Election 2015

Election 2015: Idyllic Eden 'cut off from politics'

Penrith and the Borders
Image caption Penrith and the Border covers the least populated part of England

Many people feel abandoned by politics, cut off from the decision makers. But for those living in rural areas, like Penrith and the Border, it's not just a feeling - they really are isolated from Westminster and much else besides.

It is beautiful part of the world. Walk over the hills from a village pub to a B&B and you would likely think there are few problems here.

Won by Conservative Rory Stewart in 2010 with more than 53% of the vote, Penrith and the Border is a vast constituency.

But in many areas the electorate feels cut off.

Image copyright WittWoo Photography
Image caption In parts of Penrith and the Border the electorate feels cut off
Image copyright WittWoo Photography
Image caption The constituency stretches from the Yorkshire border, across to parts of the Lake District, and including a 40-mile stretch of the Scottish border
Image copyright WittWoo Photography
Image caption Despite its beauty, there are concerns the countryside is becoming less and less able to access the services and jobs available in other parts of the UK
Image copyright WittWoo Photography
Image caption Some groups are trying to energise the local population to tackle issues of seemingly increasing isolation
Image caption The withdrawal of local bus routes left the Coward family struggling with the school run

Paula, Hayley, and Nigel Coward run the post office in Orton village.

When subsidies to bus routes were withdrawn by Cumbria County Council (because of budget cuts, the council says) many services were cut - including the one that Hayley Coward and her sister used to get to school.

The family was faced with using the college bus service at a total cost of £2,500 a year, or driving them to school.

Now, Paula Coward says: "An hour in the morning and an hour at night is spent by one of us taking our children to school."

Image caption Photographer Paul Witterick has difficulty uploading images to the internet

Google photographer Paul Witterick says virtual routes are also failing people here.

He is based in Appleby, and captures those photographic tours that you can click on online to see, for example, what a B&B looks like.

It is when he tries to upload the images - in the latest case 430 of them - to the internet that it grinds to a halt.

"The ones we put in about half an hour ago - nine of them are synched up," he says.

A national roll-out involving the government and county councils has seen 75,000 Cumbrian properties come online. Many credit the scheme with a lot of success.

But Mr Witterick's is not yet one of them.

"I can feel cut off," he says.

"It's really frustrating when nothing happens and the wheel of death just spins. I could be more streamlined and out doing other things, using my time more resourcefully rather than waiting."

Image caption Douglas Chalmers says the countryside is less able to access services and jobs available in more built-up parts of the UK

Douglas Chalmers, the policy director for the regional CLA, the body that represents rural landowners, says finding a mobile phone signal to conduct his business is often an issue.

"In the post today we got some of the election literature you always get," he says.

"In this most rural of constituencies, [there was] not one mention of one rural issue worrying the people who are going to receive that."

Mr Chalmers is concerned that despite the very evident benefits of living in such a beautiful area, the countryside is becoming less and less able to access the services and jobs that are available in more built up parts of the UK.

Image caption The Women's Institute has sent out a questionnaire to assess the extent of local problems

The concerns extend far beyond buses and broadband.

The Women's Institute in Orton and Tebay has started sending out a questionnaire to the local community, to try and build up a list of problems.

Wendy Higgins from the WI says it feels as if it has been getting worse.

"That's one of the reasons why we in our local WI thought that we would try and energise the WI to look into these issues," she says.

"They are affecting people right across the county and right across the country. This isn't something that's just a Cumbria problem, it's nationwide.

"It's leading to greater rural isolation."

Here is a full list of candidates:

George Burrow (Green)

Neil Hughes (Liberal Democrat)

Lee Rushworth (Labour)

John Stanyer (UKIP)

Rory Stewart (Conservative)

This report is part of the Today programme's series covering 100 constituencies ahead of the election. You can find the full series here.

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