Profile on...

GREEN HAMMERTON: Why would a community want to change the name of their village for a week? Chris Berry goes to investigate and finds that it is all in a good cause. Pictures by Gary Longbottom.

Changing a village name may be something that happens gradually over centuries, but the residents of Green Hammerton are about to change theirs next month. It will only be for a week and it’s all in a good cause.

The second week of October will see the village become renamed as Pink Hammerton as villagers raise funds for work against cancer. The initial idea came from Liz Hines, who has lived in Green Hammerton for the past 10 years.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“This really is a fabulous village and a fantastic community,” she says. “I was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago and count myself as one of the lucky ones because I’m still here. I couldn’t have got through it, the worry, the treatment, surgery and radiotherapy, if I hadn’t been living here.

“Green Hammerton is my family. About 18 months ago I was chatting with friends in our village pub, The Bay Horse, and we came up with this mad idea to change Green Hammerton to Pink Hammerton for a week to raise funds for St Michael’s Hospice, Breakthrough Breast Cancer and Yorkshire Cancer Centre in Leeds.

“It all started off as my own personal story and where I was treated in Bexley Wing at Leeds, but it’s become so much more than that. I lost both my mum and dad to cancer and it seems every family has some relative who has suffered. The initial idea was to organise one event, but now it’s a whole week of events including a fun run and a pink gala dinner.”

Green, or Pink Hammerton is hoping to raise over £15,000 and they’re already well on their way with the support of many local businesses such as Bannatyne’s Health Club in York, Greentech in Nun Monkton and The Main Furniture Company based in the village.

They are well used to raising funds here and a prime example of their work is the new village hall which looks out on to the cricket ground and sports fields.

The village is a mix of the old and the new. If you’re looking for the old then you should take a walk along The Green with its lane of farms and cottages to the north of the village, with cattle grazing serenely nearby. There’s plenty of new housing. This is a commuter village for York, Harrogate and Leeds, and its developments have been well thought out, including the playground, village hall and playing area. It is also home to its own successful businesses such as Harland Garden Machinery.

To the south of the A59 is Kirk Hammerton which, in comparison to its near namesake is somewhat smaller and rather more sleepy. You are transported into a world of Midsomer Murders-style locations and quiet lanes.

Kirk Hammerton is a leafy, gentle village with dog walkers aplenty. It is bordered by Rudgate to its west, the A59 and the York to Harrogate railway line to the north with its own station of Hammerton. The River Nidd is to its south and east. It is recorded in the Domesday Book as Altera Hanbretone, meaning village on a hill.

The largest house in the village is Kirk Hammerton Hall. It is a grade 2 listed property built in 1768. The owner of the hall was Squire Stanyforth. In the last century Rony Stanyforth, an army officer and English amateur first class cricketer who played for Yorkshire CCC three times and captained England against South Africa four times, lived here. He wrote a book about wicket-keeping and died in the village in 1964.

The village is full of mature trees, colourful gardens of cottage style properties and larger, well set back houses. The church now known as St John the Baptist was originally dedicated to St Quentin. The green that leads to the church, the Methodist chapel and Kirk Hammerton Hall also has a war memorial in its centre.

Back on the main A59 road are a number of larger businesses, including Ainsty Farm Shop which has become one of the area’s farm diversification success stories.

The other small village close by is historic Nun Monkton, with its priory, huge village green and tall maypole. It is also home to British Harness Racing with its own racetrack.

There are several notable businesses on Nun Monkton Estate as well as the Yorkshire Heart Vineyard and a pub named after a famous racehorse of the 19th century, The Alice Hawthorn. Not bad for a small community. But they have always been busy here. At one time they had three pubs, a wheelwright, tailors, weavers, smithy and a mill.

The road to Nun Monkton, where both nuns and monks once lived, arrives at an expansive and unusual green of some 20 acres and is reminiscent of a Moors village, more field than cultivated greenery. Cattle graze freely on the green and drink from the village pond.

