Sunday, 31 October 2010

The Place Where We Live

Nancy of  Life In The Second Half recently published an excellent post on the gated community
she calls home for the time being. She calls it the most sterile environment she has ever lived in.

Personally, I have no experience of a gated community. They exist in the UK too, are often born out of a fear of crime and usually very expensive places to live. You would therefore think that they are meant  solely 'for people like us', you would think that the residents have a lot in common and would band together in a real community.

Not so, according to Nancy.  Far from it, in fact. It seems that the word 'community' is a misnomer here.

Here at Valley's End there is not a 'Keep Out' gate anywhere, the only gates we have are front gates, picket gates, garden gates, gates to keep stock in, and gates for decorative purposes only.

All roads and lanes lead to open country all around, secretive footpaths invite rambling without let or hindrance. If you meet someone unknown, you greet them, and if they give you half a chance, you involve them in a conversation about the weather, where they come from, what they are doing in the area, where they are staying if they are on holiday; most importantly, how they like it here.

So far I have met only with friendliness and courtesy from visitors. Nobody has yet said: "it would be paradise if it weren't for the nosy locals".

According to the Valley Diary, which is  produced entirely by people in our community, there are currently 27 local societies, as well as Church groups, school related groups, good neighbour groups,  groups providing emergency transport. We have a village hall and a Museum. We also have our own surgery and dispensary, a hardware shop, 2 butchers, a small supermarket, a shop selling flowers and a few groceries, a newsagent's and a hairdresser's. All that for about 700 inhabitants and a further 200 people living in the outlying hamlets and on farms.

All societies flourish; admittedly, it is mainly incomers who do the work, provide the meals on wheels, run the elderly to hospitals or sit with them and pick up prescriptions. Much is run by committee, on the whole, people mean well and are kind, even if some might try to boss others around.  Much is achieved by a small number of volunteers and large amounts of money are collected almost weekly through the many fundraising events held by the societies.

In a small community like ours good neighbourliness is all, without it, many people would find daily life difficult.  You pop in to see if Mrs. Smith is alright, minding your own business is not an option. Of course, that can cause problems, Mrs. Smith sometimes resents the interfering busybody who checks on her, but at other times she is very grateful.

Having moved here from the big city, I find this community a little claustrophobic at times; we don't have any of Nancy's gates, but there is the danger  of living in a different kind of enclosure, that of small
horizons and closed minds; rural communities in the UK tend to look inwards.

But closed minds and small horizons are to be found in big cities too and if being part of this community means that everybody and his wife knows that I crashed into the gateposts of Mrs. Brown's wide open gate and pulls my leg over it, so be it. At least Mrs. Brown isn't reporting me and the matter is settled as it should be: in a neighbourly fashion.


  1. I live in a townhouse community of 82 homes. Coming from a residential street with seperate houses and space in between, I felt slightly claustrophobic at first. But now after 7 years here in Paces West I feel right at home. The tree lined streets make me think of a small village even though we are tucked in off a busy through fare.

  2. You live in such a beautiful place, though it must have been quite an adjustment moving there from a big city. As one who's gone through a similar change, your comment about experiencing claustrophobia from time to time rings true, though I also agree that big cities have their own brand of parochialism.

  3. This setting looks bucolic and worthy of the Romance poets. We have vacationed in a gated community in South Carolina and can identify with the culture you describe here in contrast.

  4. I think I would have to slash my wrists if I ever had to live in a gated community. Of course, since I will probably end up in a nursing home, perhaps a gated community could serve as a place to practice.

  5. Given that there must be a city not too far away, I find it amazing and wonderful that you have all those services for 700 people. You'd never,ever find that here. My MIL lives in a town of 4000, an hour's drive over a mountain pass from a bigger centre and there isn't half of what you have. Over here we expect to have to travel and buy everything in bulk to make the trip worthwhile - horrible.

  6. I can relate to this, Friko. We also live in a small village, nestled in the bosom of rural Hampshire. You sum up the scene so well.

  7. This is a very interesting post, Friko, especially for my wife and me. We are considering a move next year and these types of issues are at the forefront of our minds. I don't see a gated community in our future. By the way, your community sounds lovely. As for the provincialism of small communities, it seems to me that this can be alleviated somewhat by developing a community of like-minded friends on the internet. Not perfect, of course, but perhaps helpful to those of us who like rural living in small communities, but prefer the intellectual stimulation of larger communities.

  8. I can only reiterate Friko's comments. I am aware that when I am away from Valley's End I am away from 'home'. I look forward to arriving back. That can only be a good thing?

  9. Really interesting Friko. I have always thought that gated communities indicated a cast of mind which is founded on suspicion (pace any reader who has chosen one). I do understand the occasional burst of claustrophobia and share it but I too live in a community where there is real connection with my neighbours and wouldn't change it.

  10. Very interesting post, Friko. I live in a smaller community then yours and sometimes the nosiness gets to me, but it is also extraordinarily caring (imagine every shower and bday party is in the community hall and at least 250 in attendance!). Same with anyone needing a whip around for a new car or uninsured housefire.
    I wouldn't trade it for the world and find all my expectations of village life have been exceeded.

