Part 5: Country Life
In the fifth of our monthly series of articles describing how one couple finds their new life in Rye, we experience some of the differences between urban and rural spaces…
Is the grass greener?
An astonishing 47% of Greater London is green space. As we used to live in SW19, we know this better than anyone – having been a short walk from Wimbledon Common and Wimbledon Park, a short drive from Richmond Park and Kew Gardens.
But, even enjoying your picnic surrounded by herds of deer in Richmond Park, you are unquestionably part of an urban, not a rural, environment.
What would life be like for us townies in a small country location after years spent in the Smoke?
Arriving into Rye station, what’s the first thing you see? A country store. This is where people come for their animal feed, fence posts, workwear and other farming necessities.
In some ways, this store sets the tone for the town. Our own house, a mere 12 minutes stroll from the station, has wild woods to the back, and to the front, views of the Rother – cows and sheep grazing on the salts.
One of the first things we noticed in and around Rye was the high percentage of 4x4s. Now, in Wimbledon, you also see tons of them. But there, the Range Rovers and Porsche Cayennes are new, spotless and causing traffic chaos as the fee-paying class drop their precious human cargoes off at a posh school. In stark visual contrast, mud, glorious mud, is the main accessory of suchlike vehicles round here.
Living a wild life.
We haven’t seen a toad yet, but our collection of characters from “The Wind In The Willows” is otherwise going quite well. A water vole scurries across the garden path. Walking home of an evening, a badger gallumphs past on the road.
Blackbirds wake us and an owl keeps vigil in the nearby woods. And we’ve lost count of the hedgerow bird species bobbing about our own and nearby gardens.
Although they’re common enough, neither of us had seen a slow-worm before. And yet stranger visitors were in store…
Early one morning, as I started to do the washing up, I noticed a black clump of something in the sink; it turned out to be a bedraggled pipistrelle bat! Who knows how or why it got there; but thankfully, the poor thing eventually recovered and flew off.
Or a dog’s life.
Stan, Molly, Beau, Freddy, Lexi . . . We’ve been meeting man’s – and woman’s – best friends from day one. In fact, we know more dogs than children in Rye.
With a beach nearby and country walks all around, Rye couldn’t be more dog-friendly. On our first Boxing Day here, Camber Sands was a happy riot of canine creatures.
And of course, those country 4x4s will feature a Border Collie or two, heads lolling out of the windows. So while there’s another superficial similarity with Wimbledon – another dog-friendly place – here you’ll see the working breeds as well as the cute pets.
Some habits die easy.
Living in a big city, you soon acquire certain habits – to keep yourself and your property safe. But after a few months in little old Rye, even instinctive actions started to fade.
For example, you stop automatically shielding your PIN at the ATM. Or you leave your mobile phone on the bar and walk away for a few minutes. To top it all, I was leaving the house one day to briefly visit a neighbour, and I found myself tempted to shut the front door, but not bother locking it. WHAT!? You could get too countrified, in my opinion.
If the welly fits.
We’re a very long way from being mistaken for true country-dwellers. But we already count a farmer’s daughter among our new friends. And it seems only a matter of time before we know some of the people who work the land and fish the sea.
Then we’ll maybe start to see the countryside from the inside; our appreciation of it can only grow.
Photos: Simon Kershaw