Back in October we began a search for four inspirational young farming voices to give us a 'taste of the countryside'.
Here's one of our competition winners, Evie Atterby with her take on the countryside - "a glorious patchwork of individuals, businesses, communities and schools".
It seems that we make lots of trade-offs for the pleasures of rural life.
I’m writing this in my living room in Herefordshire, a beautiful county I have moved to recently, one where I’m truly at home. I’ll try to post this online later and it will take longer than if I had hand carved it into slate and used a carrier pigeon for delivery. Why, I hear you ask? Because I happen to live in the countryside.
The tortoise of the broadband world, 0.3Mbps was a personal best. I see the fear in my router as I ask it to perform tasks well beyond its capabilities. Caving in to my fit of semi-rage, I called my service provider, which is ironic given that no service is being provided *insert eye roll here*.
The engineer laughed until he realised I was seriously trying to function in the modern world with Stone Age broadband. If this was in London, Birmingham or Newcastle there would be uproar! Protests in the streets. The world would grind to a halt. But because we live in a village, it seems to be expected that basic infrastructure fails us.
Seventy per cent of the total UK land mass is actually rural and 17.1 million hectares are dedicated to food production of all different kinds, with farmers requiring electronic exchange of information and rural enterprises needing their emails.
Still waiting for that message from 2012 to arrive! Now with that figure of 70% in mind, why is the 30% of remaining land mass deemed as a more important part of our upwardly mobile society? How in 2017 are we supposed to function, to develop new businesses and grow existing ones, when we are being left to stagnate, falling behind because we have nice views and that should be enough?
We need to reassess the role that the countryside plays. Vital business links, jobs and diversification are being held back by the lack of resources available to us and we shouldn’t be accepting this as given. Fifty years ago it didn’t matter, but we have been forced into an age of technology where knowledge transfer depends on the strength of electronic communication.
Admittedly, there have been steps forward. Some areas of rural Britain now benefit from fibre optic broadband, enabling businesses, and social users too, to connect more efficiently. But for others, the plague of internet isolation continues. One friend of mine was told she must pay £24,000 to her telephone provider as the cables needed replacing, and as it was in a rural area it wasn’t seen as “vital” work. It was vital to her business, though, and that’s the point.
The countryside isn’t a faceless expanse of rolling hills. It isn’t just cattle and sheep grazing pastoral farmland. It’s a glorious patchwork of individuals, businesses, communities and schools – people developing new ideas, launching new products, bringing food to the tables of each and every person in this country.
We all deserve a solid infrastructure on which to build our future, be that the ability to send an email when we work from home, use public transport, or simply feel we are part of a wider society. We all pay into this country and we should all reap the benefits, no matter where we live.
Follow @evieatt for more on her life in the countryside