Tolerance for a rural way of life

Tolerance for a rural way of life

Some people moving from cities and towns to live in the countryside can be blissfully ignorant of the sounds and smells they will inevitably encounter.

Rural Ireland is not always a quiet idyll. Cows moo, often at night-time in winter when they are in sheds; there are constant bird and dog noises; tractors can be going at all hours, especially during the silage season. Worst of all, perhaps, is the pervasive stink of slurry being spread, often at this time of year.

Poets such as John Clare, whose work is so descriptive of rural life, often painted a romantic picture. You think of Clare’s ‘Summer Morning’:

    “The cocks have now the morn foretold
    The sun again begins to peep
    The shepherd, whistling to his fold
    Unpens and frees the captive sheep.”

Nothing highlights the urban/rural divide better than rows between farmers and newly-arrived townies to an agricultural parish. Farmers, whose kith and kin may have lived in the same place for generations, are deeply resentful of ‘’blow-ins’’ who object to their long-established practices and way of life.

The mayor of a village in the Gironde, south-west France, recently requested the Ministry of Culture to issue heritage site protection to rural sounds including cocks crowing, church bells ringing, donkeys braying and cows mooing. His action followed several cases of people moving to the country and then complaining about the noise.

Bruno Dionis du Séjour, mayor of the small village of Gajac, wants rural noises added to France’s list of intangible cultural heritage.

“If we get this ranking, it will be a guarantee for a farmer not to find himself in front of the judges because his cows moo too much before being fed or because his donkey brays during the hot season,” he said.

We don’t have a ‘’sounds’’ register here because many people have rural backgrounds and tolerate life’s realities. As someone who has lived much of his life in rural Ireland, might I offer a few tips to people thinking of heading for the green fields:

  • Be prepared for animal sounds. Remember, these creatures were all there long before you moved;
  • Don’t drive too fast on country roads. If you meet a neighbouring farmer driving cattle, wait until he and his livestock get off the road. Even if you’re in a hurry, this only takes a few minutes;
  • The silage harvesting season means tractors going round the clock, but it doesn’t last too long;
  • If slurry spreading is taking place, make sure to close all windows and doors to keep odours out of the house. It will pass;
  • Many farmers have old-fashioned values and can be the best of neighbours, provided you accept they must get on with their livelihoods.
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