For many years, a large proportion of those moving to the Yorkshire Dales have been retirees and most are following a long-held dream of escaping to the country. Now, for the first time in years, anecdotal evidence shows that the demographic swingometer is shifting. Brian Carlisle, MD of J.R. Hopper and Co. estate agents, says that young families from urban areas are now targeting the Dales in search of a different way of life.
“The home working phenomenon brought about by the pandemic means that we are seeing many more young couples with children looking to live here. Before Covid they were tied to being within travelling distance of towns and cities for work and that has now changed for many,” says Brian. “The result is that the sort of properties that used to be bought by the 60 and 70-somethings are now being bought by people in their thirties and forties.”
Ben Pridden, agency director of Hewetson and Johnson, agrees: “We are seeing families moving out of the commuter belt to homes in open countryside. As a result, the Yorkshire Dales and also the North York Moors National Parks, which were once seen as remote, are now opportunities for a new style of living.”
The new brigade of “off-comed-’uns” are to be welcomed, says Brian Carlisle, who notes that much good should come from an influx of young families. “It is a very positive shift. The children will help keep our schools open and our sports teams going and they will fill vacancies in the pubs and restaurants that struggle to find part-time staff to wash-up and wait on.”
Buyers still have to be relatively well-off to buy in the Yorkshire Dales. According to Rightmove, the average house price in the Dales is £289,125. The average terraced property is £217,102. Detached properties sell for an average of £414,703 and semis for £269,552. However, in hotspots like Grassington, values are far higher. The average price for a home in the vibrant village, which is a 10 miles from the train station in Skipton, is £424,339.
“In the past family buyers would target more expensive places like Wharfedale and the Settle area because they are in easy reach of a train to Leeds but home working opens up less expensive areas, such as Swaledale and villages near Kirkby Stephen, though more interest will push prices up in these locations,” says Brian, who estimates that the pandemic-led boost in demand has seen Dales property prices rise between five and 10 per cent.
Family buyers are targeting small towns and villages with good schools and excellent broadband speeds. There are plenty of the former and good broadband is no longer a worry for many rural areas thanks to the B4rn community network, which is superfast and more reliable and cheaper than mainstream providers.
“The children might have travel on a school bus to the nearest high school but that’s the only drawback. The benefits here are fresh air, low crime rates, countryside to play in and quiet roads to cycle on,” says Brian.
Jo and Marc Banks sold their home in Brighouse to fund a new life in the Dales and moved into their live-work property just as Covid began to take hold. They bought a house, holiday cottage and campsite in Marsett, near Lake Semerwater, which trades as Stablefell Holidays, and they have no regrets.
Marc still works in construction but Jo has left the stressful daily commute to the office behind and now manages the holiday business while caring for her seven-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter.
“We wanted to move to somewhere rural with a business that I could run and that allowed me to spend more time with the children. Stable Fell ticked all the boxes,” says Jo. “We now live in a hamlet of 13 houses and our quality of life has improved so much since being here. I can’t imagine going back to the rat race.
"We actually enjoyed lockdown because we were in the country and the children could play out, climb trees and collect eggs from our hens rather than sit with iPads and Lego. They havelearned new skills and got more confidence. We felt relaxed about letting them have more freedom and we used the time to do some renovations to the campsite.”
The only downsides, she says, are travelling further to access sports clubs and a lack of football pitches. “Everything else is easy. I get online groceries and can drive to the shops in Hawes.I still get a city fix but I love coming back here where it is calm and quiet, which is also why our guests like it. It’s a secluded retreat where you can relax and stargaze with no light pollution.”
Ellie and John Bates were ahead of the curve when they moved from Pudsey to Hawes last summer. The couple, who have a three-year-old son, bought and revived the Chapel Gallery – an art gallery with living accommodation. John now works remotely at home for a retail company and Ellie looks after the gallery.
“I grew up in a village in Richmondshire and we both love walking, climbing, camping and canoeing so moving up here was our dream,” says Ellie. “I miss friends but I don’t miss the drive to the office in Leeds or my little boy being in nursery from early morning until late evening. Now it is a five-minute walk to nursery past a lovely waterfall and we live in a lovely community with everything we need. We feel like we have come home.”
Support The Yorkshire Post and become a subscriber today. Your subscription will help us to continue to bring quality news to the people of Yorkshire. In return, you'll see fewer ads on site, get free access to our app and receive exclusive members-only offers. Click here to subscribe