How a library and 18 volunteers have breathed new life into the Yorkshire village of Goathland

Goathland is famous for its appearances at the village of Aidensfield in Heartbeat
Goathland is famous for its appearances at the village of Aidensfield in Heartbeat
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For decades, Heartbeat has been the heartbeat of Goathland.

The village in the North York Moors National Park is best-known for its role as the fictional Aidensfield in the popular 1960s police drama, which ran from 1992 until 2010.

Goathland

Goathland

Tourists still visit to see the pub, shop and police house that featured in the TV series, but Goathland is moving on - and a volunteer-run library is the latest venture to unite this rural community.

Last December, the first library to serve the village since 1966 opened in the Goathland Community Hub building, an 110-year-old village hall run by a trust. One year on, and the concept has proved popular with all generations and is making a difference to the occasionally isolated lives of older residents.

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Goathland's reading room closed the year England's footballers won the World Cup - and the decade in which Heartbeat is set - to be replaced by a mobile library service which called at the village until 2011. For seven years, there was no provision at all until the parish council stepped in and spearheaded a project to turn part of the hub into a lending library.

The initial 10 volunteers have been bolstered by eight more helpers, among them retired hotel owners, civil servants and even librarians.

Heavy snow hits Goathland in 2010

Heavy snow hits Goathland in 2010

They offer a choice of 1,500 books to borrow, a reference section stocked with local history material, a second-hand bookshop which has raised more than £600 for the Great North Air Ambulance, a jigsaw club and children's reading challenges.

In January, an eight-week IT skills course aimed at 'silver surfers' will begin, and the volunteers plan to take out a subscription to Ancestry.com to cater for the growing numbers of amateur family history researchers.

Keith Thompson from the parish council was one of a group who helped bring the library project to fruition.

"It has gone very well and there have been a lot of 'spin-offs' from the library. They found they were being given donated books that they didn't need, so they started the second-hand sale around Easter time. They set up the jigsaw swap shop, as we have a lot of elderly people living on their own in the village who derive a lot of pleasure from them. We were snowed under with jigsaws!"

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The volunteers open the library every Wednesday, and make frequent trips to North Yorkshire County Council's book repository in Northallerton to choose a fresh selection of 680 titles. The venture is supported by the council's library service and is part of their catalogue system, meaning that members can request books to be transferred to Goathland from other branches.

"We have some retired librarians who volunteer, so they really know their stuff and are knowledgeable about the catalogues - they don't just throw stuff on a shelf. They know what lends and what doesn't, and can rotate the book selection depending on what is popular."

But it is the computer classes that Keith feels have genuine potential to transform the lives of elderly residents.

"We have older people who want to learn how to do online shopping but who don't dare press the button to place an order! Our classes are aimed at 'silver surfers' and we are going to teach them to stay safe and watch out for scammers.

"The benefits will be immeasurable - it will open up a whole new vista for them, as we don't have many shops locally and the supermarkets in Whitby will deliver here. It has brought a hidden issue to the surface and these people are over the moon about the courses."

The library's accessibility and friendly atmosphere have helped to make it into a lifeline for those living on the moors.

"Some days it is busy, some days there is hardly anyone in, but it is operating at zero cost to the community. People bring their dogs, sit down for a chat and a cup of tea at the hub's cafe."

The library's projection equipment has also been used for film and presentation evenings covering topics of local interest such as moorland management, conservation and gamekeeping. The most recent talk was given by the Pickering Hedgehog Rescue charity. The hub building is also used for concerts, fundraisers and is even a licensed caravan site.

"The age range among library users is big - from five to 92! There are plenty of young families in the village.

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"It has been so beneficial - the library is something we always wanted to do, and we were right to do it."

Goathland Community Library volunteers are looking for second-hand and unwanted laptops to use as teaching aids for their new IT courses. Anyone who can donate computer equipment can take it to the library on Wednesdays between 10am-4pm.