It is estimated that approximately one person in six in the UK lives in a rural location. This will mean living in a small town, village, hamlet or in scattered housing. Approximately 90% of the UK land mass is defined as rural.
Villages vary enormously, by size, shape, and social characteristics. Many are now home to the millions of people who have moved from towns and cities, choosing to live in the countryside and sometimes investing large sums of money in order to do so. In the process incomers have changed the nature of many of the UK's villages. They have also often displaced indigenous rural people who now find they cannot afford to live in the countryside.
Over recent years many villages have lost amenities, including schools, shops, pubs and post offices. While the UK's villages have generally become more affluent there is a lot of hidden poverty and deprivation.
Many urban dwellers still have an image of the countryside that is largely a mythical idyll. Whilst there are villages with pretty thatched cottages, many rural areas are agricultural or industrial areas producing unwanted pollution. Some villages have grown up around a fishing industry while others around other industries such as mining.
Rural communities tend to be small with a complex mix of social types with differing values and beliefs.
All our villages are served by at least one church, though today it might very well not have a service every Sunday. Despite the loss of several thousand of non-conformist chapels during the latter half of the twentieth century the church is still a valued part of village life. Church attendance, as a percentage of the population, is higher than in urban areas, and a recent government survey revealed that 70% of social capital in rural areas is provided through the churches.