Thursday, 26 April 2012

Not so rural

Much of my blog has been about the rural side of rural life, since that's what's so different and refreshing and challenging to a Londoner. What I haven't really mentioned is the community and infrastructure and 'urban' possibilities. So, to set the record straight, here's a snapshot of the other side of rural life as we know it.

The local village has its own library. OK, so it's only open on Tuesday and Friday afternoons but, once you remember that, there's a decent supply of books on tap. It also has its own Brownies and Rainbows groups that my daughter is loving (they held newborn lambs last week and made snail runs the week before). The village's first wool festival - Yarnival - took place last month, and the Jubilee Parade, Scarecrow Competition and Agricultural Show are all yet to come.

Parking for the school run is a nightmare. Many people drive and the school's on a steep, narrow lane, so you either get there early or late or look for alternatives...

The pub car park is one alternative, although the pub has recently re-opened so it's really for customers only. The upside is that there's now a place to go for coffee before pick-up and it has a roaring log fire. Needing to go for coffee in order to justify the parking space is perhaps taking it a bit too far though.

There are a couple of great parks a short drive away, although driving through the countryside to reach a park feels counter-intuitive, when I'm used to parks being the green lungs of the city. They do provide the best opportunity for little kids to ride their bikes though, since pavements are infrequent and uneven.

The local town has three theatres. How this is sustainable I'm not quite sure but Paul Daniels and the Moscow Ballet have been here in the last year, and the Pendle Production of The Sound of Music brought tears to my eyes (for all the right reasons).

The local Sainsbury's is the most pleasant supermarket experience I've had in a long time. Spacious, well-stocked, uncrowded - hopefully this doesn't mean it's struggling and going to close soon.

Job opportunities may not be so wide-ranging, but there are many people taking the initiative to combine what they enjoy/are good at with family life, e.g. a freelance photographer, a lady who runs her own dance school (and has a pink 4x4 to match), husband and wife teams running a hairdresser's, a car showroom, a windows and conservatories business...

Perhaps you'll think I'm stating the obvious, but these things weren't obvious to me before we moved, and they all contribute to the perennial city versus countryside conundrum.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Geocaching and mole bashing

We've just discovered geocaching: using GPS and a few cryptic clues to uncover treasure boxes hidden all over the place. Surely this is the ultimate walk incentive.

Today we decide to break the kids in gently with a couple of drive-bys. Our day is already pretty random, watching a children's theatre show in a working auction market. The kids love it and the parents are in awe of anyone who can sustain such a camped up performance. At 11.30am. Sober.

The short-cut home takes us over the moor. We park by a cattle grid and hold high the sacred iphone as it counts down the number of metres to our destination. Frantic searching reveals a plastic tube in the hollow of a tree trunk. We open our 'treasure' to reveal a scroll of names, a little plastic jewel and a fridge magnet. We solemnly add our names to the list and try to explain to the kids that it's the adventure and discovery that counts, not the actual treasure at the end.

Back at the farm we discover a different form of treasure hunting. Dozens of dead moles are laid out on wire netting. I inquire what they're going to be used for. Having discovered that people locally still abandon black kittens because they might be associated with witchcraft, I am very open minded.

Turns out the mole catcher has been. He sets traps in the fields then comes back to collect his victims. It's a lucrative business - £5 a mole. In this case, the actual treasure is crucial. The mole catcher must produce the goods as proof... and then leave them with the landowner to ensure he doesn't charge for the same mole twice.