1:34pm Wednesday 25th April 2007
By Claire Metcalfe
IT is a sad fact that, when many villagers talk about the place where they live, they reminisce about what there used to be.
A post office, shop, blacksmiths, community spirit even - are all referred to wistfully as the features of a bygone age.
Newton-upon-Rawcliffe is in many ways a typical village, with houses, a pub, a chapel, church and village hall dotted around a large village green, complete with duck pond.
But what sets its apart is the energy and optimism of its residents.
"I love it," said Mike Womack, a self employed electrician who has lived in the village with his wife and three children for the past six years.
"I like the space, it's quiet and friendly," he said. "The best feeling in the world is going for a walk first thing in the morning down the back lane at the end of the village and seeing the view of the valley - it's amazing."
Mike used to help out at the kids' fun club, set up five years ago, which now attracts more than 30 youngsters. "A few years ago my son, Sam, who is now 12, used to go and I went along to keep an eye on him and got roped in.
"It's a very good club, especially for kids who don't live near any of their friends, who are dotted about on farms."
The club meets in the village hall, which itself is a much treasured amenity, run by a very active committee. Dennis Wilcock is treasurer of the village hall committee, as well as the clerk of the parish council. "The village has embarked on a major fundraising campaign this year," he said. "One aspect of that is a cookery book compiled by the villagers which will be put on sale to raise funds for the renovation of the village hall. Thankfully it's going very well at the moment but we can always do with more money."
He added: "The village is a very mixed community, there are four working farms, some holiday cottages, quite a few people live here and work in Pickering or as far a field as Leeds, there are quite a few retired people so it's a very mixed and active community which works very well together."
Recently it has been working together to revive a long neglected feature of the village - a second pond down a leafy lane behind the houses.
Dennis explained: "The pond had become derelict and filled with rubbish over many years and effectively dried out over summer so we embarked on a project to restore it.
"We cleared it out and dug it out and refilled it, and built a bird hide to look at local wildlife which includes birds, foxes and badgers. It is a useful habitat for local wildlife."
A key player in the renovation of the pond and the building of the bird hide was professional wildlife painter Peter Reynolds.
"We moved here from Wakefield so I could concentrate on painting," he said. "I was attracted to the moors but now I specialise in British wildlife and because we live where we do I can get out an observe and paint, it's all on my doorstep." He added: "I'm very passionate about the local wildlife, and I do a little bit of protection work - there are a couple of badger sets I keep an eye on."
Billy and Sally Garrett moved to the village five years ago. Billy is the lay reader of the village church, St John's, and Sally is a church warden.
"We've got a smallish congregation of middle-aged people mainly, we hope to encourage some youth in the months and years ahead," said Billy.
That said, it is a very outward looking church, involved in all sorts of projects to help people in poor communities around the world.
It is also very welcoming of young children, with a collection of toys at the back to keep them occupied, and the church has recently set up a book share scheme, where people can bring and borrow to the church, which is open to the public at most times.
Another church warden and former chairman of the parish council is octogenarian Elizabeth, Lady Kirk, who still runs her own 30-acre farm with suckling cattle and a couple of holiday cottages, and takes regular pony rides in the surrounding countryside.
"It's a lovely village, I like the moors and the open space. There are still working farms and we do still get sheep and cattle through the village street," she said. As chairman of the council, she oversaw the introduction of a sports and play area to the village. The parish council had an open meeting to decide what we would like to do for the millennium and although we live in the countryside there was nowhere to play, and two lads piped up about it," she said.
"We set up a registered charity and found a farmer willing to sell us a suitable piece of land, then went and looked at some existing play areas with a small boy who told us what children liked.
"We got planning permission and were all ready to go when foot and mouth hit."
She added: "There were still sheep in the rest of the farmer's field where the land was so obviously we couldn't bring in outside contractors. We eventually got it open in the Queen's jubilee year. There's something there for everybody, including a bench where teenagers can hang out, and a multi-play hard court for tennis and five-a-side football, as well as play equipment for young children."
She said that there has been a very welcome addition of children and young people and babies, but added that it is very difficult for youngsters from Newton to buy houses in the village.
One such person is 25-year-old Becky Reynolds. "There are a lot of holiday cottages and retired people because nobody else can afford to buy houses," she said. "It's difficult to live here if you want to buy a house because it's just too expensive."
Despite these problems, Becky loves the village where she grew up and her job in a dairy farm in Pickering. She said: "It's good, it's what I do, I like it and it's what I want to do forever if I can."
© Copyright 2001-2013 Newsquest Media Group