Monday, April 22, 2013

Urban Living v Rural Living – Which is better?

When you live in a City or Town you have access to most facilities and services, which we tend to take for granted and do not really give these a second thought.  It is only when we move from such a place that we realise that these facilities and services are not as readily available and are often provided in different ways or sometimes not at all

In the hectic world we live in it is important for us to balance our lives so that we take time to rest, relax and generally re-charge our batteries.  We will all do this in different ways, be it spending quality time with our friends and families with a meal out, a drink at our local, a day trip, weekend away or maybe even a holiday.  The more active and adventurous may decide on something a little more physically challenging, however the point is that it will be something for ourselves that we enjoy.  The thought of planning and doing these things are what often gets us through each working day.  Sometimes this will also lead us to make life changing decisions at certain stages of our lives, where we decide we want to live our lives at a more leisurely pace.  In order to achieve this many will consider leaving the often chaotic, hundred mile an hour pace of cities, large towns and urban areas behind and contemplate moving and living in rural or semi-rural locations.  In fact my family and I recently made such a move, prior to which our entire lives had been spend living in Birmingham.

When you live in a City or Town you have access to most facilities and services, which we tend to take for granted and do not really give these a second thought.  It is only when we move from such a place that we realise that these facilities and services are not as readily available and are often provided in different ways or sometimes not at all.  Therefore, I thought it would be worth discussing some of these points, so that those who may be considering moving to a rural or semi-rural area, have this information available to help them during the process:


By the nature of rural areas being more isolated than urban areas it is highly likely that mains sewers and drains will not be available.  The availability will vary depending on the size of a village or community and also its proximity to larger towns and cities, which are likely have these facilities.  Where mains drainage is not available, sewerage is usually managed by either septic tanks or cesspools. 

Septic tank – In simple terms a septic tank is a watertight ‘box’, usually concrete, which is buried in the ground just outside the home. The size of the tank is determined by the size of the home, however typically this will have a 1000 gallon liquid capacity. Foul water from toilets, baths, showers, sinks, washing machines, etc flow into the tank. The heavier solids fall and settle at the bottom, while the relatively clear water rises to the top where it is drained off into the earth. Any solids left in the tank are mostly broken down by bacteria, something know as anaerobic action. Not all the solids will be broken down so occasionally the tank must be emptied before it reaches capacity.  There will be a cost attached to maintenance and emptying of the tank and this should be investigated during the conveyance process.

Cesspools – Also referred to a cesspits, these are basically underground storage tanks made of brick, concrete or nowadays glass reinforced plastic (GRP). These will have a much a larger capacity than a septic tank, typically 18000 litres or above.  Cesspool act as a catchment/storage facility only and require emptying on a regular basis, which will also have a cost attached.  It is an offence Public Health Act 1936to allow a cesspool to overflow or leak.

Fuel and energy

The Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Statistical Digest of Rural England 2013 states: ‘Households in rural areas are more likely to be off the gas grid (i.e. not connected to mains gas), and hence reliant on potentially more expensive fuels. In 2010, 36% of households in rural areas overall were off the gas grid compared with 8% in urban areas and 13% across England. The majority of urban homes use gas as their main fuel type. However in rural areas, particularly Villages and Hamlets, a large proportion of households use oil fired heating systems’.

Fuel costs are currently increasing at an alarming rate, and this is a serious consideration when considering the purchase of a new home.  It is true to say that gas in expensive wherever it is available, however the cost of using an oil fired heating system in a rural or semi-rural area is equally expensive and does not just include the cost of oil alone, but will also include delivery and maintenance of an oil storage facility.  This could prove to be a very expensive ongoing cost that will need to be factored into future financial planning.


During the warmer months of the year when the days are long, living in a rural or semi-rural environment is extremely enjoyable, often idyllic.  Beautiful countryside, fresh air (sometimes very fresh if you live near a farm!), a variety of wildlife, fantastic walks, in fact I would suspect that it is these things that draw many to the countryside.  The flip side of this of course is that these types of communities can often become very isolated when the colder, darker nights commence and when winter really sets in.

Rural roads are often narrow and poorly lit (or not lit at all).  A sharp frost or even a light covering of snow will make these roads hazardous. Even a short trip to the local shop or a journey to work will be made much more difficult when the weather changes and the nights start to draw in.  For those viewing properties in the summer months these considerations are rarely thought about, because dark nights and poor weather are probably the furthest things from people’s minds at that time.

Public transport  - ‘DEFRA’s Statistical Digest of Rural England 2013 states: In 2009 42% of households in the most rural areas had a regular bus service close by, compared to 96% of urban households’. As can be seen the level of service for public transport in rural areas is inconsistent at the very least. Many people may not expect to rely on public transport if they have their own transport however, always bear in mind that circumstances can change and that this may be something worth thinking about, rather than ignoring it. Even if public transport is available, the distance to the nearest bus stop could still be a lengthy one, especially in isolated areas. 


Referring again to DEFRA’s Statistical Digest of Rural England 2013: ‘Average broadband speeds were slower in rural areas than in urban areas and a higher proportion of rural households have slow or no broadband. 8% of households in England have access to no or slow broadband. Sparse Hamlet and Isolated Dwellings had the highest proportion of households with no or slow broadband in 2010, 47%’.

Broadband will not be seen as essential by some, however if like my family you are used to high speed broadband, then once it is taken away it is something that you really notice.  Although we booked our broadband installation for our new house a number of weeks before we moved in, we still had to wait a further four weeks before it was actually installed.  As we rely on broadband for many different things, those four weeks were actually extremely difficult.  When the broadband was installed in was useable, but nowhere near the speed we had enjoyed at our previous house.  Also, we have noticed that we also get much more ‘outage’ in our new house, as the service seems to go down more often.  This again is something worth knowing if you too currently enjoy high speed broadband but are considering moving to a rural or semi-rural area.

I have to say that living in a semi-rural area is really nice and I am really pleased that my family and I decided to make the move.  If you are thinking about making a similar move then hopefully I have given you something to think about, particularly if you currently live in a large town or a city.  Rural living is lovely, however it is very different from urban living, which I suspect is why people decide to make the move, but as I have pointed out there are some possible downsides, if of course you decide to see them that way!

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