I was browsing Facebook today and saw an article shared by a friend who lives in the Yorkshire Dales – an article from that bastion of fact (please notice the irony) the Daily Mail, by columnist Liz Jones about her experience of living in the Yorkshire Dales.
I myself lived in the Yorkshire Dales for 8 years as a teenager and couldn’t wait to get out, to hit the bright lights and big city. Funny that now I spend an awful lot of time there with my family who all live across parts of it. At that time I felt constricted and strangled by it. Cue 20 years later and an ability to drive and now I see it as it is a beautiful location that is lovely to visit, right for some to inhabit and not so for others. No-one can argue that on a sunny day it’s one of the most breathtaking places to be but upping sticks and living in the country, particularly somewhere that’s at least an hour and a bit from things like a hospital and miles in some cases from a town with all the amenities that brings takes some thought and consideration.
Liz talks about how in the Yorkshire Dales it’s a 500 mile round trip to London (so far so good right?) the broadband’s crap (it is- very frustrating), there’s no Waitrose (this is when it started to get even more than slightly ridiculous) the Co-op doesn’t stock tofu (sigh), and the one decent bakery is 15 miles away. However these are things that the average country bod does not expect or desire halfway up a mountain. There’s something to be said for growing your own and never having been to Kensington. It’s precisely this that winds the Yorkshire folk up (and I consider myself now one of the Yorkshire folk albeit an incomes). We like it this way. We don’t want a Waitrose in Leyburn, or a crossrail link in Hawes that will connect us to London in 35 minutes. People move to the country to leave all that nonsense behind. By the way for those of you who haven’t experienced Liz’s country diatribes, this isn’t the first time she has lived in the country – in 2012 she fled back to London from Somerset claiming that she had come to the end of a prison sentence. Yet now she finds herself lonely and isolated in the Dales. Clue could be in the fact you love the idea of the romance of country living, but don’t actually like the reality Liz?
As someone who has considered (and decided against) a return to the Dales, I can identify with some of what Liz Jones talks about; the job market in the Dales is poor to non existent meaning many must travel a good distance to work. This is one of the key things that put us off moving up there. There are large areas of rurality where you are miles from anything, and actually that isolation that some desire wasn’t right for us. I actually like a Waitrose, I admit it. Although it wasn’t the dealbreaker – travelling an hour and a half each way and spending most of my money in petrol and Band C Council Tax was. However we did our homework before making that plunge. We thought about the massive journey, the trek to the nearest conveniences that we take for granted and weighed everything up, and we decided against. We found an alternative to such extreme country living by moving into a village with a little shop, where York is just 20 minutes away, yet you still wake up with the bird song and silence in the morning, and the cows are just a couple of minutes away.
What annoys me about Jones’ article is her vitriol to an area that others choose precisely for those reasons she lists as abominable. Don’t get me started on the gross exaggeration. Will people who read the Daily Mail actually believe people do set out to hit every hedgehog in their path and skin every rabbit they come across? Probably. The reality is actually there’s so many of us city dwellers living there now, we wouldn’t do anything to a rabbit but admire it’s little white tail. The rural life is one of survival. Whether you agree with it or not some people farm animals, some people eat rabbits, and they don’t often eat tofu. That’s why co-op don’t stock it by the way.
It strikes me that Liz Jones is running from something in London and looking for something in Yorkshire which she cannot find. She speaks of loneliness…it can be incredibly lonely wherever you are if you’re not happy. Sometimes you have to accept what’s within you, and stop blaming the external environment for that which you cannot solve. And for those of you who have never been to the Yorkshire Dales, as long as you don’t mind being 100 miles from the nearest branch of Boots that sells Clarins, give it a try, it’s a beautiful place.