Alan Castle: Rural life will only continue to get harder

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THE Castle family has always had an old saying at the forefront of their financial well being.

It is a simple one: “Look after the pennies and they will look after the pounds.”

The thought came to mind, once again, as I had reason to visit the free-parking capital of Northumberland, the former coal mining town of Ashington.

As I drove in, I noticed an independent garage selling petrol at 135.9p per gallon, all garages now following the marketing ploy of Marks and Spencer and add the 0.9p to every litre they sell no matter what the price.

As I drove past a supermarket garage, they were selling it at 1p cheaper.

Now, working on the principle that 4.5 litres is close to one gallon, it works out that the gallon now costs you £6.07 in Ashington. With the price in Alnwick recently reduced to 141.9p, that would be £6.38 per gallon.

It just shows that the cost of filling up your tank is getting to the prohibitive stage in rural areas. Among the Castle’s friends, £50 and more seems to be the usual spend when pulling onto a forecourt for fuel.

We also know of people who, because of hard times, cannot afford to take the car out of their garage.

Do not expect things to get better. I picked up a newspaper the other day and the headline caught my eye. It said: ‘IMF warned of oil may double in price by 2022.’

Now if that happens, think of the consequences. The cost of moving goods around. The cost of getting to work. This is a major threat to every person in this country and indeed the planet. It would certainly hit rural folk more than those in the city, who have alternative forms of transport available.

The warning comes from a research team within the International Monetary Fund who I would think would know about such matters.

The point that hit me hard was that it is only 10 short years away. Times are hard. The cost of living continues to rise and wage increases are very small or non-existent. You have been warned.

I HAVE been a wildlife enthusiast all my life. Often, birds and animals have a hard enough life without man trying to intrude.

My heart beat a little faster late last week when I noticed the first swift flying above my house and, a few days later, it was joined by house martins, who seemed more intent on heading north than staying.

No sooner had they arrived than gale-force winds battered the area, causing damage and some disruption. Welcome back.

My thoughts turned to last week’s Gazette where, once again, the row over the rooks in the trees in the centre of Rothbury village has been raised. It appears that this subject is now resurrected every year, in the spring, when the birds nest.

For some, rooks in the centre of the village will be an attraction. Others say they are a threat to health, a nuisance to villagers and visitors – and they can damage cars.

If there are concerns about health risks, surely a local environmental health official could or should rule on such matters.

I would point out that many a farmer or general worker with mud-stained boots will have entered Rothbury shops, while dogs foul the streets. So rooks are not the only danger to public health in the centre of the village. I remember a few years ago when residents in Swansfield Park Road in Alnwick complained about jackdaws nesting in trees in the Duke’s school field.

One day a number of men with guns appeared and started to shoot the jackdaws. This caused uproar from other residents and now the jackdaws live happily in close harmony with some of the residents – if not all.