An article in the August 4, 2004, Christian Science Monitor reported that country life in England is facing tough times. "Deprivation is now stalking the countryside," said the newspaper. Rural England is seriously threatened with a gradual erosion of local services that once gave villages so much of their character.

The rolling green fields, country lanes, thatched cottages, and rugged Norman churches, so long fixtures in the national and international imagination, have lost some of their picture postcard sheen. A general store shuts down every day somewhere in Britain, a third of the banks that were around 10 years ago are no longer in existence, and one in five post offices has been shuttered in the past 20 years. Once venerable and reliable road and rail links are becoming fitful.

The Monitor pointed out that one of the reasons is that wealthy second-home buyers are driving up prices beyond the reach of locals. Bulk-purchasing supermarkets are squeezing the life out of family farms. And this is affecting not only the locals, but also hordes of tourists—admittedly not always popular with the villagers—who want their English countryside unspoiled, unchanged.

December 6, 2004

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