Village focus: Goathland – still spouting tourists

Goathland village
Goathland village
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Its population, at the last census, numbered only 438, but Goathland’s footprint is surprisingly broad.

Nine mines inland from Whitby and in the heart of the North York Moors National Park, it has been attracting visitors since the 19th century, and the two phenomena that have raised its profile of late have their roots in history only slightly more recent.

Its picturesque little station on the heritage line preserved as the North Yorkshire Moors Railway – a location for one of the Harry Potter films – started to drop off day-trippers there a few decades ago. But it was the use of the village centre as the location for the 1990s TV series, Heartbeat, that planted it squarely on the tourist map.

The stories of a country constable fashioned by the late Peter Walker from his own experiences as a young officer on the Moorland beat, captured a lost world of bobbies on bikes, village greens and tea rooms which, even in its present-day, offscreen incarnation, Goathland continues to exemplify.

The series has been off the air for eight years now, but the tourist flow shows no sign of ebbing.

“There are often 10 coachfuls here at a time, especially on Tuesdays and Wednesdays,” said Sue Beckton, chair of the Village Hall Trust which runs the 110-year-old community hub designed by the York architect Walter Brierley, a designer in the Christopher Wren tradition, who became known as “the Yorkshire Lutyens”.

Heartbeat is still popular at home, but the tourists come from all over. In Norway and Australia they are still seeing the last episodes,” she said.

Ms Beckton, who also operates a B&B next to the Goathland Hotel – the fictional Aidensfield Arms in the 372 TV episodes – says it is the steam trains and the tumbling waterfall of Mallyan Spout that are the principal attractions.

A resident of the village for 19 years, her memories of it go back much further,.

“I used to come here as a youth to go to the hostel, and the village was always busy then,” she said.

The beginning of the autumn, with the tourists trickling rather than flooding in, sees the local community, many of whom work on farms that have been in their families for generations, look inwards towards traditional village hall events.

Yet unlike many villages in rural Yorkshire, Goathland’s population is relatively young, with a core of commuters making the 15-minute journey to Whitby or the more ambitious, hour’s drive to York.

The community also supports a village primary school with a roll of 22 children, three pubs and at least as many tea rooms, and several other thriving businesses, whom, says Ms Beckton, owe their continued existence to the tourists.