WHEN we arrived at our new home in a village there was a carrier bag hanging on the door.

It contained tomatoes and eggs. Not long after, another arrived, full of potatoes, then more eggs appeared on the doorstep.

They were from the neighbours, welcoming us into the community.

We thought the offerings were a one-off. But since then we have been on the receiving end of all manner of produce grown in our neighbours’ gardens.

Some days I’ll come home to find a bag of apples on the wheelie bin, or courgettes on my car bonnet.

Our neighbours are great and, contrary to reports in the Press, community spirit is thriving.

A survey national suggests that community spirit has almost disappeared.

It seems people are unwilling to ask their neighbours for help, even if they find themselves locked out.

And only a minority say they benefit from neighbourly acts such as having their bins put back after collection.

I was locked out of my home only last week and immediately ran to my port-in-a-storm, my octogenarian neighbour across the road.

She has helped me with so many problems over the years.

When our phone broke I used hers, when I was ill I called her to help, when my daughter needed a lift to school she obliged and, best of all, I know she is always there if I need her.

And if she’s not there, I nip to another neighbour, whose door is always open, fire always blazing and cup of tea always offered.

I count myself lucky to belong to the six per cent of people who feel their neighbourhood has a strong sense of community.

But it isn’t only in my present home – wherever I’ve lived I’ve made friends with neighbours.

We had a few lovely neighbours in our last home in a more urban area, although I’d gladly have banished the students next door to the core of the earth.

And when I lived in London — generally considered to be extremely unfriendly — I got to know the people living around me.

Life is what you make it and if you make an effort to talk to people they will talk back.

Of course, there are exceptions.

Neighbours From Hell makes for good TV, and I feel very sorry for some people, residing alongside thrash-metal loving weirdos who party until the early hours, surrounding their properties with 30ft Leylandii hedges who throw rotten tomatoes at your door.