St Mary on the Wold was one of those places that apparently our grandfathers and great grandfathers (according to ministry of information films of the period) fought to preserve during the Second World War. If that was the case though, I often wonder why they didn’t display more of that determination as the country turned into an industrial battle ground in the 50s, a cultural and industrial shambles in the 60s, more unrest in the 70s culminating in Heath’s sell out followed by near national bankruptcy and yet more unrest into the 80s.
Maybe people just wanted a quiet life, and who could blame them? Or maybe they were just part of the problem.
Anyway, the village at first sight shows little outward change since the first executive designer houses were built on apple orchards in the 60s and the new middle incomers moved in and were generally accepted. Odd, though, that these same ‘families’ created quite a furore when an additional 300 houses – neither designer nor executive – were built later. However this was generally accepted by villagers as progress, particularly as they were built on the other side of the village, although this created a ‘them and us’ situation which was further exacerbated as the few ‘council houses’ were sold off and soon became gentrified, to use the estate agents’ patronising description.
House prices rose of course, particularly in the ‘look at me’ 1990s, driving younger people out of the village and creating a sort of wealthy time warp retirement village.
During the 10s many people discovered how valuable their gardens had become to builders, building an additional new house and then moving to a more desirable area.
A few years ago, some land which was ‘never going to be sold’ by the long-time owners, was sold for a ‘collection’ of desirable country homes, an offer of several million pounds having changed the minds of the owners who soon moved away to pastures new.
Younger families would have to be fairly ‘well off’ to live here now with at least two vehicles, as public transport is next to non-existent. There are several ‘creches’ where as one wag said ‘people prefer to send their children and work to pay for it rather than have them at home in their formative years’, the nearest secondary schools are miles away and there is virtually nothing for youngsters to do after school.
Driving to the nearest towns (getting nearer each year), can be a nightmare and take anything up to an hour at busy times, often made worse by temporary traffic light, many unattended at road works long after contractors have completed their work and departed.
In bad weather even a couple of inches of snow brings chaos, as for some reason the county, district and parish councils seem unable to get their collective act together and clear the access roads.
If that is not enough, electric power is often cut, sometimes twice in a day, which can be irritating to say the least, and as for internet speeds and mobile connectivity ‘low and poor’ just about describes it.
St Mary also has its share of crime with burglary and cases where masked men have attempted to break into homes while the occupants were asleep to steal or demand car keys to prestigious cars parked on the driveways. People affected though have been quick to praise the police for their response following a 999 call, as they arrived in less than half an hour, which is apparently good by urban standards but still terrifying for those waiting.
On the credit side theft of livestock and farm machinery has fallen this year but even so hundreds of thousands of pounds-worth have been stolen.
St Mary also has seen serious crime, with people being arrested for drug and people-trafficking offences, all of which seem to come as a total shock to some residents who apparently live in some personal utopia, as yet untouched by modern life, news and the reality that to many in urban areas this is a daily occurrence; their only inconvenience was when ram raiders attempted to steal the ATM machine from a local store. The machine was never replaced by the shop owners, who could blame them?
Things move at a quieter and slower pace here, as one would expect – or maybe not – the social demographics have changed over the years and where people once worked locally on the land or, in the West Midlands many of them in companies allied to the motor industry, that changed as the motor industry and engineering declined giving way to a new breed of thrusting professionals with much a much softer skill-set and attitudes.
For many years staunchly conservative in nature and mainly Tory voters, many of them stayed with the party even when it was evident that the MP was generally seen to be more interested in the urban residents than the faithful in St Mary. It looked, during the Con/Lib shambles, that people would, given the ‘local talk’, vote for the actually rather good UKIP candidates at local and Westminster level, as council services, or the lack of them, poor communication, transport, the lack of visible police presence, serious and fatal accidents on various local roads, have been noticed by some and prompted some younger people to stand at the local elections and one masochist as a prospective parliamentary candidate.
You can imagine the result. The good people of St Mary, those who bothered to cast a vote that is, did what they always do and voted for the same old people; the expenses scandal, the Brown terror, the Con/Lib sham, the Brexit betrayal had no effect. “Well, we can’t let Labour in, can we, and as for Farage, well, we can’t really vote for him because they don’t have any policies, do they?”
Part 2 will be published here tomorrow.