Despite the recent visibility of gay men and civil partnerships on country soap opera The Archers, new academic research reveals that the reality is very different.

Professor Ann Jacoby of Liverpool University says her research shows small villages are awash with homophobia and sexist attitudes.

Professor Jacoby, a social scientist, said: “The rural idyll is very nice so long as you fit into certain categories, but problematic if you don’t.

“You should be married, have children, and live in this conservative family unit,” she told the Daily Mail.

As part of the study, a researcher spent some time living in an un-named English village. She found that gay men and single women face prejudice from the married majority.

The manager of the local pub spoke to the researcher about being gay in a small settlement of 450 people.

“In a village you feel like a freak. You don’t come across gay people, and you never come across people talking about it.

“I was in a very bad way, really depressed, not outwardly but inwardly,” he told the researcher.

Despite the image of the countryside promoted by programmes like Emmerdale, it seems that s

Nicholas Schoon, a spokesman for the Campaign to Protect Rural England, attacked the research as flawed:

“It seems a bit absurd to draw conclusions about the whole of rural life from a study of a single village.

“You are going to find unfortunate prejudices and human nastiness and unkindness in suburbia and inner cities as well.

“There is good and bad everywhere and a great deal of good in the countryside, which has a lot of nice, decent, considerate and caring people.”