Meet the farmer's daughter who opened a tearoom on a shoestring to save her family farm in the North York Moors

Reviving an old custom on the roof of the North York Moors has led to a unique tearoom destination that visitors can only reach by foot, bike or horse.

Ginny with one of her home-made cakes

In just eight years, Ginny Skilbeck’s business idea to enable her to keep living at the farm has since expanded to include holiday accommodation and a special event venue.

Ginny’s parents, Andrew and Judith, and grandparents, Audrey and Joe, bought the remote High Paradise Farm up from Boltby in 1988 and Ginny and her brother, Ben, grew up there.

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Ginny was born the year after they arrived and following a career in the wedding and hospitality sector she has stepped back in time to create what she hoped would assist her, her mum’s and her stepfather, Tony’s, futures on the Moors.

Ginny Skilbeck with some of her goats

“Because of where we are situated there was a tradition that if there was a knock at the door a cup of tea and a scone would be offered to walkers on the Cleveland Way that comes right through our farm.

“My grandma carried on the custom for several years and had developed it into a small tearoom and bed and breakfast business. When we had to find a way of making the farm work or sell up, I brought back both the tearoom and overnight rooms.”

High Paradise Farm is now an oasis of peace and tranquillity for weary walkers, cyclists of the mountain bike variety, horse riders and has become an ultimate rural retreat for those who are looking for somewhere in the middle of nowhere.

Ginny said her early success spurred her on.

“I started by opening on weekends in July 2013. I remember Grandma would swiftly whip up scones and a cup of tea. When I started, I put a few laminated A4 sheets around the area, opened the door and served up sponge cake, chocolate cake, soup and, of course, the scone and a cuppa.

“By the autumn I left my job at Ampleforth College, during part of a reorganisation, and took on some work at The Fauconberg Arms in Coxwold to tide me over while we opened fully in April 2014.

“I had hardly any money. Mum and I laid the floor of the new tearoom using some of what I had, we put in the kitchen ourselves and converted two rooms making them fit for guest accommodation. It was all done on a shoestring.”

In the past eight years the initial two rooms and tearoom have been expanded.

The tearoom has taken over the whole of the courtyard now covered with an oak structure put up by the local cabinet makers Wren of Pear Tree House in Thirlby; a holiday cottage, five self-catering rooms, green camping for walkers who just want to put up their tent in the field, four pitches and a safari tent where holidaymakers can bring whatever they want without worrying about having to put up a tent.

Ginny said that one of her favourite times is seeing visitors’ reactions when they walk through the door.

“We have so many who walk in and say this really is paradise and that’s what I love.

“This is still our home and we want to share it with people who love it and appreciate what we are doing. I know we are a certain type of place for certain people.

“We are for those who are more used to having a bit of mud on their boots or maybe have dogs, a bike or a horse. Grandma Audrey’s scones, which I make to her famous recipe, are now a firm favourite.

“This is certainly not about making big bucks, it is about having the lifestyle and being able to continue living here, which we may have had to leave behind otherwise.

“For me it is also about enjoying having nice people here, updating the place and, eventually, I hope, paying off the mortgage.”

High Paradise runs to 25 acres and has always been home to animals. Ginny said that when she was young the courtyard was very much a livestock area.

“The courtyard had a circle in the middle where the cows were tethered up to be milked.

“The piggery was still in one part of the courtyard and some older farmers have told us there was the yoghurt room, so called because there was so much yeast in the walls it could turn milk to yoghurt in 24 hours!

“We now specialise in rare breed livestock that we use through the tearoom. We have Ryeland lamb on the menu this week from our 20 breeding sheep; and we have just bought three Wensleydales with a view to providing Mum with beautiful wool for spinning. We also have Suffolks and Texels.

“We have goat meat from our 40 breeding goats of Toggenburgs and Boers and absolutely stunningly well marbled and tasty beef from our small Dexter herd. All of our livestock is looked after by mum and my stepdad, Tony.”

Large Black pigs are also kept, as well as two Kune Kune pigs called Bonnie and Clyde. Ginny said the Kune Kunes were not at High Paradise for anything more than ornamental value.

“We care passionately about all our animals and we want them all to enjoy a good quality of life. We are also fortunate to have a local processor just twenty minutes away.”

Reaching High Paradise Tearoom may not be ideal for some as visitors are most definitely restricted to arrival by foot, bike or horse, as Ginny explained.

“It’s the only way we could have planning passed for the tearoom which sadly means we are not the most accessible place for those with disabilities, and there are no exceptions because the council’s view is that it is about the access, condition of road and lack of passing places.

“The nearest car park is at Sneck Yate a mile away.

“But arrival by car is allowed for those booking the holiday accommodation or attending our special events and weddings.”