Writing on the New Statesman website last year I declared:
Rural England has been laid waste by the rich. Just look at the names of their houses: The Old Rectory. The Old Bakehouse. The Old Red Lion.Since then the process has only got worse.
Last week I had dinner with a company director who had just moved from The Old Stables to The Old Watermill.
Somewhere behind this façade - Marie Antoinette’s play dairy brought to the market by Kirsty Allsopp - is a smokier, more productive landscape. And I am determined to see it peopled again.
At the start of the month the Shropshire Star published a sad article looking at how the villages affected are getting on a year after the closure of 13 rural post offices. The place names are an incantation to me:
Lydbury North has been replaced by an outreach service. These skeleton services are run by people like Brian Simmonds, postmaster at Pontesbury, who travels around local village halls and even people’s houses, plugging in his portable equipment.In some places the effect has been far worse:
Brian himself runs outreach services in Worthen, Wentnor, Stiperstones, Marton and Acton Burnell, where it has been a year of change for the post office and its users.
Acton Burnell, near Shrewsbury, is the unique position of being a tiny village but with almost 400 international students on the doorstep from Concord College.
Postmistress Rose Jackson says: “It’s very frustrating, I’ve had to turn business away. I cannot do packages over 6kg and students have got to get a taxi into Shrewsbury to send one. The amount of things I can’t do – foreign currency, insurance packages, I cannot sell postal orders and I cannot accept payment by cheque. I can’t even do fishing licences which we used to do a lot of.”
A year on, Rose now views the post office as “doing a service to the community” and that the scaling back of the service was “not well thought out”.
Better than nothing’ might be the mantra of communities that at least offer some post office services, but the repercussions of closures are being severely felt 12 months on for the likes of Pam Jennings.Now comes news that many of the bus services in south Shropshire have disappeared. Yesterday the Star reported:
After 27 years, her post office in Aston on Clun was closed on August 18, 2008, a date that sticks in her head as the beginning of a slow decline in her other business – her shop.
“One without the other – a shop without a post office – is hopeless,” says Pam indicating an empty shelf that was once a busy counter.
“People would come in and spend money in the shop, or come in and spend money at the post office. I could still do trade because people come in with parcels and say ‘I thought you were still a post office’. But it’s hopeless. We used to be open 9am to 5.30pm five days a week plus Saturdays. Now I close the shop at lunchtime, but I might close altogether soon.”
Three Shropshire bus services were ending today after last-ditch negotiations to save them failed. The routes were commercial services operated by Horrocks bus company.Which leaves no buses from Clun at all, apart from the weekend shuttle service for walkers.
The firm said at the beginning of July it could not make them viable.
The withdrawal of the 860, 773 and 745 routes means there is now no bus service from Bishop’s Castle to Wellington and no service from Bishop’s Castle and Clun to Newtown or Ludlow.
Residents appealed to Shropshire Council to subsidise the service, but discussions between Horrocks and the council failed to find a solution.
Resident Margaret Wilson described the move as “ridiculous”. She said that the services were “very popular” and regularly used with a lot of local people.