15 ways the middle class have ruined the British countryside

·6-min read
middle class countryside
middle class countryside

William Wordsworth once “wandered lonely as a cloud” in the Lake District. After a record few years of tourism, he’d be lucky to make it to the shops of a pint of milk without weaving through two-dozen Range Rovers, a sourdough bakery and an independent craft shop. Things are now so bad that even Ben Fogle – patron saint of plummy outdoor pursuits – has had to make an appeal against our national parks becoming a “white middle-class theme park.”

Much of the footfall, you see, is from visitors whose tastes run more to gastropubs and boutique shops than to glades and rivers (witness one TripAdvisor review, posted this summer, which read: “I was expecting there to be some lakes but not this many!! By God there are lakes EVERYWHERE!! My advice is to steer clear if you find lakes unpleasant as they can’t really be avoided.”)

Whisper it, but… is there just the faintest possibility that you, like me, could be part of the problem? Find out…

All the gear…

Dad has spent a fortune on kit. His boots are made out of materials with names like Norse Gods (Vibram, Goretex and other words that sounded impossibly macho and absolutely worth the price tag on his office lunch break).

The drone is also pretty cool, and the boys back home are going to be so impressed with these aerial shots (less so the other visitors, who came for peace and quiet are now quietly plotting his death to a soundtrack of a giant hovering mosquito).

middle class countryside drone - Getty
middle class countryside drone - Getty

No idea…

Mountain rescue teams responded to a record 3,629 callouts in England and Wales last year (almost 1,000 more than in 2019 and up 15 per cent from 2020) as wannabe walkers considered the kit they might need to climb Snowdon and decided on selfie-sticks.

Mum’s the word…

No Gortex for Gail. She is dressed head to toe in a trend she spotted in the Sunday Supplements and social media. Cottage Core involves a froth of florals and smocking. It is now proving equally appealing to the midges.

Trailing teens…

Caspian is such a poetic soul really, his art teacher once described him as having “a unique point of view” in a school report. He’s going to be really moved by these mountains, just as soon as he takes his AirPods out, lifts his head from his iPhone and stops slowing the progress of the two-dozen walkers currently stuck behind his brooding pace.

teenager country walk british countryside - Getty
teenager country walk british countryside - Getty

You say ramble…

But “hike” is so much more LA and aspirational.

Stop for selfies…

Oh look! An epic view! “The loveliest spot that man hath found,” said Wordsworth. What he really meant, of course, was “that man hath found to take a selfie”. Let’s stand in front of the walkers who have made pilgrimages to it for the perfect shot of ourselves looking poetic but also surprisingly thin and young.

selfie countryside british - Getty
selfie countryside british - Getty

Nature calls…

But where are the public loos? A couple of summers ago, the Snowdonia Society found it necessary to publish a publicity campaign reminding visitors that “there are no toilets in the mountains, [so] go before you go! It is by far the best for everyone.”

I kid you not. They even had to issue instructions on what to do should you find yourself in dire need miles from a Dyson hand-dryer. “Find a quiet area where people don’t go and no one can see you. Best option: take a strong bag or container which seals.”

It’s a dog’s life…

Last year, The National Sheep Association (NSA) said more than two thirds of sheep farmers who responded to its UK-wide survey have reported an increase in worrying attacks by dogs during the past 12 months. But not, of course, Mr Barkley (yes, thank you, it IS rather an amusing name, isn’t it?). He’s a poodle cross (of course he is) and he wouldn’t hurt a fly. We don’t like to put him on a lead. Or train him. It’s not laziness, we’re practising gentle-pet-parenting.

Supporting the local economy…

Brunch o’clock is approaching. But don’t worry, Gail has done her research. Apparently there’s a super cute farmer’s market just up the road. The family loves farmer’s markets. They’re all about shopping local. Authenticity. Now I wonder if they’ll do those darling Vietnamese iced coffees they serve out of a tuk-tuk at their local one? And how do you say ‘bao bun’ in Welsh?

Perma-paddleboarding…

Oh you’re still wild swimming? Yeah, we were quite into that a few years ago, before it got so, you know… mainstream. Now we don’t go anywhere without our paddleboard. LITERALLY.

paddleboarding lake district - Getty
paddleboarding lake district - Getty

Chelsea tractor…

Hasn’t this been amazing, walking all day I mean? The best things in life really are free. Now let’s climb back into the new 4x4 we left in that passing-point this morning. Why are all those drivers lined up behind it looking so surly? They should really stop and smell the flowers.

Come on baby, light my fire…

National Park Wales (that’s Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority and Snowdonia National Park Authority) begged visitors to pack a picnic instead of a pack of sausages this summer, amid fears that (an excellent Welsh expression, this) “tup” tourists, tinder dry grass and disposable barbeques would almost inevitably prove a catastrophic combination. But surely… just this once?

Dryrobes or die…

Yes, it was over £100 and we only come to the Jurassic Coast once a year with the grandparents. Same week each year, in August, so it’s actually rather balmy. But I wear it to the Waitrose in High Wycombe at least weekly, so it’s actually been a great investment.

dryrobes countryside middle class - Getty
dryrobes countryside middle class - Getty

Back to the pub. Sort of…

Well, it used to be a pub. Now there’s a sign saying “no work clothes” are allowed at the bar (read: no locals), they’re serving £15 negronis and sourdough pizzas have replaced pasties.

And so to bed…

Where we spend the next hour cursing the rural Wi-Fi, while trying to edit today’s snaps for Instagram and scrolling through Rightmove, searching for the perfect local bolthole.

Do you think the middle class have ruined the British countryside? Tell us in the comments section below.