It is a fine old farmhouse. Blue lias stone and a thatch roof give it a picture postcard look. A garden at the front is enclosed by a low wall and a neat wrought iron gate. Beyond the gate, a stone slab pathway leads to a solid wooden front door.
“Farmhouse” is, of course, a misnomer. It is two generations since the house was separated from the land for which it was the dwelling place. The fields once worked by the occupants of the house have long been part of a bigger holding. The illogical ways in which the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy was implemented rewarded those who accumulated large holdings of land for little reason other than receiving the associated entitlements from the EU budget.
Separated from its farm, the house became a desirable dwelling and its value rose rapidly. Now it is for sale, but not with an agent whose offices are in a local town, but with a London agent whose advertisements will be found in the property supplements of national newspapers.
No-one employed locally could ever aspire to buy such a house. With an average salary of £24,000 per annum, the country bray offers few jobs that would allow someone to have a chance to buy a house costing a half a million pounds are more. A house that was once the home to a farming family among all the other farming families in the community, now it is a desirable residence for someone with substantial wealth who is moving in from outside.
Living in the local community has become a lifestyle choice for those who can afford it. It is not all bad; local towns have never before enjoyed such a wide range of shops. Organic food stores, cafes offering extensive vegetarian and vegan choices, upcycling retailers, markets for antiques and collectibles; there are choices available that most local people would not have imagined – if they can afford to pay for them.
Rural communities have become commodities that are packaged and sold to those who buy an idea of what it means to live in the country. Of course, it brings a dividend to those who have houses or land to sell, but for young local families trying live on the low local wages, the commodification offers no hope of living in the villages where their forebears may have lived for generations. Without damaging the good developments in local life, there needs to be a way of allowing those who have been present in the locality for generations to share in the progress.