Rural Poverty – guest post

I’ve finally managed to persuade Nick Pearson to write a short piece on rural poverty.  Nick has spent the best part of 36 years working in both the charitable and private sectors, advising on personal debt.  I’m hoping this guest post won’t be the last, as rural poverty is a depressing reality for many – Sarah.

You Can’t Eat The View – Nick Pearson on Rural Poverty

Visitors to the Peak District often tell me that it must be wonderful to live somewhere so lovely.  And they are right, it is.  It must seem to outsiders as if the 38,000 people who live within the Peak District National Park boundary are living the dream.  Most are. Compared with the rest of the UK, particularly urban areas, the level of deprivation is very low in the Peak District. Indeed based on every indicator of poverty, from crime levels to unemployment we are indeed fortunate. Government statistics for rural versus urban poverty across the UK show a similar picture – the percentage of households in rural areas in relative low income was 16%  before housing costs and 17% after housing costs.  In comparison, the percentage of households in urban areas in relative low income was 18% before housing costs and 24% cent after housing costs (“Rural Poverty 2016/17” DEFRA).

Below the surface, things are not always as rosy as they seem.  House price inflation caused by wealthy incomers buying second homes or simply moving to the area, the continued expansion of holiday cottage numbers, and a lack of affordable social rented housing make it very difficult for lower income families to be able to afford to buy property in the area. The Peak District is in fact a low wage area.  People who live and work locally are dependent on farming, tourist related services, (such as pubs and restaurants),  and the local quarries for jobs, most of which are low paid – if you don’t believe me look in the “Peak Advertiser” at the jobs on offer.  Better paid locals usually travel to work in places such as Manchester or Nottingham and sometimes beyond each day.

As with other rural areas, the average resident of the Peak District is c5 years old than that of someone living in an urban area.  Retired residents can sometimes be asset rich but cash poor, reliant on the state pension as their only source of income.  These folk are usually born and bred in the area and have to rely on family who still live in the area to get out and about.

Public transport services are few and far between as are local shops, many of which have now closed in Peak District villages.  You need a car or good neighbours to get to the supermarkets, doctors or shops in Buxton or Ashbourne.  If you need to go to hospital for something serious expect to be taken to Macclesfield, Stockport or Chesterfield, all of which are the best part of an hour’s drive away – if you have a car.

I don’t want to over-egg the pudding – compared to those who live in the inner cities, Peak District residents are indeed fortunate but as a local farmer said to me in the village pub the other night, “Aye, it’s a grand place to live but you can’t eat the view, lad.”

Nick Pearson is Head of External Relations at Gregory Pennington Limited.

10 Tips For Moving To The Country

  1. Be realistic about country life.

It’s not all roses round the door.  You may come across the occasional dead lamb in a field.  Farmers sometimes shoot foxes and rabbits might chomp their way through your veg patch.  Mole catchers string their victims’ bodies on wires … no, seriously  – just don’t ask me why!  And petrol is more expensive in rural areas, as are other things.

 

  1. Consider your future needs before taking the plunge.

Are you likely to need regular visits to a doctor in the next few years?   Will you still be able/want to drive?  Is there a bus service? How far is the nearest supermarket or school, and will you be able to get there in bad weather? See tip no.1.

 

  1. Friends matter but don’t expect to make them overnight.

There are no shortcuts and you can’t force it; it takes time and effort.  https://countryrealist.com/tag/friends/

 

  1. The local community is crucial so get stuck in with it.

Unless you have people queuing up to be friends on your arrival, join the local bee-keeping club, wine circle or scuba diving club – whatever floats your particular boat, so long as you’re getting out there and meeting like-minded people.

 

  1. Support local events.

Help out with well-dressings, flower festivals, and fund raising events.  God knows what my offering for the flower festival will look like but it’ll be fun doing it.  If you’re completely cack-handed, turn up in person to buy cakes, second hand goods, and offer support of the pecuniary kind. Read more here https://countryrealist.com/tag/village-life/

 

  1. Avoid rocking the boat.

On Twitter recently, there was the story of a farmer whose new neighbours kept lodging official complaints about the smells emanating from his farm.  I mean, seriously?!  You don’t want everyone thinking you’re the neighbour from hell – make sure you know what you’re letting yourself in for before taking the plunge (see tip no.1).

 

  1. The country is a working place.

Farms do smell, and are noisy at times (tip no.1 again!).  Livestock represent a huge investment of time and money so treat cattle with respect and keep dogs on leads round sheep.  Ask visitors to park considerately; at the May Market, one visitor double-parked and caused chaos because farm traffic couldn’t get through.

 

  1. Chickens make great pets!

They’re no trouble to look after and just need a balanced food, fresh water, and a clean, safe place to sleep and lay their eggs.  With their funny ways and their little puk-puk noises, they’re so endearing.  Those amazing eggs are just a fantastic bonus.  Read more here https://countryrealist.com/category/chickens/

 

  1. The great outdoors is fabulous for your physical and emotional wellbeing.

I can practically feel tension and stress sliding off my shoulders when I’m on the allotment.  When I’m digging and pulling weeds I don’t think about work. At all.  Get your name on the allotment waiting list – you might get lucky like I did!  Read all about it here https://countryrealist.com/tag/allotment/

 

  1. Weather is king.

In a farming community it really does rule everything that goes on.  In good weather, silaging might go on til 10pm. In the snow we had early in the year, I couldn’t get to work, but had to defreeze the hens’ water every couple of hours (and we’re back to tip no.1!).  Follow the link to read more https://countryrealist.com/tag/weather/

 

This boils down to tip no.1 – being realistic and doing your homework.  If you’ve done that, and you’re convinced the country is the place for you, go for it.  It’s an amazing place to live – good luck!

 

I’m always a bit excited when someone reads my posts!  Please leave a comment using the ‘comment’ button below – woohoo!