My village has changed over the years. Certainly the population has grown as people from other parts of the country have discovered the area, and it now stands at around 800. Many of the farm yards and orchards that provided every little green oasis between the old houses have now been built on, incongruous large houses and bungalows have replaced a lot of the grass and trees. When I was a child it was very much a working village, with many farms and other rural businesses. Now there are only a very few farms left, two shops have dwindled to one, two pubs have become one and no business based in the village is having a great time. The character has changed but perhaps that is not always such a terrible thing. New blood, new ideas and new character are the things that keep the places we live in alive. For me, one of the biggest changes is a very real one. When I was growing up in the village, I knew everyone who lived there and was at least distantly related to most of them. Now, as the elderly population has gone and young people cannot afford to live in their home village, I would be very hard pressed to recognise a quarter of the still small population.
The population of the rural areas of my country has needed to become very mobile. To live in a village like mine, you must have access to a car because there are not enough local amenities to sustain you. The nearest town is only ten kilometres away, but that can seem a world away if you have no way of getting there.
The village boasts a beautiful church, far larger and grander than the size of the community would suggest. This is a legacy from the Middle Ages when the region was very affluent and resources were easy to tap, lots of people to work in the fields and tend livestock. Glastonbury Abbey was wealthy beyond its rights to be and demonstrated its wealth by building churches rather than helping, in a practical way, the communities it expected, indeed demanded, to attend the services. By keeping the population ignorant and in servitude it clothed itself very grandly on the backs of the people it purported to serve and administer to. However, the building that has outlived those people, and even the Abbey itself, is a huge asset and a real delight.
The village still has a school, the one I attended from the ages of four to eleven, where I was taught by my mother – but that is another story – and where several generations of my family learnt the basics of an education before me. The school is still a reliable focus of the community and in that there is hope for the future.
On the whole, I think you would like my village. It is a nice place to live, away from the hubbub but close enough not to be missing out. I feel lucky that I can hear birds singing, and doing other things, any time I step out of the front door and have fresh air and a green landscape to walk through whenever time allows.