I've been thinking about this a lot lately as we contemplate moving away from this street that between us we've lived in for 34 years.
I feel at home when I recognise people. We're have a row of local shops here, and it's comforting to see the woman in the flower shop, the man who runs the greengrocers, and the blokes in the hardware shop with their two adorable dogs (I confess I often create a 'need' for nails, or seeds, just to visit those dogs). I know we're fortunate to have those shops and I use them as often as I can.
The neighbours are familiar, of course. I often complain of feeling watched as our house is so close to the road, but I do like that we know who our neighbours are. It's a good mix here - an older couple, several families, some students. Children play out in the street. People stop to say hello. It feels safe.
Over the years, I've met more people round here, and nowadays I usually see at least one person I recognise whenever I leave the house. It makes me feel settled here.
I've met many of those people through growing. A few years ago, a handful of people set up a transition towns group, and while we don't do much under that name any more, one of the first things we did was set up a community garden.
Last year, we found that the council were selling our plot of land. As that garden gate closed, a new one opened as we were offered a long abandoned old community allotment. We said a wholehearted yes, and started the process of shifting our community from one space to another.
After nearly a year, the allotment is taking shape, both physically and administratively. Our little community of ten has strengthened as we've worked together to clear endless piles of rubbish, and set ourselves up as an official group with a constitution and a bank account.
We all live locally, and often bump into each other in the street. We chat about who's on holiday, and how we really should move those blackcurrants that are still on the old garden site.
We're such a varied bunch, it's unlikely we would have met in any other setting. And yet we did meet, brought together by a shared desire to get our hands in the soil and eat some food that we'd grown ourselves.
And that, to me, makes a place feel like home. Being recognised in the street. Knowing there's somewhere you can go where people care who you are. Yes, I have friends all around the country like many people, but feeling rooted in a place is different. As I contemplate moving somewhere else, it's what I'll miss most about round here.