Husthwaite buoyant amid times of challenge for rural communities

Husthwaite Village Hall is a focal point of village life.
Husthwaite Village Hall is a focal point of village life.
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Under threat from fracking and devoid of many services and amenities that it once had, it would be easy to assume that the North Yorkshire village of Husthwaite was home to a community in crisis.

Chemical firm Ineos has a fracking licence that covers the local area, the village has lost its last surviving shop, its sole pub The Plum and Partridge has had a tumultuous period as tenants have come and gone, and bus services into the village from York have been lost after 2pm causing headaches for commuters.

Husthwaite village in North Yorkshire. Pictures by James Hardisty.

Husthwaite village in North Yorkshire. Pictures by James Hardisty.

Nonetheless, the village website proclaims Husthwaite “the best village in the North of England”, a claim which speaks volumes for local spirits, and the evidence is that this is a community which is not losing its soul amid an era of challenges facing small rural settlements.

Retired teacher Jan Coulthard, 74, relocated from Leeds with her husband some 15 years ago. She is the parish council clerk and editor of the village’s monthly newsletter.

“People here are so friendly,” she said. “We have a really good team of people running the village hall, plus a good parish council, and what makes the community here such a success is communication.

“We send a lot of messages round on email, we have the village website and the newsletter, and any problem and people rally round.

“I probably know 100 people in the village because we are always in contact with someone about something.

“Unless you make a supreme effort, you can’t not get involved in what’s going on here.”

A valuable asset is the village hall. Completed in 2014 after the community secured £500,000 of lottery funding, it replaced two former Army huts which served as a venue for local events for decades.

It now hosts a monthly cafe, an art, a gardening and an orchard club, among others, and musical and drama productions, some by acts as well-known as jazz musician Snake Davies. A local production of Noël Coward’s Hay Fever recently sold out on its second and third nights.

A former community orchard which saw locals press apples and sell juice at local markets has become a successful commercial cider business, but the proceeds from its sale sees funds awarded each year to boost community projects.

The lack of a village shop was due to dwindling footfall, Mrs Coulthard said. “The village isn’t a main road to somewhere and because the shops have gone and the buses have reduced, you simply can’t live here without a car, though one or two try.

“But what people like about living here is that you are into the middle of the countryside. If I look out my window I can see the White Horse of Kilburn across the fields. We are a very happy little community, I’d say.”