Village focus: Ampleforth

On the edge of the North York Moors National Park, pretty Ampleforth has fared better than many other rural villages during an austere decade.

The village of Ampleforth. Picture by Gerard Binks.

Small communities elsewhere have lost bus services to local spending cutbacks and have seen falling school rolls but village life here seems to be thriving.

A mile along the road from Ampleforth Abbey, the village is as renowned locally as a gateway to beautiful countryside walks, as it is for the Abbey’s popular cider to those who are less well acquainted.

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Broadband connections here may not be what people 20-odd miles away in York enjoy, and the mobile phone signal may be patchy at best, but not only do the village’s bus links between the city and Helmsley remain, but there is a village shop, hall, a post office, a bakery, two schools and two pubs, plus various clubs to cater for residents’ hobbies.

A development of 30 new houses has been absorbed into the village recently and despite resistance from locals while the scheme was in the planning stages, life appears to be harmonious, with a recent open day held by local groups to welcome newcomers hailed a success.

Middlesbrough-born Sue Shepherd has lived in Ampleforth for ten years. She relocated from the Midlands with husband John, having worked as a manager at Birmingham City Council. She runs Hillside Cottage for guests to stay and her garden is open under the National Gardens Scheme.

She said: “I love living here. I think it’s success is down to the community and the fact it’s a mixed community. It’s not full of holiday cottages, people actually live and work here - that adds to the pressure to keep services going.”

Ms Shepherd is one of five parish councillors who are encouraging people to contribute to a project to record the history of local life.

“There aren’t many older residents left but they have memories of what it was like as children growing up here and the parish council thought it would be good to record this so it can be preserved for the future.”

One of Ampleforth’s pubs is the White Horse Inn, which has existed since 1768 but has been reinvented by owners Nikki and Pete. Nikki, works front of house and Pete is the chef. He prides himself on serving mostly homemade pub classics or “proper pub grub”.

Theirs too is a story of escape, having arrived seven years ago from a village near Doncaster with their children Josh, now 18, and Holly, 15.

Nikki said: “It was to get out of the rat race, I was a project manager for Tesco for 21 years and Pete had a tiling business. It’s fantastic to walk out of the pub and go on so many lovely walks with amazing views.

“Pub life is hard sometimes but I wouldn’t want to leave Ampleforth because everybody is so friendly. It’s a simpler life in a way.”