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Is it too late to save the British countryside?

By Helen Pentith  //  Fri 8th February 2013

At Escrick Park Estate, you can imagine how passionate we all are about our location. Whether you're visiting to take your horse out hacking on our rideways, here for the weekend in one of our Hollicarr holiday homes or looking out the window from one of our rural offices to let, the greenery that surrounds you can be both calming and inspiring. The rural countryside is part of our national identity: as British as fish and chips, trips to the seaside, rain, and gallows humour. As quintessentially British as the countryside is, however, it sometimes feels as though we've sometimes gone out of our way to destroy it, to partition it away and to mitigate its impact on our day-to-day lives. The British countryside of today is different in many ways to the landscapes that captivated Keats and inspired countless poems, paintings and novels, but does that mean it's in terminal decline? Is it too late to save the British countryside?

Enclosure acts

In the eyes of many people, the decline of the British countryside began when enclosure acts started to be widely introduced midway through the 18th century. These acts were designed to assign ownership to land that had previously merely existed - either as wild country or agricultural land where farmers would graze their livestock. As the enclosure acts were passed up went gates, hedges and fences, partitioning the countryside into even segments possessed by landowners and worked by farmers.

While some people see the enclosure acts as the first nail in the coffin of the British countryside, we're not so sure. The neatly partitioned, picture postcard image of much of the British countryside is what gives it its quilted, cultured, manicured calm - a large part of the appeal of the rural UK is that rugged areas directly abut the cultivated fields and meadows of worked farmland. What of Britain's noble old hedgerows, too? Without the enclosure acts, these beautiful structures that line our country roads and act as homes for dozens of bird, insect and mammal species would never have existed.

The urbanisation of the UK

In our opinion, the key instigating factor in the decline of the British countryside was the urbanisation of the nation as brought on by the Industrial Revolution. Before the Industrial Age, Britain operated on what's known as a 'cottage industry', with lots of skilled individuals up and down the country manufacturing handmade goods that would then be distributed throughout small geographical groups. The Industrial Revolution changed all this, automating previously handmade processes and centralising the manufacturing process. As a result, people moved away from the countryside and congregated in towns and cities, and in turn, these towns and cities began to expand, slowly subsuming the countryside beyond as they sought to admit more people.

So, is there any way of combating this relentless urban sprawl? Can we save the British countryside whilst simultaneously preserving as much domestic industry as possible? We certainly think so. Here at Escrick Park, we don't think that rural life and the working world are mutually exclusive concepts, particularly now that WiFi, video conference calling and file sharing apps have made working remotely so easily achievable. We think that relocating the office environment to the countryside - without impacting the delicate balance of nature - will help to prevent the city from encroaching too much on the countryside whilst simultaneously benefitting your employees. Take a look at our rural commercial lets and see how you can learn to live in - and with - the great British countryside.

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Country Land & Business Association Winners of The Bledisloe Gold Medal
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