Wednesday, 18 June 2008

1 in 6; the new village...




















We’ve just returned from a few days away in Cotherstone, right in the heart of Teesdale. It still amazes me that only a few hours driving can let you arrive in a place which has beautiful natural stone buildings, rattling water courses and rivers, bustling towns which somehow remind you of the sixties, and above all – wide breathing space and a big sky!

As some of the footpath directions, near-vertical slopes and high stiles defeated even the eight legs of our party (Mrs S, JRT and me), we started driving/walking a couple of hours away in the hills each morning, and the same in the afternoon, but staying local.

And that’s when I learned something.

The walks and footpaths round the village are numerous and rewarding. The dismantled railway track (minerals – not people), still has the levels, the stone arches and the gates and you find yourself imagining the rattle and steam; even looking behind occasionally – just in case...
But it is the small lanes touching the boundaries of all the houses which are absolutely charming. Hardly any traffic; hundreds of sheep and lambs; and the occasional row of vegetables.

Occasional!

On one day I took JRT, and we did nearly all these lanes. (please understand that this walking was essential to counteract the huge hospitality of ‘The Fox and Hounds’), and after a few yards it was clear that nearly all the houses were empty. Not derelict, well maintained actually and achingly beautiful to look at. But unused during the week. I reckon there was only about one in six which had a sign of life. Some gardens are tended with loving care – as they should be, but most were patches of grass, weeds and no colour.

In June?

The village is spotless, has a buzzing local school with squeals and bikes, and of course, the local housing will always be full, because buy-to-let just doesn’t go there. There used to be about fourteen shops, but now there is one struggling post office with a charming welcome but an anxiety which can be felt. Our chosen pub ‘The Fox and Hounds’, is legendary, and the hospitality enormous.

But a village which has so few people making it thrive is in a sorry state. Oldies need to see company in the streets, children need to meet other kids, and we were contributing to all this, a fact that made me slightly uncomfortable.

Cut to our own village in Kent. For one thing, it is definitely not a holiday destination – it has some great attributes, but you don’t stay here on holiday unless you’re keen on castles or the sea. On my first foray out to buy our last Sunday paper, (we’re abandoning much of the dead tree press, most of it gets binned unread these days, and that’s just the good news...), I happened to pass a member of a local feral litter with his car radio booming out some rubbish at full volume. He was gawping around expectantly, hoping for someone who cares to comment, which is easy to ignore anyway. And inside the shop I noticed what turned out to be the runt of the same feral litter, with a hairline about half an inch above his squitty eyes, feverishly scratching at a clutch of lottery cards, and of course, leaving as a loser. They revved their noisy little car away and the ‘conversation’ of loud ‘f***s’ transcended the foul music.

Just for a long, long moment; I wished we were one-in-sixers.

14 comments:

Nick Drew said...

The Tees is an interesting river, isn't it ? I also like Yarm and Crathorne, further downstream

and the industrial end has its own, rather different fascinations

Cut along to the compo at your leisure: Scotton Pinkney has not yet made a bid ...

electro-kevin said...

Great to look at but I'd hate to live there.

I expect the community is hard to get into and even easier to fall out with and I couldn't stand the five in sixers.

Webley-Bullock said...

Dear Mr Drew,

The Estate is at your beck and call - I'll lay on something; probably the carpet...

Green is it?

D x

Webley-Bullock said...

Dear Mr Electritude,

One in six is not a bad result where getting a response from neighbours is concerned.

On The Estate, we've had two already, and one is from a very important person!

You would be made very welcome of course, and especially your family who seem to be about right!

Do you play Canasta?

D x

grumpy granny said...

Mr O'Blene: Welcome home. Tatcorp is currently closed for the annual break in Frenchland.

Your description sounds remarkably like many of the small villages in the south island of NZ - just a few folks, sheep, no ferals, sheep, genuine friendly welcome in the local hostelries, sheep, great food, sheep, sparkling rivers, stone walls and as much clean fresh air as you can breathe. Oh, did I mention the sheep? That is why that part of the world is one of our favourite and regular haunts.

grumpy granny said...

PS: Please excuse my ignorance, but can you explain "one in sixers" please? Neither grandad nor I recall ever coming across that expression before. Thank you.

Philipa said...

Fascinating pics and story Scrobs.

Scroblene said...

Morning Grumpers!

I love your description of NZ - often wanted to visit there, probably had the only chance when in limbo after school. Younger Daught was there a few years ago; lucky Gal.

'One in Six' is my description of the number of cottages/homes actually inhabited full time - the rest are either private holiday homes, or letting cottages!

As Elecs points out, it must be a bit unerving if there's a different group living next door every week - you never know who might turn up.

Luckily for our neighbour, she only had to hear JRT having the odd fit of exercise, and the soft clink of a well-earned tincture on (many) occasions. This also introduced absolute peace and quiet as forty-winks took place...

Also we were out walking our socks off when we could! This didn't apply to JRT of course, because she doesn't wear socks - just has small paws, but we managed one day to go so far she really was knackered and just slept in the middle of the floor for ages!

Scroblene said...

Thanks Pips - it was a bit morose, because I've been reading 'Birdsong', and it takes you like that some of the time!

grumpy granny said...

Scrobs: Thank you sir, we now see what you were driving at.

If you get the time/chance, do go to NZ, especially in late October -early November; there is still snow on the mountains (but all the passes are open); the kids are all in school and the tourists have not yet arrived in any numbers. Fly to Christchurch, hire a car (something like a Camry will do nicely) and just follow the bonnet down the coastal road to Invercargill and the whaling station at Bluff, turn right into the fjords/lakes and work your way back up through Te Anau, Milford Sound, Queenstown and Mt Cook. The roads are well maintained and there are lots of excellent motels all over the place which offer excellent service and do not cost an arm and a leg to stay in. You will need at least a fortnght (mimuimum) to do it properly, but I guarantee you will not be disappointed. If you ask nicely, you might even get Barnsley Bill to help!

This travelogue was brought to you courtesy of Tatcorp Travel Advisory Services Inc.

Daisy said...

this was a great post...thank you for sharing...i love looking back and seeing the changes...not always for the better but most always changes...as for the last of the comment...i sympathize!

Scroblene said...

Grumpers - Tatcorp Travel Agent!

Sounds wonderful that - I think JRT would get a bit fed up in the hold though...

Funnily enough, we were only talking about going on long journeys on the w/e. I love the buzz and even the boredom of long flights and train journeys, but Mrs S has had enough of all this faraway stuff in her few years, so we will probably never get there now...

Scroblene said...

Daisers - something had to spoil the return didn't it!

Lilith said...

I think the answer for long journeys is a) take a long time over them or b) fly business class and go fast. Don't worry Scrobs, when your boat comes in you'll persuade Mrs S onto the Orient Express or the Trans Siberian or some such more tranquil travel.

It's the crowding and the stress and the feeling that you have wandered into a refugee camp/weightwatchers global convention when you get to the airport..sod that. Let alone the blood clots and that's just at check in.