This ceased to be an estate village in 1934 when the estate houses were sold off. Residents have fought notable modern day battles to hold on to their village school which was bequeathed in 1717. As rural schools with small numbers closed in the 1980s and 1990s the villagers fought a rearguard action and today theirs is thriving.

The maypole, 88ft tall, replaced the previous 78ft pole which was erected at the behest of landowner Isaac Crawhall. The old one came down in a gale in 2004.

One of Nun Monkton’s most famous visitors was Anne Brontë who taught the children of the rector of Nun Monkton, while acting as governess to a family in nearby Little Ouseburn. In more recent times the priory has been used as a location for A Touch of Frost starring David Jason.

If you would like to know more about Pink Hammerton which takes place from October 8 to 15, visit www.pinkhammerton.co.uk

Roman road

Just a mile to the south of the busy A59 and a short distance from the A1, Whixley has retained its rural charm. Tall hedges form a green wall on both sides of the road as you enter from the first left off the road that links Knaresborough to York.

Thoroughfares have long played a part in its history. The old Roman road of Rudgate ran through its eastern edge connecting Castleford to Aldborough where troops were garrisoned.

It was called Cucheslaga by the Normans, but by the 14th century it had become known as Quixley, after the Lord of the Manor. The Tancred family replaced the Quixleys in the 17th century as owners of the estate.

The village was famous for its cherries cultivated by the friars from the Priory of Knaresborough. The Whixley Cherry Feast was held on the first Sunday in August and its legacy is the number of buildings with the name Cherry in the village today.

The Tancred Estate was purchased by West Riding County Council in 1920, who split up four good-sized farms into 50 acre smallholdings for servicemen returning from the First World War. Although Whixley is now in North Yorkshire there is a signpost opposite the village hall that has West Riding above the directional signs.

Today’s Whixley is made up of many quaint cottage and rural houses built during the past century, several farms and a mix of new developments. Its community spirit and endeavour saw the village take the title of Yorkshire Village of the Year in 2006. One of its claims to fame at the time was that villagers had clubbed together to open their own village shop.

Five years on from its opening and it is now run as a business in its own right by Lee Stott, who also runs the village shop and post office in Marton-cum-Grafton a couple of miles up the B6265, which connects Whixley with Boroughbridge.

The shop might have closed had he not stepped in. “The grants and subsidies the villagers had managed to attract were coming to an end and I thought there was potential to keep it going,” he says. “I took it over in April 2010 and it is still staffed by local people.”

Whixley also has a village hall, a church, cricket club and a pub. The village hall was built on the initiative of the Women’s Institute in 1935 and is used regularly. The Church of the Ascension dates back over 1,000 years although only the font and one window remain from its earlier Norman building. It was burned and destroyed by marauding Rievers from the Scottish borders in the 13th century. The gateway to the church includes an inscription that serves to remind us all that we are not here for eternity. It reads: “We all do fade as a leaf.”

The cricket club is on the outer edge of the village, at Rudgate Fields on the Ouseburn road. The club also has an evening league named after it and has had a successful recent history.

Peter Moffitt has lived in Whixley for the past 20 years. “They have been the happiest years of my life,” he says. “This is a lovely village. We open our garden for the village’s open gardens day in aid of the church, as well as for the National Gardens Scheme. And I’m a regular domino player at The Anchor, our local village pub.”

The Anchor is next to the village shop on the eastern fringe of Whixley and is well patronised.

Johnsons of Whixley is one of the UK’s leading commercial garden nurseries and has a propagation unit in the village as well as its headquarters just to the south of the A59.

Thorpe Hill Working Farm is a new farm enterprise offering families a day out and many activities, seeing how farming has changed. Sunny Bank Farm offers 100 per cent Whixley Beef home-reared.

There’s also an art studio and gallery at the old school, next to the village hall.

The old hospital grounds on the edge of Whixley at the Cattal crossroads have now become an attractive separate development half a mile out of the main village, now known as Whixley Gate.

In some ways the village of Whixley is a straggling community, constantly added to over the years but there is no doubting its strength in mobilising its people. They are presently engaged in opposing plans for an incinerator with a 250ft chimney at nearby Allerton.