Most people in Britain know little about rural areas beyond a purely visual appreciation. Seen through a car window, or a TV screen, it is easy to see rural areas as idyllic and changeless. Many of us carry a picture of an imagined countryside where farming families till the same land as their forebears, where everyone knows and supports one another in ‘communities’, where life is slower and somehow better. Yet the economies and societies of rural areas of Britain are changing rapidly in the face of globalisation, economic restructuring, migration, and other social and policy changes. These forces have different implications for different areas and social groups.