INDUSTRY COMMENT: TOP THREE REASONS TO CELEBRATE WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS FOR THE COUNTRYSIDE
by ROB HINDLE
People and businesses across the countryside are working flat out to keep the nation fed, to protect jobs, and support their communities. Both personally, and as a rural consultant, I appreciate and applaud their sustained efforts at this incredibly difficult time.
The current situation has already had a huge impact on many rural businesses and understandably has generated real concern for the future. Many landowners, farmers and rural entrepreneurs have faced times of huge adversity before, however, and the countryside is the epitome of resilience. Crafted over millennia and fashioned by generations of careful stewardship, it will outlast this or any other pandemic.
Living and working in a space where nature is ultimately in charge means we are used to having to deal with matters beyond our control. Rural businesses and communities of all kinds are adaptable and are finding ways to cope during this extraordinary period. We have seen amazing displays of courage and strength, and that encourages me to be hopeful.
It’s my firm belief that when this crisis is over, the countryside will be at the heart of our nations’ future. It is strong, capable, valued and loved. The people who live and work in the countryside will be essential to our national recovery.
In addition to a renewed appreciation of the significance of British food and farming, there are some strong indicators that things will be different after this period. It seems probable, as we adjust to ‘new normal’, that the way the public – and perhaps Government – understand and appreciate the countryside and what goes on there will change for the better.
With this, will come opportunities and we need to work together to accelerate this recovery and help to deliver a brighter, better future. These are my top reasons to celebrate the future of the countryside and the impact it will have on opportunities for rural businesses.
1. WELLBEING AND RURAL TOURISM
Providing opportunities to encourage wellbeing experiences in the countryside has been a growing trend in recent years and this situation will surely spur this on further.
As the lockdown got stricter, one of the last places many were able to look for enjoyment was the countryside. Instinctively, many flocked to rural spaces, knowing that the outdoors, with its open space and fresh air was the most enjoyable and healthiest place to be, for our bodies and minds.
Right now, those lucky enough to live in the country are envied by many. It is an amazing place to live. Rural households are benefitting from access to open spaces for exercise, to help home school our children and release the mental pressure of enforced separation from friends and family.
You don’t know how good something is until it’s taken from you. The simple joys to be had from a good walk, a country inn, a woodland glade, a remote bed & breakfast, a beachside café or cliff top campsite will be at the top of the list for many as we all look forward wistfully to what we may want to do with our downtime when we can finally get away from the house.
This hold great potential for landowners and rural businesses to rebuild and harness rural tourism with a strong network of compelling experiences that celebrate the countryside and nurture wellbeing.
In addition, this renewed understanding of the value of the countryside will, I hope, ensure a continued, concerted effort from all parties to invest in nature’s recovery and to deliver net environmental gain year on year.
2. THE VALUE OF CONNECTIVITY
The countryside is a great place to do business - and it just got better. With so many of us homeworking, remote meetings and online collaboration are becoming the norm, will we give up the daily commute in the future? Another link in the chain holding us to offices in towns and cities has just been broken. Even those running the country have proven they can do so, remotely. Maybe this will spur on investment in the necessary technologies to support and provide more opportunities for a dispersed approach to business for many from now on. It may also create the need for, and facilitate, more meeting spaces, co-working zones and fitness and wellbeing centres in rural places.
3. A NEW LIFESTYLE
Eco-living has been another growing trend and the countryside provides so many options to create your own amazing, unique place. The opportunity to design and build your ultimate home using new ecological approaches, incorporating personality and character; plus, a life with open space on the doorstep looks pretty good right now. We may well see people reassess their priorities and with this a rise in demand for plots of land and rural service providers to support the build.