per bottle saved is £730 less. And some wines are really cheap in the French supersheds, down to 80p a bottle, not at all of them like something you put on your chips either.

    I think home brewing is experiencing a revival, I hope your attempt comes out well, I know I'm making really good stuff with the modern kits, better than a lot of the pub offerings.
    Wine-making's maybe not so popular, it takes a year from starting to drinking for the country wines, but once you've got a year in, it just keeps going. I've got cherry, strawberry, blueberry and apple all bubbling in demi-johns this week, thinking about next year; and drinking runner bean, bramble, mead, peach and something I can't remember what it is I forgot to label it, from last year. Some of the wine kits can be ready in weeks, but I don't know what sort of quality.

    Potcheen's even faster, but sadly illegal I beleive?

    Last time I was in Ireland in Kilmour Quay (Wexford or Waterford I can't remember) I noticed a lot of new build, single house or bungalow, generally in the corner of a field. Somebody told me they're all built to the same plan, a standard type approved by the Planners.
    Sounds like the banks here, after years of throwing vast amounts of money at just about everybody, when the bubble burst they finally realised that a lot of the people couldn't afford to repay them, and all they've got left a lot of un-saleable properties and worthless paper agreements. So now they've adopted the attitude of only lending an umbrella when it's not raining; to get a loan now you need to prove you don't really need it?

    Found 4 or 5 un-born baby mice on the step, a gall bladder and a few inches of intestines; raggy cat must have ate the good bits and left me a present.

  11. Thanks for the home brew advice Cumbrian. I have had a go several times with kits but only been successful once last year. I have heard/read that the yeast in the kits can be old and therefore useless? This time I am determined to get it right. You should hold courses for home brewing. A lot of rural craft makers are holding similar classes and seem to be doing OK. It's amazing how talented everybody is but we never get the chance or are too shy to shine our light/talent. Thanks again. I will post a blog of my attempt to make 'proper' northern English bitter with a head on. Watch this space.

    You can get to Roscoff from Cork. It only takes FOURTEEN hours. What do you think Cumbrian? We had a bit of a gale last night and I wouldn't like 14 hours in a storm on the Atlantic. I suppose if we had a skin full of stout and cider and got a cabin it wouldn't be so bad?

    We normally drink unfashionable stuff like 'Blue Nun' and Liebfraumilch (German wine) and good old South African red. I don't know a lot about wines really except they are very strong and I don't have depressive dreams unlike spirits.

    I have heard the Garda don't seem to be that concerned about the Potcheen any more. They just confiscate the equipment and 'white lemonade'. That's another West Cork phrase.

    Totally agree with you about most banks. We asked one to loan us 36000 for a builders estimate (guestimate)to build the shell of our dwelling. The smart lads and lasses in the posh bank refused us and said you can't build a house for that. Thanks be to God (another West Cork Phrase) we went to the credit union for the roof money and with help from my parents and brother we built it and finished for less than thirty. Yes it's not perfect but it's paid for and we have no mortgage. I say God bless credit unions and people banks.

    Alan's just had his breakfast and had his wash and his now settling down for the day.

    Thanks Cumbrian for your great comments.

  12. Yeast does lose its potency over time, but unless there's a date mark it's not possible to tell. I've never had a problem, I buy usually on-line from a specialist home-brew supplier, so like to think they'll have a fairly good turn-over and that means fresh stock.
    My wine yeast I get from Wilkinsons in 100gr. plasic containers, it has a date on, usually about 2 years. It doesn't actually suffer terminal melt-down or self-destruct on that date, just gets less inclined to do its job.

    It's sounds good doing Cork-Roscoff, a nice overnight sail, days shopping and a night back, or an extra night in France. I dunno what the prices are like, but the ferry company usually have offers at low season, it's better to go then, quieter as well. Rough weather never bothered me, I came back from IJmuden in a North Sea force 12, a real experience, very noisy because everything rattles about, half the crew were sea-sick. The desk girl asked if I was OK, she explained they had 400 passengers and she'd handed out 398 sea-sick pills. I'd slept in, but it was 6 hours late. But nights like that are rare, and the boats are so big they don't usually move about that much.

    Nothing wrong with Blue Nun and the similar German whites, they're popular, as are south African reds. But the French supersheds have so much more choice, mostly French but a few German, Italian, Portugese, Spanish, etc.

    Wonder what they do with the stills and the white lemonade? Maybe they're going for a monopoly? I do know they were selling potcheen at the Shuttle terminal a few years ago, 3 grades of strength, so somebody must make it officially?

    You did well from the credit union, better imperfection paid for than a perfect financial millstone for years.

    Raggy cat late in, finished the ham shank bits and gone to sleep.

    Off down the road today, back in 10 days.

  13. Thanks Cumbrian.

    Think I will try Cork-Roscoff some time. Think it only runs weekly though? I really like France. Especially how they have a 2 hour break for Lunch (Dinner if you're from up North) and knock off early on a Friday or even not bother to turn up at all. Also like they way they don't ask you for any money in the cafe bars until you have finished eating and drinking. Think I could live in France with my own Gite/smallholding, carp lake, cognac and Wine cellar.

    Don't know what they do with the stills and white lemonade. Perhaps they keep it for a sick cow? Well most of the old farmers used to always say that was the reason they kept a bottle or ten.

    The credit union people are saints sent down from above. It's about time we all started our own credit unions and people banks. We should also have allotments, smallholdings and brew our own ale. What about a home brew but with a vegetable/meat barter scheme? We can dream.

    Hope you have a great break and look forward to hearing a report of your latest trip Cumbrian.


  14. Bad thing about countryside: mud
    Bad thing about town: full of ruddy lunatics!

    I know who would like the countryside in our household: the dog! My garden's the size of a man-sized Kleenex!

  15. I really do like the countryside Carol. I just think there is more to rural life than cursing and swearing at cattle and admiring the amazing sunsets. Oh to have a local real ale pub, a bus that takes you to town and may be the chance of a good job or a Doner Kebab and a rock concert now and again.

    Thanks for your comment Carol.


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