UK Villages' steepn decline... but one revives - Daily Mail special today

Gerrard Winstanley tony at
Tue Apr 15 18:21:20 BST 2008

Rural life in decline as key services such as post offices and GP
surgeries disappear
14/04/08 - News section

Nearly half of communities have seen the loss of key local services in
the past four years, a report reveals.

Towns and villages across the country are losing basic amenities such
as post offices, GP surgeries, shops and schools at a record rate.

The Government-commissioned report found that 45 per cent of England's
neighbourhoods - 14,493 out of 32,439 - are more 'geographically
deprived' than they were in 2004.

It concludes that communities are declining at their 'fastest rate
ever', prompting claims that Labour has presided over the 'slow death
of community life'.

The Oxford University study comes after Gordon Brown's rural advocate,
Stuart Burgess, warned that poorer people in the countryside 'form a
forgotten city of disadvantage'.

The report ranked every town in England on a 'multiple deprivation'
index, measuring the road distance to services.

It found that residents of the village of Bridestowe on Dartmoor had
the fewest amenities.

The village of Wrotham, in Kent, suffered the greatest loss of
services since 2004 and was the most excluded community in the south
east. At the other end of the scale was Gospel Oak in Camden, north
London, which had the best access to services - although it too faces
post office closures.

Critics have accused Labour of masterminding the 'near certain death
of the village post office' with its plans to close 2,500 branches by
the end of the year.

One in 13 rural primary schools has closed since Labour came to power,
and more are under threat as new Whitehall rules mean schools could
lose funding by failing to fill their places.

Village GP surgeries are also at risk as the Government promotes its
new 'polyclinics'.

The statistics follow a damning report by Dr Burgess, from the
Commission for Rural Committees-which warned that 233,000 people are
living in 'financial service deserts' - areas with no post office
within 1.25 miles or no bank, building society or cashpoint for 2.5 miles.

Yesterday Eric Pickles, shadow communities and local government
secretary, said: "We are witnessing the slow death of community life."

But a spokesman for the Department of Communities and Local Government
said: "It is disingenuous to use this measure in isolation as an
accurate reflection of deprivation.

"The very nature of rural communities means that distance to access
services may be greater."

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The real Good Life: An entire village turns against supermarkets and
grows its own food
14/04/08 - News section

It was a sitcom that inspired many a household to live off the land.

And although it might not attract the likes of Margo and Jerry to move
to the area, an entire village is trying its hand at the Good Life.

In a bid to become less dependent on supermarkets, the residents of
Martin are working together to become as self-sufficient as possible.

The Hampshire village is now home to hundreds of real life versions of
the characters played by Felicity Kendall and Richard Briers, who
lived off the land in the 1970s BBC comedy.

They work on a rota system and raise their own chickens and pigs and
grow potatoes, garlic, onions, chillis and green vegetables on eight
acres of rented land.

Of the 164 families who live in Martin, 101 have signed up as members
of Future Farms for an annual £2 fee, although the produce can be sold
to anyone who wants to buy it.

The "community allotment" sells 45 types of vegetables and 100
chickens a week, and is run by a committee which includes a
radiologist, a computer programmer and a former probation officer.

Nick Snelgar, 58, who came up with idea in 2003, said the project was
gradually "weaning" villagers off of supermarkets.

He said: "I like to think of it as a large allotment in which there
are lots of Barbaras and Toms working away.

"There are also Margos as well, but everyone can get involved.

"The nearest supermarket is six miles away. Of course people still
have to go there for things like loo roll and deodorant and fruit you
can't grow in Britain.

"So we aren't boycotting supermarkets entirely but we are gradually
weaning people off them and as a result are reducing our carbon
footprint by not using carrier bags and packaging."

Mr Snelgar, a horticulturalist, said the VAT-registered co-operative
had grown so much that last year it had a turnover of £27,000 - most
of which was ploughed back into the scheme.

He said: "We began with vegetables and we found that all the skills we
needed were here in the village.

"After the vegetables we introduced chickens and then pigs and we
learned inch by inch.

"We have other producers whose goods we sell and they include a sheep
farmer and someone who has honey.

"It has been a fantastically interesting experience and we now have
four plots of land covering eight acres.

"There are 164 families in the village and they include about 300
adults and 100 children, so there are about 400 creatures to feed.'

Every Saturday the community comes together with their produce which
is sold at the village hall.

Mr Snelgar added: "The most popular thing we sell is carrots.

"People love the smell of fresh carrots, and we pull them out of the
ground the day before we sell them.

"We don't yet do dairy, but we hope to include that in the future and
we also intend to grow raspberries and strawberries.

"We set the prices by working out how much the food costs to produce.
We then add 20 per cent.

"Our pork sausages, for example, are sometimes cheaper than sausages
you buy in the supermarkets. We break even and all money gets ploughed
back in.

"When we started some people thought it would fail and we'd never
last, but as the years have gone by more and more people have become

"It is also a talking point in the village and it's great to see
people walking to the village hall on a Saturday morning talking to
each other. It has created a sense of belonging."

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