In search of the real stories of the Queen's countrywomen
Rural life is often overlooked by the media, politicians, and just about everyone else – after all, there's very little in the way of cutting-edge news-making drama about the way in which countryfolk live. Some city-dwellers even ask, "How can you live there? Nothing ever happens."
But of course things do happen out in the sticks – as most Western Morning News readers will know only too well – and now a major organisation is asking for proof that things really do go on beyond the hedgerows…
An appeal through the auspices of the NFU has been launched to find real-life stories from Britain's rural women.
Countryside, one of the NFU's flagship member magazines, wants to explore how the country-woman's role has changed over the past 60 years as part of its celebration of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.
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And the magazine says it will go on to explore a number of themes regarding rural life – including conservation, countryside access and what it calls the "Good Life" revolution.
Researchers might get short shrift from many countryfolk when they ask about the latter – people who've lived in remote places for a long period often regard the tendency to embrace self-sufficiency as an overly romanticised middle-class foible – but where there's authentic muck there's usually a bit of magic, as NFU members will be aware.
In the first article in the series, readers are being asked to send in their thoughts on how the roles and responsibilities of women have evolved since Princess Elizabeth became Queen in 1952.
Martin Stanhope, Countryside editor, said: "My grandmother was a Land Girl who met my farming grandfather during the war and their partnership was instrumental in building the family farming business in the post-war years. But it's fascinating to see how those roles have evolved – from one primarily of home-maker to the much more hands-on decision-making positions held by today's rural women.
"So we're really keen to hear the stories of today's country women – or their families – and how they first got involved in farming, what obstacles or prejudice they encountered, and their hopes for the future."
One well-known Exmoor farmer's wife told the WMN: "What's changed is that the countryside used to be seen as the place where the nation's food was grown – now it's regarded as a zone for people's leisure activities.
"City people's leisure activity, that is – they don't want anything politically incorrect like hunting to go on, even if deer numbers need to be controlled to protect the farming industry that grows the food urban people like to eat."
Whether such stringent views will be welcomed by Countryside isn't clear, but the magazine's readers are being asked to get involved by sending in their thoughts on how they think life has changed in the countryside since Her Majesty took to the throne in 1952.
Anyone who would like to contribute should email email@example.com or write to Countryside magazine, Agriculture House, Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, CV8 2TZ.
At the WMN we'd like to hear your views too – email wmneditor@westernmorning news.co.uk or write to Newsdesk, WMN, 17 Brest Road, Derriford Business Park, Plymouth, PL6 5AA.