Once, there were two mice who were cousins. One of them lived in a small village in the countryside, the other in a townhouse close to the city centre. On a visit to his cousin, the town-mouse found the simple, rustic lifestyle, too basic for his needs and invited his cousin to join him for a city break. The food and lifestyle in the city was too rich and fast-paced for the country-mouse. So the two mice decided they were happy with their existing living arrangements.
This story is probably familiar to many of us from schooldays. Aesop’s fable, the Town Mouse and the Country Mouse written sometime in the 6th Century BC, reveals that choosing where to live has been an age-old question. Here in the North East, the conundrum is perhaps a little less pointed than in, for example, Greater London, where access to the countryside can mean a long slog on public transport or a battle through congested roads. Here, we have the benefit of never being too far away from the countryside, and urban areas are only ever a stone’s throw away from the country.
As the two mice discovered, there are pros and cons to both town and country life. Transport presents a difficulty in both environs. While urban areas generally benefit from better public transport links, they also tend to have more traffic and congestion. Some rural areas may feel a bit isolated with sporadic bus services, and in bad weather, are significantly more likely to become cut off altogether. Likewise, greater traffic flow in towns leads to reduced air quality and noise pollution. Although as most of us have probably experienced, driving along a country road with the car window down at certain times of the year can leave us open to another sort of pollution, and you’re more likely to be woken up in the night by a hooting owl than a hooting car.
While metropolitan life offers instant access to restaurants, retail outlets and services, pastoral living provides outdoor recreation opportunities on the doorstep – walking, fishing and horse-riding. It’s also said that the sense of community in small settlements, and the opportunity to engage with neighbours, is far greater than in cities where, although there are far more people, it’s more difficult to get to know them.
Employment opportunities are more likely to be focussed around urban centres but likewise, crime figures, perhaps with the exception of Midsomer, are likely to be much higher in the city.
Price-wise, it’s likely that the cost of living in the country will be greater than in the city, factoring in higher petrol usage and the likelihood of greater heating and maintenance costs but equally, with more recreation and opportunities for temptation in towns, it’s possible they may equal out. The initial outlay on the properties themselves depends very much on the location, both nationally and within different urban areas. In particularly sought after rural beauty spots, the proliferation of second-home ownership has led to surging prices and locals being priced out of the market. Generally speaking, outlying areas with good transport links to nearby towns will carrier a higher price tag than those which are more isolated, so depending on the level of access you need, there may be opportunities to bag a bargain.
Whether you’re more of a town mouse or a country mouse, there are benefits and costs, wherever you choose to live.