Rurality

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CHAPTER 1

What is rurality?
Nicolette Rousseau BA

BRITAIN is primarily a country of urban dwellers. For many, rural areas are seen as an idyll, the antithesis of the ills of urban life. The countryside is a place to 'get away from it all' - a weekend retreat, or somewhere where one might aspire to live. People have images of rolling landscapes or bleak moors, complete with smiling farmers leaning on farm gates. The country air is seen as recuperative, and the environment generally beneficial. McLaren in 1951 argued that city children should be encouraged to go hill walking; today young offenders are sometimes sent on hiking expeditions.
Jones and Eyles (1977), in An Introduction to Social
Geography, stated:
"This
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As part of our study of rural health and health care we held discussion groups with patients and health professionals in which perceptions of rurality were discussed (McColl,
1993). Most people found it easy to categorize their homes as being in a rural or urban area. However, there was more difficulty at the boundary between urban and rural. One patient said:
"I know what rural means in terms of a village or hamlet but I am not sure where it stops being rural and becomes urban."
When questioned about what made them describe the area they lived in as rural or urban, people used varying and often quite sophisticated criteria. Though based around population size, they also took into account the general 'feel' of a settlement. For example, two comments from rural patients were: "I feel if you've got no facilities then you are definitely rural."
"It's your own perception of where you live."

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Table 2 Variables used in Cloke's index of rurality (after Cloke, 1977; Cloke and Edwards, 1986)

Variable name

Considered in 1971

Included in 1971

Considered in 1981

Population density
% Population age over 65
% Population men 15-45
% Population women age 15-45

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Occupancy
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