(October 1999) A letter from Jane

It has been two years since I was asked to write a piece for the Sibford Scene. The subject of my writing was to be ‘Going to University as a mature student?’ Now two years on I feel inspired to write but not on the suggested theme. I have always valued my surroundings but have found my views have changed, perhaps because of University. To be more specific I would like to pose the question ‘Is the village dead?’ As a member of a long-standing village family my views and priorities are probably very different to yours. As a child all I wanted to do was move out of the village and go to ‘Where it was happening’. If other people in the village had thought the same, surely village life would eventually die. (That’s what I thought then.) Don’t get me wrong I loved my childhood in the village and have very good memories. It is like the village shop, nobody wants to see it close but we all go to the supermarket for a wider range. So has the village died slowly since I have been away? I decided to compare the major issues of 30 years ago with now and see what changes have taken place.

There was the fight to save the valley from the developers, horses and bikers. That issue is stilt alive and kicking.

The criticism of farming techniques used e.g. types of fencing used, and livestock in fields where footpaths run, the influx of the horsey set and of course the constant battle between dogs and sheep. No change there. Housing development will always be an issue while there is a space to build. (However small.) Once you have built your own home nobody wants their surroundings spoilt by other people’s homes. The planting and cutting down of trees has been, and still is of major concern to all, and the teenagers are still being blamed for all the misdemeanours in the village.

Some issues have been resolved due to outside forces. Tanners’ coaches no longer run, Stewart’s yard has closed and the bikers have grown up.

It is the idealistic view of what a village should be like that fuels these issues. It is the conflicts between people who want to keep the village in the 19th century and those who want to drag it into the 21st century that keep the issues alive.

So far I have just looked at the physical aspect of village life surely it is the people of the village that keep it alive. I have tried to link different issues to different groups, more specifically the newcomers and the old village. That is an issue in itself. It is like the tourist that visits a new destination, in visiting it they change it. In Sibford we have a good mix of old and new, all you need do is look at who supports events, who uses the shop, who frequents the pubs and who is on the various committees. We do have a very transient section of the village whose qualities we have always been able to utilise to enhance village life. The real gauge of how healthy the village is, is the quality of the ‘village gossip’!

Don’t worry I won’t be naming names or disclosing secrets because I learnt a long time ago the gossip is rarely true and you never get to hear it about yourself. The gossip is just as prolific as in the past; it is just the names that have changed. (Well, some of them.)

In answer to my question is the village dead? The answer must be a resounding ‘no’ and l am sure you all could have told me that at the beginning. I feel the same issues will be around in the next 30 years and beyond. My advice to you all is don’t get worked up about village life but carry on the fight because that is what makes the village tick.

Jane Fletcher
Summer 1999