On both sides of the tracks: British rural teenagers' views on their ruralities

Hugh Matthews, F. Tucker

Research output: Contribution to Book/ReportChapterpeer-review


Within the Minority world, notions of the ‘rural idyll’ abound. The notion of a rural idyll stubbornly persists as a common conception of the British countryside, particularly with regard to issues of family life. Rural children are popularly understood to be able to run freely across fi elds and through woods, being able to explore distant hills and forests (Aitken 1994), where they develop a close association with the ‘natural’ environment in which they live. For many onlookers, rural places are conceived as safe, risk-free, community-rich spaces in which parents can bring up their children away from the turmoil and social dangers that are seen to be part of urban living today (see Valentine 1997a). O. Jones (1997; 2000) draws attention to a substantial body of literature, whose re-reading by successive generations, portrays the countryside as a haven of ‘primitive innocence’, the last refuge of a state of humanity defi ned by a ‘wholesome naturalness’ that enables children to develop in pure, unblemished, almost perfect ways (Matthews, Taylor et al. 2000: 141). Nature is seen to provide spaces and materials for play, and rural young people are understood to be free to explore their local area and able to use spaces apart from the ordered adult world (Shoard 1980). The countryside in these (re)presentations is typically that of wellorganized, pastoral, Middle England and not that of remote, desolate, wild Britain, whose essence equates instead with degradation, deprivation, and dehumanization (Ward 1990). Commodifi cation of this Romantic ideal reinforces a view that the rural package is an entity that is worth buying into, especially for those who have the well-being of children in mind (Bunce 1994).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGlobal Perspectives on Rural Childhood and Youth: Young Rural Lives
Place of PublicationNew York
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9780203942222
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jun 2007


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