Village life. John Fielden. Tadcaster

I live in a small hamlet (population 40-50) which is a cul de sac off a main road.  There are only two families aged over 80 (which includes us), lots of commuters to York and Leeds and two farms. Nothing much happens at the best of times so the lockdown changes nothing.  We have no social focus apart from the church on alternate Sundays, but this is of course closed and there is no pub.  Our big event each year is a fete on the village green outside our house; and my wife organises teas in our garden for 2-300 people who come.  This year the fete is cancelled which is very bad news for the church finances and means the loss of a key event that binds us all together.

Nearby is the River Wharfe, the source of regular threats to our houses; in December 2015 half of all the houses in the village including ours were flooded and in February this year I spent many nervous moments watching the flood waters creep up the defensive bank that we had created.  Every few hours the Environment Agency updated the readings on two telemetry gauges on the river and this gave us some warning.  At one end of the hamlet seven householders had clubbed together to raise £25,000 buying themselves a large rubber sausage or Aquadam, which they filled with water to act as a flood defence.  This action brought us our ten seconds of fame on local and national TV and means that Googling Kirkby Wharfe produces something other than property advertisements.

preparing the sausage

Our two farmers (arable and beef) have been affected more by the weather than the virus.  They both suffered greatly from the winter floods with some low lying fields under water for about three months and now they are enduring an unusual five week drought (until last night’s downpour of 1.5ml of rain).  One or two fields are not yet sown with a spring crop, which will certainly affect yields later.

Neither farmer has any visitor attraction or fund raising enterprise to attract the public, so they are not suffering from this source of income being suddenly halted.  One farm does however have a very successful livery enterprise for about 75 horses and has developed strategies to minimise contact and preserve distancing.  All the horses are now out permanently in their own paddocks and their owners have to commit to visiting the livery at pre-booked times each day which limits the number of people on site.  The noble girl grooms who work at the livery have to self isolate themselves from their families when they return home in the evenings.

The lockdown changes little in our life and merely strengthens our strong community spirit.