Idyll removed from the rat-race

Councils given new powers to help small businesses survive in struggling village communities
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The Independent Online
It's one of the first lifestyle changes many urban dwellers notice when they drop out of the rat race and move to Fownhope. No longer are you woken by commuter traffic or the dawn chorus, but by deer crashing through woodland around the village, six miles from Hereford. Vic Bosson, a retired magistrate, is in no doubt they cause more damage in the village (pop 1,000) than any petty villains. "The only danger to my home is that the deer from Cherry Woods will find a way in and ruin the garden," he said. "They are very partial to roses."

Mr Bosson is among a growing band of townies who have moved to the picturesque village only a stone's throw from the Wye. "My only regret is that I didn't move here 10 years earlier. The people here are absolutely marvellous and even though I was an outsider they accepted me because I was willing to contribute something. People who come down and tell villagers how to live make a vast mistake."

With three pubs, two general stores, a post office, garage, butcher's, hairdresser and thriving village school, Fownhope is almost self-sufficient. "Certainly the pace of life is very much slower," said Gaynor Furse, 37, a mother of two who moved to the village from London seven years ago.

"We have just been for a long walk in the hills and my children have been playing in the stream and charging down the fields. It's rather nice not being stuck in the Wandsworth one-way system and knowing your children are safe when they go down to the village shop to buy their lollies."

But Fownhope is not without its problems. A group called BADD (standing for B4224 against dangerous drivers) has been set up to fight motorists who ignore the 30mph limit. And the latest issue of the Fownhope Flag newsletter tells how 271 villagers signed a petition against a sports hall being built on the recreation ground, with parking for 100 cars.

James Grindley, 51, a picture restorer, moved to the village from Bristol 12 years ago. "I suppose like a lot of people I had a rose-tinted view of what life was going to be like," he said. "A lot of people use Fownhope as a dormitory suburb and I find the thoughtless infilling that's going on rather distressing.

"There are restrictions on extending the village boundaries so everybody with a decent size garden is flogging it off to make a few bob. But it's a very friendly village."