Meet the family who bought back their derelict farm and now run 'bring your horse' holidays on Yorkshire's beaches

Riding your horse on a beach has become a unique and major part of a Fraisthorpe couple’s holiday accommodation business in the past decade.

The Milners' daughter Lauren riding Whisky on the beach at Fraisthorpe

Pete and Helen Milner developed three cottages from a dilapidated barn that one historian had mentioned may have dated back to Viking origin due to its chalk and cobble structure and was probably the original farmhouse..

They had previously started a DIY livery on their 25 acres at North Kingsfield Farm, having bought the farmhouse and land in 1998, a return to where Pete had grown up.

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It was around ten years ago that the holiday accommodation, stabling and seaside location became a winning combination for the Milners. Since then their summer bookings are now made up of around 50 per cent who take their horse on holiday.

The Milners have accommodation for guest horses on their farm as well as a livery yard

Helen said the beach is the number one appeal for her equestrian trade. “It’s definitely the beach that attracts horse owners. When the tide is out there are acres of sand from Barmston to the north nearly through to Hornsea.

“We have great hacking available all around us as there is a public right of way across Burton Agnes Estate at the back of us that adjoins other bridleways and you can get to Rudston, but the hack to the beach is the most popular and the reason most come.

“Access to the beach is at Wilsthorpe, which takes about 40 minutes from us. Parking is available at Auburn Farm near The Cow Shed tearooms. We have contacts with Ride Yorkshire that advertises lots of great routes. Ours at Fraisthorpe is definitely one of the best loved.”

The inspiration for Helen and Pete was when a lady who had visited said how much she had enjoyed her stay but that she had wished she’d known about their stables and paddocks.

Guest love the beach riding available nearby

Helen said that the lady had indicated she wanted to come back, this time with her horse.

“We had a shuffle around, putting up temporary fencing and organising the holiday horses on another part of the farm because one of my concerns is always over biosecurity.

“I wanted to keep those horses away from our own existing livery. It worked really well. Horse owners came, went back home and told their friends.

“There were 60 horses on the livery where that first lady’s horse was from and a couple of families really supported us which meant that in our first few years we didn’t need to advertise at all because of the numbers we were attracting.”

Helen’s next move was to attain approved status through the British Horse Society for guest accommodation for the horses.

“We set ourselves up even better and now have eight designated stables for guests’ horses.

“There are times when we are full if we get a riding school or a group from a yard but largely we will have anywhere between two to eight horses here right through the summer. The hack to the beach incorporates a little bit of the main road as our farm is on the other side of the A615, but there is then a public right of way to Brackendale Farm that comes out near the Park Rose Animal Park.

“Our guests enjoy all of the routes as they can go off for either an hour or so or for a full day.”

Pete handles all of the paddock fencing work on the farm.

He has operated his own fence contracting business working on post and rail fencing for farmers and domestic fencing since working on a farm and then for agricultural contractors, following his studies at Bishop Burton College where he won Student of the Year in 1987.

Buying back the family farm was a long-held ambition and since he and Helen have lived at North Kingsfield they have kept free-range hens, Christmas poultry and a flock of Texel ewes, but the mix of holiday accommodation, stabling, DIY livery and fencing are now the main thrusts.

Pete said getting North Kingsfield back was what he had always worked for and he was obsessed with doing so.

“When we lost the farm, when I was 15, I went to Bishop Burton as a man with a plan. I was driven on.

“My grandfather had passed away in 1970 and his five sons, including my dad, had run it between them for 11 years but couldn’t work together any more. It had been 250 acres and had included arable, dairy and beef.

“I was probably more affected by it than anyone in the family as I was the only grandson interested in farming and had always wanted to take it on, but it just wasn’t to be.

“The farmhouse and farm buildings were left derelict for 17 years. The farmer who bought it just farmed the land.

“When we bought it back the barn was at the point of collapse. It was about saving it and we couldn’t justify spending tens of thousands on keeping it as a barn.

“That’s when we came up with the cottages idea which led to everything else we have done. We have another building passed for development that could add to our offering in future.

“We started the livery around the same time as we had the hens. We’d had two thousand free range hens and had a contract to supply Field Farm Eggs in North Newbald.

“We just had a few empty stables and we were originally set up for four to five horses. Today we have ten horses on livery and our own with capacity for more.”

Their holiday accommodation has reopened for single household stays and on May 17 is due to be extended to mixed households. Helen is relieved that they have had their other businesses of livery and fencing that have largely continued as normal during lockdown.

Helen said the holiday accommodation business that they started nineteen years ago is already booking up fast for this year now that restrictions are being eased.

“We were soon booked up for the single household stays and from May 17 we are allowed to take mixed household stays. Bookings are flying in at present. It looks like there will be quite a few making their way from here on to the beach with their horses again.”