The paper draws upon ethnographic research of two contrasting English primary schools and their villages to explore the themes of belonging and exclusion in contemporary rural contexts. The paper first describes the schools and the villages. A second, conceptual section explores the meaning of rurality in relation to the themes of class, belonging and exclusion. The final section of the paper then weaves these sections together through an analysis of the experiences of three incomers to the villages. Collectively, the empirical data demonstrate that the rural sphere is shaped by historical and geographical circumstances, as well as the arrival of networked individuals.