Village Focus: How younger generations are keeping Aldwark vibrant

The Aldwark Arms is at the centre of village life in Aldwark. Pictures by James Hardisty.
The Aldwark Arms is at the centre of village life in Aldwark. Pictures by James Hardisty.
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Rural villages are sometimes portrayed as sleepy backwaters for retirees but a more youthful vibrancy is certainly part of the mix at Aldwark near York.

Devoid of shops, its post office long gone, this small community on the eastern bank of the River Ure relies much on its local pub to act as a hub, both for the community it is located in, and the similarly small villages in the wider parish.

Aldwark Toll Bridge costs 40p to cross but saves a detour of 25 miles.

Aldwark Toll Bridge costs 40p to cross but saves a detour of 25 miles.

A former estate village with a history rooted in agriculture, Aldwark is known for its estate house that has become Aldwark Manor, the popular hotel, golf club and spa.

Over the years, estate land has been sold off to developers and three new homes have recently been added to the village.

Like in many other places, the number of family farms has dwindled but being just 14 miles from York, it remains an attractive place for commuting professionals and their young families to live.

One of Aldwark’s three parish councillors is 29-year-old local farmers’ daughter Gemma Boddy.

“I got involved with the parish council about three years ago. My father, Allan, was on the council before me and I was asked to put myself forward for election,” she said.

As a younger voice, Gemma said, the mechanics of parish council life have been a struggle at times and she will stand down next May to focus on her career, but during her service she has modernised the council’s financial processes and has instigated its presence on social media.

“Younger families are moving into the village and if you want them to engage with the village and have a say on matters like planning then these are things that you need to do,” she said.

Like other farming families, Gemma’s has diversified to eke out a better living. A sideline of Rising Sun Farm, a rented out arable concern on the edge of Aldwark, is agricultural trailer hire, and Gemma and her husband Simon hope to expand the family enterprise further into haulage. The farm also offers holiday lets and has a fishing lake.

The next generation of another local family, the Hardistys, has also looked beyond agriculture.

Pete Hardisty, 33, is one of three brothers who grew up on his parents’ farm. Both parents and siblings - and their partners - now run Hardisty & Co estate agents, while Pete has been at the helm of The Aldwark Arms for nearly five years. The village pub serves food and hosts events such as quizzes, gin masterclasses, an annual music festival and charity race nights.

“We have tried to put it at the heart of the community,” said Pete. “We try to involve the villages around us too because a lot of them don’t have their own pubs. We want this to be somewhere for people to come and have a drink and a natter.”

FACTS

Aldwark lies within a conservation area in the Hambleton district.

Its Grade II-listed St Stephen’s Church is the quirky design of Victorian architect Edward Buckton Lamb.

At the time of the 2011 census the wider parish had a population of 308.

Aldwark Bridge is a toll bridge linking the village with Little Ouseburn. It costs 40p and saves a 25-mile detour.