Although I was born in the suburbs of London, I spent my more impressionable years growing up in the Wye Valley amongst the farms, fields and forests. It was a beautiful time of my life, perhaps the most beautiful but such revelations do not reveal themselves until after such events has come and gone. I believe the phrase is: youth is wasted on the young; or is it: you don’t know what you have until it’s gone? In this case, it’s probably a mixture of the two. Regardless, it wasn’t until I was living in Southern Ontario that I learnt to appreciate the comforts and simplicity of the English countryside. Almost 6 years after leaving it all far behind, here is a list of the rural aspects that I find myself pining for the most:
8. Recognizing everyone – Living in a small town with an equally small population is both a blessing and a curse. Bad news travels fast but so does the good and there’s something unmistakably comforting about being face-familiar with the locals. Sure, you may only be known as Mr. X’s sisters neighbour but you have an identity and play a large part in the everyday lives of many.
7. Architecture – I’m a sucker for cottages or farmhouses with history and individual charm nestled within ivy clad brick walls – and there are plenty of those to be found in the English country. The cookie-cutter style of houses that are common in the suburbs (be in North America or Britain) are far too impersonal for my liking. I’d chose character over size any day.
6. Roads – Or perhaps lack thereof. Country roads are few and far between and can usually only support a single flow of traffic, one way. Even the simplest of outing can turn into an adventure when navigating around wild animals, horses or a dreaded tractor.
5. Topography – I find myself squinting a lot in the GTA and often wonder if it’s to do with the sudden increase in sky. This is subconscious, of course but after growing up in a valley with constant exposure to mountains and hills, I feel as if my current location lacks elevation. Sometimes you need a bit of height to put things into perspective.
4. Fields – Fields and the hedgerows that border them define and organize the countryside. This living, breathing patchwork quilt has since left my day-to-day scenery and has been largely replaced by living, heaving roads and shopping malls.
3. Local produce – The abundance and variety of produce available locally is a win-win situation: the farmer benefits from bypassing corporations that eat away at their profit and the consumer (you) benefits from purchasing fresh, right from the source.
2. Farm Animals – One of the best things about living in the country is that you seldom need an alarm clock – you can rise and shine with the animals! Be it the cattle lowing, the sheep bleating or the cockerel crowing, these creatures make for the friendliest of neighbours.
1. Cow Manure – Okay, now this may sounds like an odd one but hear me out. Cow manure is spread frequently onto crop soil as fertilizer and the smell is, as one can imagine, very potent; but for me, it’s also very nostalgic. Many happy memories of driving around rural roads (see 6.) after a family day-out and being collected from primary school are associated with the aroma of muck spreading. It’s also a scent completely absent in my current suburban setting. Therefore, with smell being the strongest sense connected to memory, I see no reason to be embarrassed in admitting that I often long for my nostrils to be full of the smell of cow dung.
Now if that doesn’t make me country girl, I don’t know what does!