  11. Your community sounds like a lovely place to live. The idea of a gated community does not appeal to me - I prefer a mingling of whomever wants to live in a neighbourhood.

  12. I don't know where the links are coming from. I didn't do it, honest!

  13. We are seeing more and more gated communities in our rural county. I'm not fond of them but it's often their residents who provide volunteer manpower for various local institutions.

  14. i envy you - when i was a kid we used to play in the entries behind houses without ever causing any problems - now each and every one has a gate to guard against burglars

    What's worse is that when i moved into my current house i was forced into a position of having to put up a gate - to stop my drunk neighbours climbing into my garden at night.

  15. Friko - I found this post very interesting; Having lived most of my life in cities I had a romantic ideal of village life, based on childhood memories of visuts to my grandparents village on the Shropshire?Welsh border. When we came to live in England we ventured into a village and lived there for 10 years, running the shop, post office and tearooms. At first we loved it but by the end of the 10 years of witnessing petty squabbles that esculated into all out wars we concluded village life was not for us. We sold up and moved to London - where I am delighted to say that although I greet my neighbours when I see them I know not what they had for dinner, what they watched on TV nor where they buy their underwear. In Cape Town a number of friends lived in gated communities and I thought they were just as bad as they sound!

  16. Such an interesting post and as you say, neighbourlyness is a far more preferable way to interact with one another!

  17. Definitely NOT a gated community person here. We looked at those before retiring and just read a few of the posts on the community club house bulletin board and you will get the drift! People who only want to be around people that think like them and act like them...and still they will judge closely.

  18. Aside from Nancy, I only know of one other person who lived in a gated community and it nearly killed her.. literally, as she was being stalked by a loon. I can't imagine living my life behind gates, or worse behind the boundaries of unfriendly neighbours. Your area looks beautiful and your life there, quite ideal.

  19. Another wonderfully romantic, yet
    still pragmatic look at villagers vs.
    urban dwellers. I have favored living
    in smaller towns, outside the bustling
    cities of the Pacific Northwest,
    and these Ozzie & Harriet towns
    are covered in manicured lawns
    and neighbors walking with or without
    their dogs and strollers and children,
    lots of children. I live two blocks from
    a small city park, and the laughter of
    children, and the melee of boisterous
    family summer picnics fill the air with
    warmth. Retired now I try to only go
    into the big city, Tacoma for me now,
    when I need to. Rarely do I go there
    to hang out. We are blessed here
    being in the foothills of the Cascades,
    and can frolic in the forests in one
    hour if we want to.

    I love your feeling for Gates. So much
    so I extracted those paragraphs and
    found the poetics in them, posting
    the prose poem over on my site.
    Bless you for providing me with
    such lovely words and thoughts

  20. Deep thanks for this vision of how it CAN be!

    Aloha from Honolulu

    Comfort Spiral


  21. I would think that it gives you a cozy feeling to live in a small town like this. Yesterday we were driving on small country roads in the North Georgia Mountains and every car we passed waved as us. We did not pass that many but it made us feel very happy.

  22. Also living in a rural setting (your population is quite a bit larger!) I can appreciate your observations. Having grown up in large cities, I could never go back. We must be quite well balanced here in the Northwoods...our neighbors are not really "nosy" just caring...everyone waves and would drop everything to help each other. I sometimes think we are surrounded by angels.

  23. Friko, there is a doorman at the front desk at the entrance to my apartment building, and so I guess that I also live in a gated community...vertically oriented. Lots of friends on the various floors of this building, and lots of friend along my street.

    Am I glad for the security factor? Yes, I am. Do I think that we do have a bit of a neighborhood community, nonetheless? Yes, I do.

    Again, you have written a post that raised some interesting questions. xo

  24. nice. have live in both an urban setting and the country...i do prefer the country...never lived in a gated community tough...

  25. I cannot even imagine what a gated community is. Does it have a fence around the whole village? Or just the houses?
    Small villages here in Germany are still much the same, and even outskirts of bigger cities. Me, I enjoy living in the country, but I need my visits to Hamburg!

  26. The only time I was always careful to keep gates closed was when we lived in Wales, and that was to keep the sheep out of the gardens!
    A new house has been built on the outskirts of the village where I live now. It has a high wall all round it, electric gates and CCTV cameras guarding it. I feel sorry for the owners - what can they be so afraid of? If it's burglars, all the security measures are advertising the fact that they think they've got something worth stealing. All the other people I've met here are friendly and welcoming without being intrusive.

  27. I love urban living better,
    fresh air...

    lovely post.
    Thanks for inspiriting.

  28. How are you, friend?

    Glad to land on your exciting poetry land here.

    Welcome linking in a poem to our potluck today, Thanks in advance!

    Some awards will be assigned upon participation.

    I signed in to follow your blog.
    Welcome follow us back.

    First time participants can simply submit an old poem.



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