The glorious Yorkshire Dales National Park is open to all but there are times, especially in the height of summer, when we’d rather have the beauty spots to ourselves.
Sharing isn’t an issue for John Pitchers, whose four-bedroom home in Appletreewick comes with its own private nature reserve. Woodlands, which is on the market for £475,000, includes Reynards Gill, which estate agent Amanda May, of Dale Eddison, calls “a breathtakingly beautiful pocket of heaven, little known even to locals.”
The gill is a 40ft natural amphitheatre, extending to 2.32 acres, and includes wildlife-rich woodland, an ancient cave system, an old mine, streams and pathways. There is also a large pond, as yet unlined, that fills up in wet weather.
A 15-year management plan is in place with Yorkshire Dales National Park, under which they contribute 90 per cent of agreed re-planting, felling and clearance work on the reserve with the chance to further extend for another 15 years.
The property also comes with formal gardens, a decked terrace and the possibility of resurrecting a mountain bike business. Until 2015, Woodlands offered bike livery and cycle washing facilities.
The price looks keen and that’s because the property is subject to a Section 106 agreement, which means that it must be sold to an existing resident of the Yorkshire Dales National Park or to someone moving into the YDNP to take up full-time permanent employment in an established business. The buyer could also be a former YDNP resident who has close relatives in the YDNP and has a need to move back.
“The local occupancy clause is there for a good reason and it’s not as prohibitive as it sounds. The house has only just gone on the market and we’ve already had interest it,” says John, who had the house built in 1990.
A well-known former publican, he and his father owned the New Inn in Appletreewick, which included the gill and adjoining land. They managed to get permission to build a home next to the pub.
“Sadly, my father died before we finished the house so I moved in and have lived here ever since,” says John, who later sold the pub but retained the house and the gill, which he has nurtured.
“The gill was derelict when we moved here and the lower part was used for hay making. I agreed to make it a nature reserve and got a grant to plant 1,200 trees, which are maintained by the same forester who planted them. It’s been amazing to see how our work has reintroduced so much wildlife.”
The beauty and tranquillity offered by his nature reserve has helped in his fight back to health after a devastating road accident. An endurance cyclist, John transformed the fortunes of the pub and made it a magnet for fellow mountain bikers but he suffered leg injuries and brain damage in an accident with a car during a training ride in 1999. Loyal customers of the pub, which he ran for 21 years, gave him a lot of support while the gill offered a retreat.
“It has a magical quality and its own microclimate. Geological survey scouts say it was part of an ancient barrier reef so it has some incredible features and it’s also very secluded. The National Park was unaware of its existence until recently,” he says.
The landscape is a big draw for buyers but so too is the village. Appletreewick is one of the Dales’ most picturesque places. Eleven miles from Skipton, it sits amid spectacular National Park scenery. The River Wharfe also runs through the village, which has some of the best Dales walks, including the path up to Simon’s Seat. A popular destination for visitors, it also has a very strong community spirit, with a high number of full-time residents.
There are two pubs, the New Inn and the Craven Arms, a church and a village hall. Families benefit from being in the catchment area for Skipton’s grammar schools.
John hopes to stay in the area and is selling for “family reasons” but closing the door on Woodlands is an emotional wrench. “It’s very special and such a big part of my life but I know whoever buys this house will fall in love with the gill,” he says.
Amanda May adds: “Saying a property is a ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ is a hackneyed phrase but with Woodlands it really is true. The prospect of being able to wander up into your own nature reserve and enjoy the wonderful flora and fauna is like no other chill-out available. The house is generating a lot of interest.”
**Woodlands, which was built in 1990, is £475,000. It has a hall, cloakroom, sitting room, dining room, kitchen, a library area and a bedroom with en-suite bathroom and a library area. On the first floor, the house has three bedrooms, a cloakroom and a bathroom. Outside, there are lawned gardens and a dog run area enclosed within post-and-mesh fencing and dry stone walling, a south-facing decked terrace, a parking area for six cars and a double garage. The property also comes with Reynards Gill, a nature reserve with woodland, streams, a pond and caves, which extends to 2.32 acres. For details contact Dale Eddison, Skipton, tel: 01756 630555, daleeddison.co.uk