After months of bad weather and endlessly depressing news, many of us are in dire need of escaping to something a little more relaxing and removed from the daily grind. So it’s good news that an everyday form of therapy is right here on our doorstep. It’s called the countryside, and for many of us all it’s got to offer – from food to fresh air – is just around the corner.
But despite its appeal, a new survey by DairyCo, an organisation working on behalf of British dairy farmers, has found we may not be making the most of the homegrown source of everyday goodness that dairy farms and beyond deliver for us daily.
So wellies at the ready for the ten rules to follow to fit right in and soak up what’s on offer as springtime beckons.
The ten rules of the countryside
1. Be friendly. The morning commute in the city can turn the most polite of us into self-centred battlers whose strategy for getting through the day is head down and elbows out. Not so in the countryside, where ignoring a fellow human is practically unheard of – 99% of people living in the countryside greet people they meet with at least a ‘hello’ when out and about. So get practising in the mirror for a facial work out and a genuine spirited grin rather than a ‘Blue Steel’ grimace.
2. Become a foodie. From Cheddar to Caerphilly, the countryside is the place to enjoy classic British produce. Favoured by a quarter of respondents, the traditional Ploughman’s lunch with a good chunk of local cheese was the food people most like to eat when in the countryside. There is something special about flavour, freshness and the sense of ‘good stuff’ on your plate.
3. Visit a farm. Yes you can… and it doesn’t cost a week’s salary for a family of four as some days out can. We don’t need to look too far back in time to realise that farming used to play a bigger part in our collective consciousness, so it’s unsurprising that older generations are more likely to be aware that a trip to the country can be combined with a visit to a working farm. Nearly eight out of 10 of over 65s know that it’s possible to pay a visit to a farm, compared with less than half of 18-24 year olds.
4. Lose the preconceptions. Close your eyes and picture a British farmer. Who do you see? More than half of respondents conjured up a flat cap, tweed clothes, walking stick and a sheep dog, with less than one in 10 associating farming with names like Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis or former Blur guitarist-turned-cheesemaker Alex James – despite both being well known farming profiles. And while they may not be quite typical, the face of farming is changing: figures from one agricultural college shows the number of female students have nearly doubled in five years. So don’t be surprised if there isn’t a flat cap to be seen on your next trip to the country. It’s a real place, not an artist’s impression.
5. Go local. Around half of people surveyed agree that the most enjoyable aspect about a visit to the countryside is finding a good local pub for the evening, with a real log fire, real ales and local grub, so don’t look for the nearest restaurant chain to spend the evening in – you could do that anywhere. Find a local gem and get cosy with all the good senses of sight, smell, taste and sound at play.
6. Switch off the TV. A busy lifestyle means our standards may be slipping with regard to what constitutes ‘quality time’ with a partner. Three in four people agree that watching television is entertaining, but only one in three think it makes their relationships stronger. Yet watching TV is by far the most popular ‘communications activity’ in the UK according to Ofcom, the telecoms regulator. With the majority of respondents – including 70% of countryside residents – agreeing that a walk in the countryside makes their relationships stronger, what are you waiting for? Switch off The Voice and Britain’s Got Talent and don your walking boots.
7. Go cow spotting. There are more dairy cows in Britain than there are people in Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester put together, yet one in 10 people have never seen one up close, and nearly six in ten would ignore this good-natured goddess if they came across one whilst out exploring. But this black and white beauty is fascinating to watch and remarkably human in nature – a recent study suggests cows are good ‘social networkers’ that form important group structures within their herd.
8. Chill out. Ease yourself into the lack of human traffic and open your ears to the sounds of nature. Respondents voted birdsong and farmyard noises as the most relaxing sounds to listen to, with just four per cent agreeing that general ‘people noise’ in a city helped them chill out. Me time needs a good backdrop that isn’t all about the bustle and the drama.
9. Go au naturel. Nearly half of city dwellers wear just as much make-up in the city as they do in the countryside, but more than a third of countryside residents don’t wear any at all. So when in Rome, do as the locals (or in this case the ‘rurals’) do. Strip off that facial camouflage, and adopt a look more Catherine Zeta Jones in The Darling Buds of May – rosy cheeks and tousled tresses – than the power jungle uniform. Everything needs a breather from time to time, including our faces!
10. Swap the shop. When you’re staying in a nice self catered cottage, do you really want to stock the shelves with the same things you could get at home? We think not! Nearly half of people say that a visit to a farm shop would improve their stay in the countryside, so find one as soon as you arrive and stock the fridge with some homemade delights. Any leftovers can go back to the city as a souvenir! Nothing beats hand-cured cheese or a dollop of ice cream made on the farm, and served to you with the smile you can expect from rule one.
Explore www.thisisdairyfarming.com for more country pursuit inspiration.
[main image: Wellie boots by Hunter]