Once a country girl, always a country girl…

Macha is from Co Armagh and is now living in Co Down. She says, “I am easily distracted by nature’s handiwork; I notice all of the loveliness that most people don’t see. Power walking pains me; I need time to pause and appreciate beauty as I find it.” Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them. A.A. Milne.

I grew up on a small farm, surrounded by hedgerows & down a long winding lane. I didn’t really understand or appreciate it then, but my family was part of a rural jigsaw, where most people could be connected somehow.

After twenty years of urban life I am back home in the countryside.

I say home, but it’s actually over an hours drive from my birthplace and we have no relatives in the area. I am a blow in. Yet, for the first time in a long time, I feel a powerful sense of belonging.

I had become accustomed to and comfortable with relative anonymity. In the city we never got to know our neighbours and I can’t say I particularly minded. Our social connections were with work colleagues or friends, meeting in town for dinner and drinks. Trips were made back home to catch up with family.

The sense of belonging that I feel now, I didn’t expect. Maybe I had forgotten what it felt like. It was a shock to be noticed, talked about and welcomed, after melting into the crowd for so long,

For the first time in my adult life, I feel part of a community. Homemade welcome gifts were left on our doorstop or delivered in person. On our first day working in the garden, plenty of folk I didn’t know waved as they drove past or stopped to introduce themselves. Invitations have been forthcoming and accepted. I love that there is little reticence; people are open and straightforward.

Research by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs shows that people living in the countryside rate their happiness and life satisfaction as higher and their anxiety levels as lower vs those who live in urban areas.

However, although people living in the countryside tend to live longer, one obvious drawback is that there can be a significant delay in receiving medical attention in an emergency.

There are other downsides to rural life. I was lucky enough to get a job locally, but my husband has a fifty minute daily commute morning and evening. Life would feel very different and possibly quite isolated if we were less mobile and didn’t drive.

The local roads are pitted with potholes and my car is very disgruntled from the abuse it faces on a daily basis. She failed her MOT for the first time recently, due to a crack in a relatively new front tyre.

Little treats like a trip to the Queen’s Film Theatre will probably be much less frequent; it will be interesting to see how often I make the effort to go into Belfast. My gentrification in the city has resulted in a hipster coffee habit, luckily I am only a 15 minute drive from an excellent flat white, should the notion take me.

I’m thankful that I listened to my heart as I increasingly had been feeling a kind of depression descend when I drove home to what felt like a concrete jungle, after time spent in wide open spaces. It’s scary how the years can melt away in circumstances that don’t make us particularly happy. The process of making the move wasn’t easy; it felt fortuitous one moment and torturous the next. However, now it’s happened life feels very different and I wonder why it took us quite so long.

While driving to work & stuck behind a tractor, I have to pinch myself. I couldn’t be happier to have made it back t  o where my heart always was – in a world filled with fields, muck and single track roads.

All photos are my own.

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