There’s something about the West Country air: it brings out the independent spirit. You can see it in the unique properties like quirky Devon longhouses, Cornwall’s slate homes, and romantic squares and crescents that make Bath a world heritage city.
The people who live in the region are different, too: like many, they’re up for a fight against a developer if needs be. But they’re also happy to embark on more positive campaigns to enhance their built environment. As a result, a campaign group is becoming a kitemark of a place worth moving to.
Take the 60 volunteers of the Cornwood Inn Action Group (CIAG), determined to bring their local pub back to life – not just to serve pints but to act as a crucial community hub. It’s the final surviving inn on the south-west fringe of Dartmoor; a generation ago there were five.
So far 100 of Cornwood’s 300 residents, as well as some grant-giving bodies, have contributed to a fighting fund that’s nearing £250,000. This will be enough to refurbish the pub inside and out and pay back the loans that allowed locals to buy it at auction late last year. The rival bidder for the Cornwood Inn, beaten by the local campaigners, was a developer.
三级成人视频“It’s had no real investment for a couple of decades,” says CIAG chairman and Cornwood resident Al Goodwin. “We’re advertising for a manager and aim to serve pub grub and drinks – it’ll be a free house – and use upstairs space for community activities.”
三级成人视频Villagers want the inn to offer internet access and help for older residents unfamiliar with life online, to promote Dartmoor to visiting groups from ramblers to cyclists, and to offer services, such as providing a point for parcel collection, prescription drop-offs, and visiting facilities like hairdressers or therapists.
“None of us has run a pub nor been involved in a project like this,” adds Goodwin. “It’s incredibly hard work but creating something people need makes it worthwhile and exciting.”
Some 40 miles away at Topsham near Exeter, it was the prospect of development on a much-loved waterside site that inspired the community to spring into action in 2015. A fundraising project raised over £300,000 from 450 people in less than a fortnight.
三级成人视频The community’s bid for the land was the highest – just – and as a result, public access has been guaranteed to the six acres overlooking the River Exe. The area is now managed by and for the community, where it has previously put on events.
This independent-minded estuary town has a history of campaigning activity. In 2018, worried by a short-term glut of empty shops, locals set up the Love Topsham campaign. This group promotes “going local” with a loyalty card offering shopping and café discounts, and has organised a string of events like Join The Club! Weekend (to encourage locals to try everything from aerial yoga to walking rugby) and shopping events with singers and live entertainment.
The result of all this hard work? The town now has some 50 thriving independent shops, cafés and restaurants – and very few empty stores. “This sort of independent spirit is the zeitgeist of the 2020s,” explains Robert Giles, a former estate agent from west London who is moving to Dorset. He is planning to take advantage of this as he sets up a buying agency for those moving to the West Country.
Most people moving there – whether they are affluent downsizing retirees, self-employed remote workers or families escaping the rat-race – are doing so to enjoy an authentic, local and sustainable lifestyle and will campaign to get it.
三级成人视频“Many of these people tend to have backgrounds in business or public service, so know how to publicise their cause and who to lobby,” he adds. “They therefore tend to be successful, turning their areas into honeypots for the property market. Totnes in Devon, for example, is known for rejecting chain shops so has a cachet, which attracts a premium.”
Giles suggests that this community spirit helps to boost house prices. “It’s the people who make the place worth moving to,” he insists.
三级成人视频If he is correct, watch out for rising house prices near Redruth in Cornwall, where a remarkable 30-plus year campaign to save John Betjeman’s favourite place of worship, the Holy Trinity Old Church at St Day, is now reaching fruition.
三级成人视频In 2018 the roofless church was handed over, for a nominal £1, to a not-for-profit group. It was set up by volunteers who, since then, have been cleaning and clearing the site. “The object is to have it as an open-air venue for community events,” explains the chair of the community group, Bernadette Fallon.
三级成人视频She has organised volunteers to turn what was a ruin into a workable space; new windows have been put in by professionals but the rest of the work has been done by eager parishioners.
“So many volunteers have helped,” she says. “Some even remember when the church closed in 1956. In 1988 we started a campaign to bring it back into use; we’ve had a lottery grant, crowdfunding and other fundraising. Now it’s for music and community events.”
While houses, shops and churches are obvious targets for communities, the wider built environment is also a space where such action takes place – even road signs. In Somerset, the campaigning spirit has extended to a multi-year project to restore the county’s original fingerposts – those pretty white spindle road signs giving mile-counts to villages and towns, familiar to viewers of Midsomer Murders.
三级成人视频In the Sixties, councils were advised to remove all fingerposts and replace them with the standardised national road signs. In Somerset this advice was ignored (another little indication of independence) and so the county still has a wonderful collection of these quaint posts.
三级成人视频Volunteers have for two years been working with the county council to restore them. The exercise follows a similar Lottery funded project across Exmoor, where 200 of the signs were returned to their original condition.
Mike Neville and Stuart Lawrence, two volunteers from Minehead, have been working on posts along the A39. “I wanted to make a difference in my community and I’d noticed the signs starting to look scruffy,” says Mike.
“It’s really satisfying seeing them looking pristine by the side of the road and good to know you’ve done your bit in restoring a local heirloom.” The council is running workshops for the next batch of volunteers, and says there is no shortage of people willing to offer up their time.