CASTING an eye over Robin Page’s updated book, The Decline of an English Village, can make for gloomy reading; thus a visit to the “unique” Herefordshire village of Shobdon might well counteract all those modern-day gripes about the state of rural communities.

For starters, Shobdon retains its village school; the local shop and pub are thriving; the parish church, simply sensational in all its Rococo glory.

Unlike the findings in Mr Page’s book, first published 45 years ago, people in Shobdon do still say ‘hello’ and community spirit is vibrant.

Add to that mix an army of willing and able volunteers, while locally-based businesses and landowners are vigorously singing from the same hymn sheet.

Meanwhile, Shobdon Parish Council is ever mindful of parishioners’ wants and continues to come up with the goods.

It is also looking to the future: the subject of climate change is firmly on the agenda.

Dismiss images of Vicar of Dibley-style meetings here; this is possibly the ‘youngest’ parish council in Herefordshire, and its members are getting results.

True, the village had to improvise last year when its First World War centenary commemorations were impacted after a hapless motorist collided with Shobdon’s war memorial.

Yet one year on, the restored memorial stands in a more accessible location in the village centre, four names have been added to the roll of honour, and the Lord Lieutenant of Herefordshire, Lady Darnley will be performing the unveiling this Saturday, July 20.

Then there is the brand new playground, a £60,000 beauty which comes in response to appeals from local families.

Thanks to council match-funding, generous donations and a sizeable Herefordshire LEADER grant, the area is now up and running, and proving a winner with its quality climbing frame and basket swing.

The wooden plane, tractor and springy chicken reflect Shobdon’s heritage – the busy aerodrome, agriculture, and a large hatchery.

Parish council chairman, 48-year-old Bill Stokes considers the village to be “unique”.

He explains: “For a start, no other village has an airfield!”

Thanks to this aspect of village life, the annual Shobdon Food & Flying Festival, which has just taken place, gives generous donations to the community.

Outsiders might consider Shobdon a testing village for easy living - after all, one of the region’s busiest roads, the B4362 slices through it.

However the parish council has been on the case for some time.

A safer route to the popular primary school has been developed, plans for a footbridge near the local pub, the Bateman Arms, are underway and an upgraded pedestrian crossing with traffic lights is coming.

The parish council has recently acquired a one-acre field to provide a safe pedestrian link between housing estates.

“We have a good relationship with landowners and businesses so that we can go and ask them for help,” says the chairman.

Take a look at the village notice board – just outside the award-winning shop – and you will see posters calling parishioners to join in the ‘Big Berry Bash’, the ‘Popmaster Quiz’ or perhaps take up opportunities for yoga, pilates or something called purestretch.

When threats of closure loomed over the school, the parish council took the pragmatic view that a proposal for construction of 35 new homes would go some way to saving the school.

That hunch proved correct. It joined forces with Luston to become one of the county’s first federated schools and Shobdon’s school roll of 48 doubled in size.

There’s currently a queue for the over-subscribed pre-school in the village hall and a toddler group has opened in the Methodist Chapel.

Unlike many other rural communities, Shobdon has embraced housing development, and a further 40 homes will swell the village’s current 800-strong population.

“We’ve had such an influx of people, a good mix and people are not made to feel outsiders,” says Councillor Stokes.

“You can put down the shutters and say no new houses but then the village will die,” he says.

The clerk, Emma Lewis is herself “from off”, moving from North London with her family four years ago.

“No-one is ever made to feel like an outsider,” she says.

During the Second World War, Shobdon was an important military centre and Army huts later helped combat what was a national housing shortage.

“Shobdon was just a little village where the RAF trained but it changed radically after the war,” says Councillor Stokes.

“All these things make Shobdon unique.”

This is a village which does not baulk at the mention of house-building. Shobdon stands out as a much-developed village with no less than 99 new properties in just a 20-year period.

The Pearl Lake caravan park is seen as a boon too.

“This helps us keep our village shop as the population can double to around 1,600,” says Councillor Stokes.

He feels that part of Shobdon’s success depends on its demographic.

“The school attracts families and a spin-off on the back of that is the successful shop, and we have a very hands-on parish council!”

Members are used to tackling long agendas and now climate change is on the list.

“With extremes of weather we have to consider the possibilities of flooding and problems for elderly residents or the farming community during hot spells,” he says.

Introducing an electric charging point in the car park is under discussion too.

All in all, Shobdon is developing a great future for itself.