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When Only A Village Will Do

One of my earliest memories of childhood is this day when I was 4, my friend was 3, and our moms had sent us down that summer day to the village post office to get the mail. My friend was the ‘street savvy’ of the two of us, as I was sort of dorky shy kid and certainly did not have the kahunas she did, to go the oh, maybe 1500 or so feet to the post office. It took the two of us to open that heavy door of the building, and it was as we were struggling that my friend lost her grip on the handle, I guess, I don’t remember this bit well, but somehow I ended up with my finger caught in the door. My cries of pain brought the post office ladies all out to help, and again the rest is fuzzy, but it ended up a hairline fracture and I had this tiny little splint put on to keep it steady – it was my D finger, on which hand I can no longer say for certain, but I think it was my right.

Can’t imagine any parent sending their 4 and 3 year-old to the post office today but those were different times, and our village enveloped us from the world outside, as even as, of course, bad things happened, but rarely ever there.

That feeling of security and community, of being known to the people in your neighbourhood, folks that really do care about you, that bring casseroles in times of trials and tomatoes from their garden in the summer, who plow the drive in winter, check on the elderly, and all those things that make us feel as though we are part of something larger than ourselves.

Our villages in Southwestern Ontario take on the English style, featuring the church with its steeple and the manor house next door, the common green for sport and such, the pub, the hardware store, grocer, a few shops, the community hall, the coffee house. Well, and the busy-bodies, and yes there are downsides to villages, if you wish to remain aloof villagers can be a suspicious lot and sometimes do not know when to mind their own business.

Yet, the positives outweigh the negatives, usually, and it is why I’ve always gravitated to villagesesque type areas.

In the suburbs you find out about crime only when it appears in the evening news, in a village you know what’s up within about 10 minutes of the events. With Social Media now that time is substantially less, sometimes getting the live play by play, as happened this year back in Dodge when some crime that began in London made its way out to the village, and via Facebook I was given the lowdown as the police searched for the subject whose car had been crashed and was now on foot.

“Thomas Talbot instructed Mahon Burwell to survey the Wharncliffe Highway ( Wharncliffe Road North and South) through the Crown Reserve to link Commissioners Road… to the Proof Line Road (Richmond Street).”

Surveys of 1824 – Wortley Village – Old South Heritage Conservation – PDF

The year I moved back, in the village within a city I have always wanted to live at the heart of, well it was picked as Canada’s Best Neighbourhood for The Great Places Competition. It is a community other parts of London have tried to copy, to bring back that spirit and sense of security a village offers, neighbours hang out on front porches, dog walkers stroll down the sidewalks, and a bag of groceries for dinner is just around the corner, or the thing-a-ma-bob for the project you’re working on is a stroll away on a Saturday afternoon.

The yearly competition, sponsored by the Canadian Institute of Planners, recognizes the country’s best streets, public places and neighbourhoods.

Though the competition was fierce, the judges were impressed by Wortley Village’s diverse mix of housing, walkability, bike-friendly roads, tree-lined streets, thriving local businesses and strong sense of community.

“It has a true identity. When you think of great neighbourhoods, you think of physical spaces as well as the people,” said judge John Fleming, a member of the Canadian Institute of Planners, who’s also London’s planning director.

The London Free Press
Updated: November 7, 2013

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