The Village Dream Preservation Society

The declining population of rural villages has long been a worry for Spain. One of the most striking images I encountered walking the Camino de Santiago a few years ago was the vast number of disused football pitches, characterised by waist-high grass and rusted goalposts.

It was clear that these northern municipalities had once had enough young people to form a team and play matches at the weekend, presumably drawing a small crowd to boot, judging by the terracing some of the grounds boasted. Sadly, the only sporting activity to be seen these days, involves a few old blokes and a box of dominos. They sometimes draw a small crowd too.

Not to worry though - there's hope on the horizon. Thirty-odd villages in Granada province have applied under a new initiative, to be able to open bar-shops. I'm not sure that's what they're called but it's a fair description of what they are.

The idea is that they become a hub for the community - you pop in for half a lager and arrive home with a fortnight's groceries. Or, more likely vice versa; your wife sends you out for a half a dozen eggs but you have half a dozen beers instead. And forget the eggs.

This does actually sound like a jolly good idea. It won't necessarily bring hoardes of youths scurrying back to the villages in a hurry but as part of the big picture, it might encourage a few brave pioneers to test the water. Ever more, previously isolated parts of the country are enjoying the benefits and flexibility of broadband these days and when you combine that with the very low house prices (and the very high ones in the cities), it's already a tempting offer. Add on the shop that's a pub thing and, glory be, you're pretty close to paradise, especially if you do one of the many modern jobs which allows you to work from home.

If the scheme goes well in Granada, you can bet your boots other provinces will hastily follow suit. Before you know it, all over the country, the rural football pitch grass will be getting cut, the goalposts will be being painted shiny white and blokes everywhere will be volunteering to pop to the shop for some eggs.