Bishop Burton - Reasons to beat a path to this lovely Wolds village

A farming village in the Wolds is also home to one of Europe's leading equestrian centres, as Chris Titley discovers

Horses for courses

A farming village in the Wolds is also home to one of Europe’s leading equestrian centres, as Chris Titley discovers

Unlike many of its neighbouring villages, Bishop Burton is very much on the beaten track. Most people know it as the pretty little place they whiz through on the York to Beverley road, with its oddly-named pub and gleaming duck pond.It is a shame more of us don’t stop by once in a while. For away from the busy road this is a charming rural village with much to explore and enjoy. And you can always stop for a drink and a bite to eat at that oddly-named pub, the Altisidora – rechristened in the 19th century to commemorate a popular St Leger winner. That’s another thing about Bishop Burton: this is a place that loves its horses. More of that later, though; first we’ve got to get past the ducks.This can take some time. As I headed into the village on Pudding Gate, a group of mallards were strung across the road. They appeared in no hurry to clear a way through for my car and several waddled back to the pond in what looked like a distinct huff. Of course as the long-term residents and icons of Bishop Burton they had every right to feel disgruntled about making way for this interloper. Once you’ve run the duck gauntlet, you find yourself in a village of lovely whitewashed houses arranged around greens and fields. Awash with history, the parish supposedly hides a Roman road somewhere under its fields, and there’s evidence of a Bronze Age settlement here. Many of its farmhouses are now listed, as is the Victorian cast iron pump next to the pond.The most imposing old building is All Saints Church. Its squat medieval tower at the west end looks cut off in its prime – and it was. The spire which once rose above the tower was demolished in Cromwell’s time.All Saints is big for a village church which may reflect Bishop Burton’s heightened importance a few centuries ago. As the name suggests the Archbishop of York once had a palace here, although the estate was sold into private hands after Henry VIII’s religious revolution.One of the most interesting artefacts inside the church is a wooden bust of John Wesley. He was said to have preached under an elm tree in the village, later destroyed by lightning. His likeness resided in the splendid square Methodist chapel but became infested with woodworm. According to the Brief Guide to All Saints, a local craftsman restored it, writing the receipt: ‘To rebaptizing John Wesley and curing him of worms, 25/-’.The village’s importance as a farming community is reflected in the fact that it’s home to Bishop Burton College, one of Britain’s leading agricultural colleges. The Equestrian Centre is one of Europe’s finest, bringing people and horses from across the world to compete in East Yorkshire.‘We had a massive investment, refurb and new build, which has given us the facilities to host competitions including the European Pony Championships,’ said Kim Knightley, director of Bishop Burton College Equestrian Centre.‘As a national centre, there are only three or four that have similar facilities. Ours is situated in a beautiful part of the country and the college accommodation, catering and things like that are easily accessible.’Events like the Pony Championships last summer have put Bishop Burton on the international map. ‘It gave a lot of foreign visitors a chance to see a part of the country that they might not have visited if they weren’t coming across with their ponies to compete. ‘Some stayed in local hotels, B&Bs or rented accommodation. We got very positive feedback from all of the competing countries’ national federations. They all enjoyed themselves and were able to show themselves and their ponies to their very best.’With British Eventing Horse Trials every May and October, and regular show jumping and dressage events, Bishop Burton is set to stay at the centre of all things equestrian for some time.The centre is also involved in London 2012, Kim explained. ‘With the Olympics we’ve got training camp status. We’re inviting different countries and will hopefully attract teams to come and have a look at us.’Anyone who would like to watch events at the centre can look for upcoming dates on the college website – see the panel for the address. ‘We’re hungry to get different things happening, to build on the success of what we’re already doing,’ Kim said. ‘Horses are good for people.’ And good for Bishop Burton too.

My villageNo one has to rely on the grapevine to find out what’s going on in Bishop Burton. Not only does it possess an extensive and regularly updated village website, run by Bryn Jones with sections on village life, history, societies and lots more, it also sports a comprehensive newsletter.Seven pages long and issued six times a year, it is packed with information about Bishop Burton life. The editor is Susan Leeding who has lived in the village for 28 years.‘It’s a country village. It’s got farms almost within the village, it’s got countryside all around,’ she said. ‘I’ve always had dogs, ridden horses and walked – I like the countryside.’Bishop Burton has changed in her time here. ‘There’s been a certain amount of building. But we’ve still got the essence of the open fields in the middle of the village which give it a nice country feel.‘On the whole it is a friendly village. We’ve got a shop, we’ve got a pub, we’ve got a church – I shouldn’t have put them in that order! And we’ve got a chapel, so lots of focal points.’The village hall is always busy too. Local group The Beggars perform a sell-out panto for two performances every year while groups like the Yorkshire Countrywomen’s Association are regular users.As we enter 2011, Susan has a simple hope for Bishop Burton’s New Year. ‘The aspiration of the village is that it will not change quickly, but gradually evolve. It will stay a rural community and people will embrace the countryside way of life and enjoy the life around them.’

Getting there: Bishop Burton is on the main A1079 road about three miles west of Beverley. The East Yorkshire Motor Services X46/X47 bus service between York and Hull stops at the Altisidora pub in the village.Where to park: There’s plenty of free on-street parking. Try Pudding Gate.What to do: Found in a dip in the Wolds, Bishop Burton is wonderful walking country. A couple of suggested routes can be found on the website If you’d like to watch show jumping or other equestrian events at Bishop Burton College see its website for dates.