Coping With Change in the Village

I live in a semi-rural village in Essex. By semi-rural, I mean it was once rural, and is now tacked on to the edge of a major town. Life has changed immensely. Only 30 years ago it still had a very much village feel. Hedgerows and nature was dominant, housing was well spread out and there were many open spaces. What's more, it was friendly, safe. All is changing.

The village now is plagued with hoodie wearing teenagers and young men, dealing drugs, taking drugs and causing trouble. Theft is rife, burglaries have increased, cars are stolen, workers tools take from vans, purses get snatched and there have been assaults.

This is all a far cry from the halcyon days of my youth (OK, it wasn't all good, in fact, it was pretty grim at times!). Whereas I would happily walk to the local pubs at night along the unlit pathways that run through the village, today I rarely venture out after dark. And never along the unlit paths, where even the birds seem afraid to sing. I am not alone in this respect - nobody ventures out in the dark now. More neighbours are installing CCTV, motion sensor lighting, and more secure doors. Fear of crime is rising and isolating communities.

When I do go out I am usually careful to avoid rush hour, aka the school run. I remember when the local school was first built, to replace the old church hall that had been used for a century or more previously. It was an exciting change at the time, but now marks a point in which village life changed. The school attracted a large catchment, and whereas people used to walk to the local school, now many drive in. The roads are not wide enough to park, to parents pull up on the pavement, block driveways, blocking access for mobility scooters and wheelchairs, and cause total mayhem for 30 minutes, twice a day. Then they all vanish and the roads, and pavements, are desolate again.

We should all be grateful for the bustle, it's apparently good for the local businesses and shops. But, as I said, old people are targeting by pickpockets, vulnerable people are intimidated by those who do not work but manage to make a good living just by riding their bikes around all day, and all night.

There is still some good in the village, and the local community groups do work hard with the police to try to raise awareness of, and reduce, crime, but, well, it certainly ain't like the good old days. The changes I see around me every day are a constant reminder of the changes within. Time is marching on and we are being left behind. The only consolation is knowing that every generation experiences the same thing. 20 years ago, I'd embrace change. But when change is a drug dealer with a knife, blocked pavements, closed shops, closed banks, long GP waiting times, rising energy bills - well, I don't like it much nowadays. I don't want change, I want peace.

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Published in Senior Chatters


  1. starlette

    Hello Jonners………you have described what has happened in my villiage exactly…….its actually grown into a Town now but still surrounded by Sherwood Forest…….I echo all you have written about your feelings of feeling vulnerable and nervous when out and about……. I cast my mind back to the 60s when I worked in a local pub as a barmaid, I didn’t give it a second thought walking a mile home at 12.30 alone………there are so many things today I hate, to many to list but one of my biggest irritations is the mobile phone and the misuse of them……..the kids stepping out into the roads and not looking cos their head is bowed staring at the screens…..young mothers in cafes bringing the kids in for the rubbish food for their tea, never looking up from their phones to interact with their children, just grunting to their children if they try to ask something……..oh I could go on but know you will know what I mean…….yes its said we should appreciate everyday and I try to…….. to feel safe isn’t too much to ask for , but alas we are denied the freedom to wander at will wherever we choose day or night….costs nothing, but now would be far too dangerous and foolish to do so…

  2. jonners Post author

    It seems to be a plaque on our country. I had a run in one one hoodie (he made serious threats, assaulted me, police statement made) and until then, I really thought others were exaggerating the problems. The police do nothing either (apart from take statements) – although I really think they want to be able to do more, they just don’t have the resources any more. And yes, mobile phones are indeed another problem – I remember being in a pub years ago with my wife, joking about some youngsters who were sat at a table staring at phones and not talking to each other. That is the norm now! I was in Costa the other day and a group of girls from the local school were lunching there – they hardly talked to each other. So strange. At least the cafe was quiet!

  3. Rockflower

    Hi Jonners and Star,
    I lived in a like village that both of you describe, I live in Canada and now only experience UK from what relatives, friends and the newspapers tell me. I wonder can things have changed that much, really I don’t want to think it is true so I’m kind of in denial. You must know the BBC program, Call the Midwife. It all takes place post war and things were kind of grim at times as you say Jonners. I look at the program and it looks as alien from life today, as much as a Victorian or even an Elizabethan series. I have to remind myself….I lived this! My village had a full set of shops, a baker, fishmonger, butcher, greengrocer and several banks and a post office,,,remember those?. Now there is one supermarket on the edge of the village and that is it. The old shops have been turned into take-a-ways and trendy restaurants. Children walked to school in all weathers except for a few from the farms who were bused in. Children played and older kids were in the library or playing sports. All the adults in the village felt a responsibility to look after us, if they saw a young child too far from home they would send that child back. If they saw boys getting rowdy they would wade in and sort it out. We had a couple of police men and we knew them and they knew who we were. We went to church and the vicar knew us same with the doctor, he may well have delivered us, he knew us and all our family, even back a generation or two. We did not travel much, few families had a car and if they had a car,petrol was still rationed. A trip to Liverpool or Chester our nearest cities was an occasion, like going to France or Spain for a British family today. Summer holiday was North Wales and the seaside, this another country LOL! We did not have so much materially but we did feel part of our community and we were safe. As 12yr.old girls we could walk alone in empty countryside and our parents did not worry. We could take our ponies and ride miles on the moor all day with no anxiety. It seems to me that kids do not have that freedom today and when you read the papers you can understand parents being pro-protective. I can’t help thinking that despite Hitler , the Cold War and all that, our generation has had the best of it.

    1. drummer

      Rockflower you stirred a thought with me -what is the definition of a village as opposed to a small town in my youth now a distant memory. A village used to be1-1500 – small town 4000? I grew up in Brightlingsea and we proudly boasted we were a town – now we have a town like Colchester claiming to be the first Cathedral City in Britain – I always thought a Cathedral was what designated a City?

      1. drummer

        A correction on my part Colchester claims to be the first City created in Britain – hence my question – surely a Cathedral gives the right to be classed as a City – (I really am getting rusty – old age I fear! and its showing)

  4. drummer

    Hello Johnners – a very thought provoking Blog which must ring bells with us all no matter where we are
    the world is full of strife! Wouldn’t it be nice if we were able to make a point of each and every day saying at least once I LOve You! Just those three words to friends would mean so much.

  5. Rockflower

    Me too Drummer, I always thought a cathedral made a place a city despite size but I could be out of date, I often am LOL. Liverpool even way back in my youth was a bigger city than Chester although both had cathedrals.

    1. drummer

      Hello Rockflower , I am glad to have some support for this one – if I remember rightly isn’t Litchfield the smallest City ( population about 2,000 with its Cathedral) Or has my memory failed me again – mark you, with Chatters you do have to dig deep sometimes

  6. jonners Post author

    Call the Midwife – it is funny, I have not seen much of this series, but do enjoy watching period dramas and movies. it is easy to think things were all so much better then! But I guess, people were happier, weren’t they? There are always problems, but at least society was closer knit, even if life was a bit more of a struggle!