Pandemic Pondering #97

What is a village?

@theoldmortuary is in a village that, like many, has been consumed by a larger conerbation to the point that it barely considers itself to have a separate identity.

St Stephens was quite separate from the local town until ribbon development and housing estates attached it. It remains separate from the next village , divided by a steep hill and a river. Land that would have been difficult to cheaply develop. Although an easier gentle slope closest to St Stephens has had two housing estates built into it.

As a village it was well set up prior to the attachment to a town . It had the unholy trinity of a pub, a church and a village shop. Plus,the added luxury of an undertakers based in what is now our home.

Pandemic restrictions brought the sense of a village back to St Stephens. Without a pub or church there was nothing to draw outsiders into the area. The people we met in the street, as we walked the dogs, were people who actually live here. A different sense of community also revealed itself. I’m probably going to be wrong but there are less than 10 areas of housing development or estates around the original hub of St Stephens village. Many of the current inhabitants of these houses bought their house off plan from the developers 40 or 50 years ago. These people have a village community based not only on geography but also 40+ years of living and ageing in the same space and experiencing similar lifestyle milestones.

The old village hub no longer exists, only the church and pub have survived, neither would be effective communities if their net for customers was not spread much wider than either the original or expanded village. Only one farm has been saved from development and Churchtown Farm Nature Reserve, as it is now known, is as big a draw to the area as both the church and pub to people beyond the blurred boundaries of St Stephens.

In London, and maybe other places, the word’ Village’ is increasingly popular as an add-on to properly define a local identity within the urban sprawl.

Before the pandemic I had not really given this sense of identity too much attention. I grew up in a village that had a strong sense of its own identity and clear 360 degrees of obvious boundaries between it and it’s nearest neighbours. In London I lived in a high density suburb in Zone 3 , Gipsy Hill, a place that has a strong seperate identity just North of Crystal Palace and south of central London. Somewhere that wants to adopt the word Village into its identity. Yet without even 1 degree of seperation from its neighbours.

I’m not even sure where this pondering is going beyond my own realisation that it can be really enjoyable to have a loose connection with the people who physically occupy the same geographic area and walk their dogs or families in the same spaces.

Village is not only a word but a feeling.

Pandemic Ponderings is taking a leap for Pandemic Pondering #100. A guest writer for the first time, whose words will be illustrated by @theoldmortuary. I hope it’s the beginning of an interesting collaboration.

The writer and I grew up in the same village. We live on opposite sides of the world.

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