Meet the retired archaeologist and art teacher who have taken over Yore Mill at Aysgarth Falls and opened their own gallery

Steve Smith and Julie Edwardson admit they didn't originally consider moving to the Yorkshire Dales when they were choosing retirement destinations.

Yore Mill beside Aysgarth Falls

Former archaeologist and musician Steve favoured Wales, but the couple found their dream live-work opportunity when they spotted that the tenancy for the gift shop at Yore Mill in Aysgarth was available.

They have now relocated from the north-east, renovated part of the former 19th-century water mill beside Aysgarth Falls and opened it as a gallery, exhibition and workshop space overseen by retired art teacher Julie.

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Their new business will move away from tourist-orientated products to focus on both visitors and the local community, selling work by Dales artists and crafters and offering classes and sessions in the newly-converted basement.

The traditional gift shop has been transformed into an art gallery and workshop space

Steve and Julie were inspired by a similar venture in Askrigg, the artists' co-operative Heather and Grouse, and have already built relationships with talented artisans living in the area.

"It used to be a traditional gift shop, and it was once a pottery kiln. The building has a really long history, and when the lease expired we decided to take it up. We moved seven weeks ago and we have completely changed it - we started from scratch. We've decorated, stripped out all the shelves and opened up more space to hang art and create more freedom to walk around," said Steve.

"We are hoping there will be a demand for this. We are in an area with large tourist footfalls, but we want to offer a service to the community too. We will hold autumn and Christmas fairs and 'meet the artist' events, and really showcase the region. People have been very encouraging and supportive so far."

The couple have moved into a flat above the shop and the business also comes with holiday accommodation.

Steve and Julie found their dream live-work opportunity in the Dales

"The basement area is going to be used for classes in drawing, painting, and crafting, which will hopefully draw in visitors as well as locals. We were originally thinking of buying a chapel in north Wales, but when we saw this for sale we thought it was a lovely opportunity," added Julie.

"It's absolutely perfect. We are going to renovate the holiday lets and open them in the autumn. We'll link up with the visitor centre and offer classes to the guests."

The couple are also considering capitalising on the National Park's new Dark Skies status by offering astronomy experiences, while artists will have the chance to rent space to hold their own workshops.

"We live upstars so we have no commute - maybe a fireman's pole would work! This has ticked every box for us; we have no local connections but we really fell in love with the area and it offers every possibility.

Former art teacher Julie will run painting and drawing classes herself

"We've already had artists come to visit us and an old colleague who now lives in Dentdale helped me set up the first exhibition. To work and live in the Dales, and to have a gallery to promote my own art, is a huge privilege."

The history of Yore Mill

Milling has taken place at Yore Bridge beside the River Ure since medieval times. In the 18th century, it produced cotton, and when the complex burned down in 1853 the new building began to make corn as well as wool. By the late 19th century it was the largest corn mill in the Dales, and ran on water until 1937, when turbines were installed.

The mill is Grade II-listed, but part of the building which housed a carriage museum until 2003 later fell into disrepair and became unsafe.

In 2019 planning permission was granted for its conversion into nine apartments, a visitor centre and commercial unit with a new hydroelectric turbine.