The experiences of different groups in rural settings are of significant importance to the study of rural geography itself. In particular, the experiences of both young people and travellers, often labelled as "others", are important in the way they provide a different perspective on rural spaces and cultures from the common `productivist' and `idyllic' cultural views. However, because they are minority groups and "different" from the "normal" majority, young people and travellers experience significant stereotyping from countryside cultures. This impacts on their experiences of rural space and culture.
In rural settings, young peoples' experiences are predominantly `nature' and agriculture based, but can also be heavily influenced by social elements such as parents, the community and social hierarchies that exist in these rural spaces. A number of studies have been recently undertaken to investigate the previously unexplored experiences of children in rural spaces. Many of the studies found that, as expected, children experienced rural spaces and cultures in an `idyllic' way. One scholar noted that `Deeply shaded by the legacies of romanticism' the rural idyll abounds with `the critical notions of innocence and naturalness' (Jones, 1997: 164).
Most children around the ages of eight to ten, as reported in a study undertaken in the rural setting of Clutha Valley Primary School in South Dunedin and the urban setting of North East Valley Normal in Dunedin, have had agricultural and natural experiences of rural New Zealand. One subject interviewed during the course of the study remarked how he went `eeling', `riding motorbikes', `running around in the paddocks', `getting muddy from working on the farm' and `working hard at hay making time' (McCormack, 2000: 16). Such interaction with agriculture and nature-based experiences provides children in rural areas with strong cultural knowledge of this area of society, and can influence the way they act and think.
Many urban children have similar experiences of rural space and culture. An urban youth recalled seeing `cats, animals, grass, lots of trees and gates' on his drives through the country (McCormack, 2000: 15). Despite his experiences lacking the natural or agricultural depth that rural children enjoy, they show that even those youths that have little interaction with rurality can understand and partake in the more idyllic countryside notions. The same interviewee also drew his family engaged in a game of cricket while on a picnic in the country, surrounded by animals and trees. He related such experiences to the idea of spaciousness, explaining that residents could just `walk outside and go into one of the open fields' in order to play a game of cricket or have a picnic. Obviously the more sophisticated notions of rurality are lacking in these limited experiences but the essential components are there, illustrating that most children have had some experience of countryside spaces and...