Symondsbury Present and Future

Visitors to Symondsbury are immediately aware of its beautiful and peaceful setting. Although it is often alive with activity, and the sound of children playing at the school, there is an impression of a tranquil traditional English village with its ancient church in the centre and surrounded by a cluster of thatched cottages. In appearance it has changed little over the years, even though its life has changed considerably. But in one important aspect Symondsbury has not changed as much as many other villages. Those who move to make their home here and are keen to be involved in village life soon become part of a community with deep historical roots. There are many local families who continue to form the basis of community life. They are active in local organisations and various regular events including the Symondsbury Mummers which is one of the oldest of its kind in Dorset. It is this which gives the village a rare opportunity to attempt to integrate the old and the new in whatever changes that increasingly affect our way of life.

Symondsbury may be called a 'traditional rural' village in contrast to an 'urban village'. This is simplistic but it may help to understand what is happening around the country. The former, has been gradually disappearing from the beginning of the industrial revolution. But it has not completely gone, and significantly it leaves a heritage of a sense of English identity. Symondsbury combines important features of both types, but, at present, it retains its traditional rural character for the reason mentioned above. This means that there is a living heritage of village life.

In contrast, the 'urban' village is made up, for the most part, of people who have moved from the town or city to make their home in a village. They want to keep the appearance and some of the traditional village life. Among them is usually an active group of people eager to have a thriving community. They get involved with the local school, the village hall, sports' activities and other organisations. This kind of village lacks the historical roots of a living heritage. What it does have is the knowledge, experience and skills of modern, urban life. For example, village halls can be very successful in terms of thriving activities with the leadership of those who have professional expertise.

Symondsbury has the opportunity to integrate the old and the new, the 'traditional rural' with the 'urban'. But this raises a number of important questions. For example, either the 'rural' resists or gives way to the 'urban' as it becomes the more dominant way of life. Thomas Hardy wrote about this many years ago in his novel 'The Mayor of Casterbridge'. There is a conflict between the two central characters, Michael Henchard and Donald Farfrae. Henchard is the 'traditional rural type', and Farfrae is the one who comes in from outside and takes over with all the new ideas. Of course, the novel cannot be used as a blueprint for the problems and challenge of village life. But it helps to understand that there are two views and styles of life which need to learn from each other. The danger today is that the 'urban' approach takes over and the living heritage with its ways of thought and wisdom may be lost. At the same time, the old must be open to change, to new ideas and ways of organising.

Symondsbury faces this opportunity. Together with its traditional roots, it is rich in creative talent of local people and those who have settled here. There is a flourishing tourist industry which continually brings new life and activity to the parish. Its farming community still remains an important part of local life. There is so much which may play a vital role in the way the old and the new can give birth to community life in this 21st century.

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