The Social Dimension of the Countryside

The Social Dimension of the Countryside

I now go to the pub every month and meet up with a group of three to eight people; I never used to go to the pub with anyone outside my family or boyfriends but now I do, and that is a nice change. People have come to my home too, even once to see and ride my pony. One of the people I meet in the pub now regularly comes round to collect my pony’s poo for his garden, and he brought his lovely wife and son to visit too. I also engage with these people on a Facebook messaging group, and sometimes email them too, usually to talk about our common interest – the Ring’s End Local Nature Reserve, its management, their events, and the wildlife that was spotted or cared for there. So the nature reserve is giving me a social outlook, contributing to my mental wellbeing and giving me friendships, which is an important - albeit hidden - benefit of the countryside.

Pub-goers at Ring End Local Nature Reserve 2023 

Some of these are the pub-goers at Ring End Local Nature Reserve, 2023.

The countryside can sometimes be associated with isolation, loneliness and poor mental health outlook but this is reversing in the wake of initiatives supporting these issues, for example, with farmers – The Farming Community Network has a specific helpline for this (  It is recognised by the NHS, and has been covered by the BBC Countryfile programme quite a few times.

Although my hobby, which is horse riding, can be isolating, I have got to know other horse riders in my area, and I have a team of professionals who come and help me with my pony. We used to get together to help promote and discuss our bridleways under the British Horse Society banner, and we ran a talk one evening that was very well attended. Recently, I met a lady who clipped my horse for me and she was lovely, and will come back again! There is being lonely and being alone, and I am happy to say that I find I am happily in the latter camp when it comes to my hobby! I have recently also joined a riding school and ride a horse there every week (as my pony is too old for faster gaits and jumping!), so my social circle has grown further.

Back to the nature reserve: I additionally got to know people beyond the pub-goers as I contacted and met people through running events or projects. For example, I have been emailing and will meet a lady who will help us run a stargazing night at the reserve, and have met a man to discuss quotes on pond dipping platforms and path-making. I also have teamed up with other individual reserve volunteers/pub-goers to spot wildflowers and help to make a Phase One map. These were lovely trips out with another person in nature and for nature.

Another way I have boosted my social connection is through my holidays in nature or for nature. I have done three nature conservation working holidays, and boy, how more social can one get? Sharing dormitories, being on the cooking rota and eating together, going out in the evenings or playing games together inside, spending our free days doing other activities - usually with other members of the group - plus talking to the wardens, were all our social outlets! I went on a first riding holiday last year in Wales and I made friends with an American lady, we are now Facebook friends, and we spent one of our days riding with quite a number of people: what a fascinating, social, horsey holiday that was.

Riding holiday Wales 2022 

Riding holiday in Wales, 2022.

Of course, there are plenty of other ways in which the countryside can have social butterflies fluttering around our green and pleasant land – farm shops, country shows and engagement with countryside professionals for example sheep shearers and farmers, or farriers and horse owners. Our countryside has a wealth of many things, including those that benefit our health via a laugh and a natter - with maybe a pint involved!