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Farndale is a beacon of rural life with its two community halls, little church, chapel, pub, cafe, two parish councils and an agricultural show.
IT may be one of Yorkshire's most scattered communities it has less than a 100 residents but the folk of Farndale amazingly support two community halls, a thriving little church, chapel, pub, cafe, two parish councils and an agricultural show which this year is celebrating its centenary.
The question one asks is, "What makes Farndale tick?". The answer would seem to be a determination to keep alive its traditions, despite some residents living a mile from their nearest neighbour.
It's only relatively recent years that Farndale got electricity and, of course, television but progress has so far refused to let in mobile phones they just don't work around its spectacular hillsides.
But things could have been so very different nearly half a century ago when the whole dale was threatened with being flooded to provide a new reservoir to serve the Hull area.
Conservationists and nature lovers from all parts of Britain and beyond joined Farndale residents in fighting the plan which was eventually dropped and with it the fear that farms which had existed for hundreds of years would have been lost as Farndale became a giant lake.
One of Farndale's best-known characters is Harold Agar, now in his 80s and a life-long Farndale farmer, who, with his wife Irene, have striven to make a living, working long hours at their North Gyhill Farm. Irene arrived in the dale from industrial Billingham to nurse Harold's mother in 1948 at the farm which has been in his family since the early 1800s and which is now part of Sir Laurie Barrett's in Farndale.
Harold, Farndale's oldest resident and just turned 90, has never missed a Farndale Show and over the years has won a cabinet-full of trophies with his Swaledale sheep. "There used to be 39 farms in Farndale now we're down to about 15," said Harold. He recalls how many of the householders were to a great extent self-sufficient when he was a young man, keeping their own cow for milk and a pig or two which provided a family with meat for much of the year.
A visit to their historic farmhouse, perched on a wind-swept hillside, is like stepping back several generations, with its Yorkshire range to hold the kettle for boiling water, and an oven heated by the fire, which Irene used for years until electricity arrived. Like many farmer's wives of her generation, Irene was an expert hand-milker of the cows, twice a day, 365 days a year.
Religion has always played a major part in the life of Farndale. The pretty church of St Mary's was built from local stone in 1831 and is still well used not only by locals but also by Farndale's 40,000 visitors a year.
Sadly, for Arthur Carter one of its two chapels is now a private house, but the one at High Farndale is still going strong with its 12-strong congregation. Arthur's association with the Methodists in Farndale spans some 57 years, and for all that time he has been the chapel secretary.
Naturally, harvest festivals and Christmas services see it packed to capacity and which generates funds which help support it during the leaner periods of the year, says Arthur, of Menthorpe House.
Farndale has also been his life-long home, working the land on the steep hillsides, ploughing using Clydesdale horses and shepherding the flocks after his education at what was affectionately known as "Farndale High School" the village school.
Evenings were spent at home reading or listening to the radio with just a paraffin lamp, which to him and other people in the dale was just accepted as part of life in a remote rural area until electricity came on the scene.
Arthur and Harold recall how farmers made their own butter which was taken to the weekly Wednesday market in Kirkbymoorside along with fresh eggs from their farms. Irene's fondest memory of life of yester-year was JH Wheldon's famous grey bus, a 1929 Ford which wound its way around the narrow hilly lanes banked on each side by miles of stone walls. "We all loved a trip on the bus it was a real highlight for us," she smiles.
Farndale Show, held each August Bank Holiday Monday, has survived in the face of running costs, and declining farming, thanks to such people as Barry Sunley, who took over as its secretary three years ago.
Farndale born and bred, Barry, who lives at Hill Houses where he is a successful organic poultry farmer, left the dale to seek a sharply contrasting career working in the motor industry with the Ford Motor Company in the Midlands. But he and his wife decided to return to the lifestyle they had always enjoyed when they saw the growing popularity of organic farming and egg production.
Today, they supply shops, restaurants and hotels over a wide area one of the main reasons for trying to secure broadband facilities in Farndale as it somewhat reluctantly embraces the 21st century.
While most families now have a television and a car, they still support the village hall, built half a century ago with help from the Duncombe Estate.
Today, says Barry, the hall committee is about to embark on an ambitious plan to renovate the hall, an old army hut which was built on land given by the estate.
But not content with one village hall, Farndale has also another community building, known as The Bandroom dating back to the days when there was a silver band in the village and it made its own entertainment and social life which, to a great extent it still does. Built in 1922, the bandroom is now used for a series of events the Countrywomen's Association meetings, children's parties, domino drives, wedding receptions and by the local search and rescue team.
Chairman of Farndale Show and leading the 100th celebrations is Dennis Featherstone, of Keysbeck Farm, a sheep and beef farmer and show chairman. He held the position from 1977 to 1989 when he decided to step down but was persuaded to take over the reins again five years later "and I'm still here," says Farndale born and bred Dennis, who farms some 500 acres.
He's also chairman of Farndale West parish council but while he cherishes life in the dale, he admits there are now some residents he doesn't know, most having moved to Farndale from outside the area. "We have seen farms merged and houses let off by the estate, and sadly there's just no opportunity for young farmers to set up on their own," laments Dennis, who has two sons, seven grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
Keeping the dale as a thriving community is going to depend on the survival of its farms, he says, coupled with the determination and grit of Farndale people to see it remain a fine example of the countryside at work with its entrepreneurs and lovers of rural tradition.