Just off the high street, the village pond is the centrepiece of Oakley, frequented by many locals. As Jane Austen wrote in Emma, “Where the waters do agree, it is quite wonderful the relief they give.” Could socialising by the pond be “the relief” to the youth of today’s growing isolation and lack of “third places”?

Going on walks has become increasingly popular in recent years, ever since the Covid pandemic limited people to just their local areas. Now, many meet with friends to go on walks in the countryside, as doing so has even been revealed to improve one’s mental health.

However, Gen Z seems to prefer socialising online, on apps such as Instagram and TikTok. This has led to recent discourse about the lack of “third places” for young people, a concept introduced by Ray Oldenburg in his 1989 book “The Great Good Place”. In this book, he describes a person’s “first place” as their home, their “second place” as their school or workplace, and the third as a place to socialise, separate from their first and second places, such as a cafe or church. 

The pond could provide a “third place” for young people, as it is already the focal point for the community within Oakley, as one local said: “The pond brings a great sense of community… The grandchildren especially loved the Christmas tree, when that was up, and seeing the ducks.”

The benches surrounding the pond provide a place to sit, meet and chat with a friend, then perhaps walk to other favourite “third places” less than three minutes away, such as the Barley Mow pub and Jolly Olly’s Coffee Shop.

There is also a Methodist Church just by the pond, which holds a youth group for young people, another place for them to socialise. Horses often trot past from the nearby stables, less than 10 minutes away on foot, and perhaps faster on horseback.

Like in Oakley, the pond is more than just a pond for many villages in Hampshire, and across the UK- it is already a symbol of the entire village community and is a potential “third place” for its youth.

  • This article was written by Caitlin Dela Cruz, from Peter Symonds College, as part of Newsquest's Young Reporter scheme.