Village living, as long as the village is close to a town, is quite desirable as it gives you the best of both worlds.
For the past 46 years I have lived in the village of Willingham, some 10 miles from Cambridge. As I have been here for that length of time, readers will not be surprised to learn that I think there is a good deal to be said for village life.
Villages, of course, are not all the same. Some are very small, and have few facilities; that is true of the village which is close to ours. It has much to commend it, but I would not enjoy being without some of the basic facilities.
Some are right out in the country, far from any neighbouring town. Such a village would not suit me. I would feel much more cut off than I would wish to be. What, then, is it about Willingham which makes me judge it to be such a desirable place?
One thing which is much in its favour is that it has a good range of facilities. There are several shops — selling food and a variety of other things. There are two garages which carry out repairs and servicing on private vehicles. There is an excellent primary school (not needed by me, now that my family is all grown up, but a very good element of what a village should be.) There is a good medical practice, with an attached pharmacy. There is also a lending library — which has been under threat, like many local libraries, for financial reasons, but which has so far survived.
Our village is fortunate in having a large and well kept recreation ground. There is also a children’s play ground, equipped with a good variety of swings and other equipment.
These physical things are obviously important. But probably even more significant is the fact that a wide variety of activities take place in the village. There is a gardening club, for example, and a group of volunteers known as the Willingham Action Group, who carry out varied activities in support of village life. One of their major recent achievements has been the planting of a large woodland area, on a field owned by the village. The trees were mainly given. The work of planting them was carried out entirely by volunteers. The result is a facility which over the years should add hugely to the quality of village life.
I have made it clear that I would not be nearly so happy living in a smaller, less well-provided village. I would probably not greatly enjoy living in a village where I felt totally detached from the neighbouring town. There is, of course, a great privilege in living within easy reach of the university city of Cambridge. That proximity undoubtedly adds a great deal to the quality of village life. And many of the people who live in the village go to Cambridge for their work.
Is my enthusiasm for village life, therefore, unrealistic? Am I being enthusiastic about a place which is not really a typical village?
I suppose there may well be something in that. I suppose what I enjoy may well be having the best of several worlds.
That said, I feel strongly that there are many aspects of our village life which specifically reflect the fact that this is a village and would not apply in a typical town. One of these is the fact that, as someone who has lived here for many years, I know neighbours and fellow villagers with whom on the face of it I do not have much in common. In the local shops, for example, the assistants and I greet each other by our first names. As I walk down the street, I constantly meet people whom I have known for years. We may not be close friends, but we most certainly enjoy friendly relations.
In a society like this, it is easy to realise that one truly belongs. We do not all have the same tastes and interests, but we are all able to play our part in village life. As an example, I have the privilege of serving as a member of the parish council. It is not a centre of great political power. Nor is it a source of money or privilege; councillors are not paid. It is, however, one of the many ways in which one can play a real part in village life.