Returning to my roots

My life has come full circle.  Many of my earliest memories come from Sandhutton, current population 260, where my mother was head teacher of a two-teacher school which educated all the village children between five and fifteen years old.  These days I visit the village weekly – it’s less than ten miles away.  The school no longer exists, but my Spanish teacher lives there.

There we are. Sandhutton School, c.1951, just before I started there.

When I was five, my life changed a bit.  We went to live in London (current population 8.13 million).

A trip down the Thames: nearly at Westminster now.

I was a student in Manchester (538,000).  Then I went on to live in Portsmouth, in Wakefield, in Sheffield, in Leeds: all cities numbering their citizens in the tens,or even hundreds of thousands.  I loved city life.  I relished the opportunities only a city could usually offer, and the diverse populations living in them.

One of my favourite places in Manchester: The John Rylands Library. Who wouldn’t feel a real scholar in these surroundings?

When we moved to Harrogate, some twenty years ago, I announced we were moving to a small town.  A mere 75,000 people lived there.

Harrogate: one of its many open spaces: the Valley Gardens.

But that was before we went to France.  Laroque d’Olmes has a population of some 2,000 people, and its county town, Foix, has only 10,000. We came to appreciate small town life: its neighbourliness and our sense of belonging – the space to appreciate the countryside and mountains beyond.

The street near the church in Laroque, with the Pyrenees in the distance.

When we came back to England, that small town of Harrogate suddenly seemed horribly large, traffic-infested and in every way untenable, despite its green spaces and lively community life.  So here we are in North Stainley, population 730.

In fact we’re not even in the village, but in a little enclave just outside, with that walled garden I showed you last week.  Population 8.  It’s perfect.

One of North Stainley’s three village ponds.


Lens Artists Photo Challenge #64: Countryside or small towns.

Author: margaret21

I'm retired and living in North Yorkshire, where I walk as often as I can, write, volunteer, and travel as often as I can.

51 thoughts on “Returning to my roots”

  1. I stayed in Ellingstring 6 years ago and looked longingly at North Stainley each time we drove into Ripon. A beautiful part of the world. I believe in circles. My mother taught in Canberra when she first came to Australia, my daughter is moving there to teach.

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  2. I hope you’ll be very happy in North Stainley. It’s funny how our perspective changes as we find new extremes on the bell curve to measure everything against. Harrogate’s traffic is a bit much for me too, but it seems like a nice place. I usually only venture in so far as Harlow Carr then scoot off back across the border, but the odd time I’ve been redirected through the centre for some reason or other.

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  3. I think it’s appreciating what you have, when you have it that’s important. You have certainly done that, choosing to enjoy what your place of residence has to offer, and getting involved, however large or small that place may be .

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  4. You have lived in a some fine places. Do you find that chunks of your life are strongly linked to those different homes – I certainly do. I think the process of moving feels like time is being stretched. I imagine walking past that village pond slows down time too and is quite therapeutic. Beautiful photo.

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    1. Thank you. I have loved everywhere I have lived, albeit fo very different reasons. My regret is that alongside this, I haven’t put down deep roots. I see friends with friends of theirs whom they have known since schooldays and see often. Not a chance. As I have no siblings either, I do sometimes feel I’ve missed out on that side of life.

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      1. Yes, I agree with you about not putting down deep roots. My grandfather lived in the same town for 70 years. He was an only child whose divorced mother died when he was 18 and his two childhood friends were very close friends for his whole life, until sadly, he was the last of the gang of three left.

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  5. I feel rather as you do, Margaret, in never having lived anywhere for that long and feeling the lack of roots. There’s a sense of rightness in your coming full circle back to Yorkshire but experiencing life in a number of its various habitats. It soundslike you have found positives everywhere you’ve been and that where you are now is exactly right for the here and now 😊

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    1. Exactly. There are ups and downs to every choice. Those homebirds might sometimes regret not having been around the block more. So long as we make the best of what life throws at us, eh?

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  6. Well rolling stones might gather no moss but it don’t mean they can’t get no satisfaction? I enjoyed the photos and how interesting to use population size when comparing the various places you have lived!

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  7. Loved this post. The thing that strikes me about the school photo is how well dressed and smart the children are, despite many of them coming from poorer families who lived from hand to mouth most of the time.

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  8. I also liked your use of population size to describe your different home cities/towns/villages. I grew up in a county town half an hour’s train-ride from London and loved it and moved nearer to London when I married the first time. Like you I have moved house a few times and each time I have fewer neighbours. You mentioned having no deep roots anywhere and this I regret too.

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      1. Yes, to both of those sentences. I sometimes yearn for that close sense of community but most of the time I am grateful for the experiences I have gained from living in so many different places, I love the ‘separateness’ I feel living in a small hamlet and I am sure I would experience oppression and feelings of claustrophobia if I lived in the city or surrounded by close friends and family!

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  9. What lovely places you have lived! The simple beauty of N. Yorkshire and the area around North Stainley is hard to beat, but it’s a gift to have enjoyed so many, and varied, locales. Each place offers its own gifts.

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  10. This is a really nice post–got me thinking about my own history and moves. Like you, I’ve lived in fairly large cities and in the country and, like you, I’m back where I started, living about 10 miles from the farm I grew up on. I miss quite a lot about city life and sometimes fantasize about living in a place like Boston or London . . . but I’m a country mouse at heart, I think. (But I think I could live in the Rylands library, if they’d allow it!)

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  11. A wonderful tour and circle, Margaret. You have gained a lot of wisdom from your life and used it well. Lovely photos of your places – though I have to have my own roots deep in the soil. I have traveled instead, and have a safe spot in my home. I love the way you have always made the best of it. And loved every place you lived in.

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    1. Yes, it’s quite strange how I have changed from being a Townie to being a Country Mouse. I still enjoy cities, but like you, prefer to have my roots in the soil now.


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