Expectations higher in the country - Diary of a Sussex Newbie

'A leafy lane that meandered up a hill'
'A leafy lane that meandered up a hill'

City life is fairly straightforward. Most people live in flats or terraced houses.

It’s rare to have a detached property. You accept that you’re living in a metropolitan area and that life is pretty noisy.

If you’re in a flat, you can hear people above, below and next door to you. If you live in a terraced house and have a small back garden, you learn to put up with next door’s BBQ smoke wafting into your garden.

On the whole people rub along-side each other with mutual understanding and acceptance.

In the country it’s a rather different matter. Expectations are higher.

Presumably you’re OK if you’re in deepest darkest, middle of nowhereness countryside.

Semi-rural living however is a delicate balance of Arcadian surroundings, tempered with the fact you’re still close enough to your neighbours to need to exercise some city tolerance.

The first house we moved to in Sussex was in such an area: a leafy lane that meandered up a hill, with a small brook at its base, and at its top, a short walk to the village shop. Sounds idyllic?

Well in many ways it was. And it was only a five minute walk to the nearest pub.

To us it was rural with a capital R. But we were country newbies.

There were houses on both sides of the lane, each with a fairly large garden, each individual in style.

It had a relaxed vibe and on weekends ramblers would hike up and down towards the woods nearby and a little further afield, the Downs.

It was a private lane; officially a bridle path, and was run and maintained by the residents.

We each contributed towards a lane fund that covered the costs of filling in pot holes and putting in the odd speed bump etc.

There was a lane committee and Devoted Doctor joined to do his bit to support.

However, over the period of around 18 months the feel of the lane changed.

White vans and cars using it as a cut-through were frowned upon, but short of putting up a 24 hour manned barrier at both ends, there was very little we could do to deter them, and they were increasing in number.

People weren’t quite so keen to walk their dogs up and down, and riding a bike became fairly precarious.

At around the same time one house put up enormous, solid wood gates, that dwarfed the hedges either side and the house behind them.

They looked mildly ridiculous and not in scale.

What were they trying to hide, or keep out?

A few months later, several more huge gates and fences started appearing along the lane.

People were retreating into their fiefdoms and shoring up their defences against the common enemy of the delivery van.

Our lovely and imperfect little lane was being dwarfed on either side by an increasing number of imposing and self-important gates.

Neighbours started to get anxious about hedging and property borders.

Then one day we saw that a row of baby leylandii trees had been planted directly in front of some of the new sky-high fencing.

This was suburbia gone mad, not the beautiful country lane we’d moved to just over a year before.

And so we decided to move on; to somewhere a little more rural; a nice leafy lane perhaps...