Let me paint a picture…
Spring is here and the countryside is calling. With the windows flung open, the perfumes from the garden waft in from the old wisteria – its clusters of purple-blue and white flowers cascading around the doorway of the cottage – an enticement to step outside.
Leaving the stone cottage we trundle down the winding path, through the swathes of uncut grass, while bees hover over the field covered with dandelions and daisies. Then, picnic basket in hand and book underarm, we clamber over a well-used wooden stile which crosses the handcrafted, mossy, drystone wall.
Following the path as it winds through the copse, beams of sunlight stream through the trees. Throughout the ancient woodland, birds are singing, the smell of wild garlic fills the air, wood anemones and lesser celandine peek through the undergrowth, and a wash of bluebells carpets the ground.
Emerging from the woodland by a gurgling stream, all that remains is to nestle down at the foot of a grassy knoll to indulge in the beautiful view of patchwork fields over the undulating landscape…
…there you find the heart of ‘Cottagecore’.
This might seem like just a romantic piece of prose, but there is a more meaningful aspect.
‘Cottagecore’ is a movement which embraces a wide range of ideas and activities, largely related to slow-living, self-sufficiency, well-being, sustainability and living in harmony with nature. It is thought to have first emerged in 2017, but became more popular in 2019, gaining global recognition as a result of a growing interest on social media. However, the movement has taken off during 2020 as a result of the Covid pandemic, with many people finding they had more free time at home to seek and explore new activities.
Throughout the lockdowns of this pandemic, the Cottagecore movement – which reflects a desire to step back and take time, return to nature and focus on slow living – has been quietly rising, particularly amongst the younger generation. This has been heightened through the requirement to stay at home, being compelled into a different way of living and reassessing our lifestyles.
Cottagecore offers a comfort, an escape from a materialistic lifestyle, a nostalgia for childhood, and in some cases a gentle meditative craft to help distract the mind, lift the mood and bring a feeling of well-being.
Cottagecore celebrates the art of pottering. Taking great reward in the small things and being resourceful. Using your own hands to make and mend, aesthetically pleasing processes, and employing your skills to create things. Creating a community full of nature – nurturing a seed to grow into a flower or vegetable, cooking with local produce, knitting loops into stitches, wild swimming in a plunge pool, taking a walk, and finding small treasures. These are activities anyone could try and, in essence, this gives a snapshot of Cottagecore.
The movement ties in with the sustainability message to live a greener, less materialistic lifestyle, and to be more appreciative of what the land produces: mixing fresh, local ingredients together to make your own hearty dish; using local markets to source a variety of products; and picking up fresh local milk and cheese and sourdough bread from the local bakers.
What better setting is there to indulge in this than the Yorkshire Dales, which represents the very best of local produce.
Slowly does it
The desire to escape to green space (shown through reports that rural estate agents have been inundated with urban dwellers wishing to move from the city to the peaceful, rural idyllic life) is evidence that there has been a clear new-found appreciation of being close to nature, and particularly amongst young people.
The Yorkshire Dales is the perfect place to experience being close to nature. Many local businesses offer a variety of experiences, including foraging, wildflower identification, sketching the Dales landscape, pottery workshops, woodcarving, cookery and felting. There are delightful cosy, rustic holiday cottages, sparkling plunge pools to dip your toes in beside the waterfalls, drystone walls which mark the heritage of the Dales and its working agricultural landscape, and nature all around.
However, whilst many might aspire to country living and the rural idyll, it is important to remember that, in reality, the life of rural communities has always adapted and evolved in response to difficult and unpredictable conditions. By way of example, many rural businesses, facing financial difficulties exacerbated by the pandemic, are at risk of disappearing.
Through our actions we can all help prevent this and ensure the sustainability of local businesses and Dales life. Think about shopping local online – and in person when possible. The rural economy has been hit hard by the lockdowns but is working hard to bounce back. Many family businesses and small enterprises have shown their resilience through the pandemic with perseverance and inspired ideas.
Cottagecore may be a romanticisation of rural life, but it offers an opportunity to reconnect and be in touch with nature. There is no better place to do this than the Yorkshire Dales National Park, even if it is seen by some as a little escapism – I’d suggest we all need a bit of that.