|Most of the British live in towns and cities. But they have an idealized vision of the countryside. To the British, the countryside has almost none of the negative associations which it has in some countries, such as poor facilities, lack of educational opportunities, unemployment and poverty. To them, the countryside means peace and quiet, beauty, good health and no crime. Most of them would live in a country village if they thought that they could find a way of earning a living there. |
Ideally, this village would consist of thatched cottages built around an area of grass known as a ‘village green’. Nearby, there would be a pond with ducks on it. Nowadays such a village is not actually very common, but it is a stereotypical picture that is well-known to the British.
Perhaps this love of the countryside is another aspect of British conservatism. The countryside represents stability. Those who live in towns and cities take an active interest in country matters and the British regard it as both a right and privilege to be able to go ‘into the country’ whenever they want to. Large areas of the country are official ‘national parks’ where almost no building is allowed. There is an organization to which thousands of enthusiastic country walkers belong, the ‘Ramblers’ Association. It is in constant battle with landowners to keep open the public ‘rights of way’ across their lands. Maps can be bought which mark, in great detail. The routes of all the public footpaths in the country. Walkers often stay at youth hostels. The Youth Hostels Association is a charity whose aim is ‘to help all, especially young people of limited means, to a greater knowledge, love and care of the countryside’. Their hostels are cheap and rather self-consciously bare and simple. There are more than 300 of them around the country, most of them in the middle of nowhere!
Even if they cannot get into the countryside, many British people still spend a lot of their time with ‘nature’. They grow plants. Gardening is one of the most popular hobbies in the country. Even those unlucky people who do not have a garden can participate. Each local authority owns several areas of land which it rents very cheaply to these people in small parcels. On these ‘allotments’, people grow mainly vegetables.