NATALYA WILSON visits a Ryedale village just a stone’s throw from Castle Howard

HOPPING off the bus in Welburn’s treelined main street is much like stepping back in time.

This village, nestled in the Howardian Hills only half a mile from Castle Howard, retains a charming, timeless quality; the attractive stone cottages preserve their traditional frontages, the village pub stands proudly with its doors open, ready to welcome any visitors, the birds can be heard to sing in the trees and there is an overwhelming sense of calm and serenity.

But look closer, and there are signs that the village has well and truly arrived in the 21th century.

Cars line the grassy verges, people go about their way with mobile phones in hand and, situated just off the main street, up a bank towards the church, is the modern, eco-friendly village hall, completed in 2007.

In many ways, this is the hub of the village, well-utilised by the community of not only Welburn, but surrounding villages such as Crambeck and Bulmer, with several varied societies and groups having made it their home.

In fact, there are so many groups that use the hall that there is a full timetable in the display cabinet, with something to suit all tastes, from Zumba and country dancing to wine tasting and the Women’s Institute; history to horticulture; tea and talk to tea and tots; and mat bowls to musical theatre.

And when I popped my head in last Thursday morning, several of the members of Welburn Art Group were painting a sixfoot replica of Big Ben.

“It’s a work in progress,” laughed Peter Brown, one of the members, who, along with wife Ella, has lived in what he calls a “super village, the most friendly I’ve ever lived in”, for four years.

I’m told that this impressive replica of London’s most famous landmark is one of the props being created for Welburn Village Music Hall, being held at Welburn Village Hall on October 8, with all proceeds going to Help for Heroes.

However, the group is also busy with other projects, with members not only painting and drawing, but cross-stitching and other crafts.

The group is organised by Irene Wells, who moved from Sheffield to Crambeck with husband, Colin, two years ago.

They appreciate all that Welburn has to offer, as Crambeck doesn’t have the facilities that its neighbouring village has.

“Welburn is a really nice village and when we moved from Sheffield, people said, you’ll miss the city – what will you do there?”

laughed Irene.

“Nothing could be further from the truth.

There are such a surprising lot of things to do here that you have got to be selective.”

Further up the lane from the village hall is St John the Evangelist Church. Founded by a late Earl of Carlisle, it is typically Victorian, with some of the stained glass windows being memorials to the Howard family. The garden of the church is a Yorkshire Living Churchyard Project sponsored by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

The village school is also a thriving part of the community. The main building was built in 1841 and these days children attend from Welburn and some of the outlying villages and farms.

Back on the main street are two other hubs of village life – the village shop and pub, facing each other across the road.

The Crown & Cushion got its name after a visit of Queen Victoria, who came to Castle Howard Station. She was met by the Earl and rumour has it that she travelled through Welburn. The pub changed its name as a mark of respect.

The Crown & Cushion was taken over in December 2010 by Julie Middleton and her partner, Colin Marginson, who moved to Welburn from York.

“The biggest change is going from the hustle and bustle of the city to the peace and serenity of the countryside, but we’re glad we made the move,” Julie said.

Having had a number of disasters since arriving at the pub, including a ceiling collapse on Christmas Day, when the pub flooded, though they still opened, they serving food most nights and Friday, Saturday and Sunday lunchtimes.

The pub is undergoing a refurbishment in five weeks, with log burners and a more open-plan layout, and Julie and Colin hope it will become a real hub once again for villagers as well as walkers who visit the area.

The village shop, Pattacakes, doubles as a bakery and tearoom, and was set up by baker Anita Tasker three years ago.

“It was old and destitute, but we turned it around,” said Anita.

The produce is all baked on site using exclusively Yorkshire produce, apart from the sausage rolls and pasties, says Anita, which are from a local artisan.

“All the ladies who work here are from the village and our youngest recruit, Emma, hadn’t even touched a cake before February – but she has just won an award and has been nominated for another at the York Festival of Food and Drink,” said Anita. “I’m very proud of her.”

Anita says that she has a fair few regulars from the village.

“Welburn is a sweet and lovely village, she added, “and also a great area for walkers, who pop in, too.”

Gazette & Herald: Welburn artists

Three members of Welburn Art Group with their work. They are Dawn Treacher (left), Peter Brown and Irene Wells.

Gazette & Herald: Welburn villagers

Irene and Colin Wells with a collage made by villagers