East Riding's North and South Cave

Chris Titley enjoys a scenic stroll around two neighbouring East Riding parishes PHOTOGRAPHS BY NEIL HOLMES

They're a proud lot in South Cave. Residents have been defending their way of life for 2,000 years. Or at least that's what historians now believe. This summer five swords and a bundle of spearheads went on display in Beverley. They had been found by a group of hobbyists with metal detectors six years earlier in a farmer's field in South Cave.

The haul caused local experts to have a rethink. East Yorkshire, it was previously surmised, was a pushover for the Romans. No forts, you see. But the mini-arsenal of swords and spears suggested that first century South Cavians had fought the aggressors - or as East Riding museums registrar Dr David Marchant put it, these 'brave Yorkshire lads were standing up against foreign invaders'.

They may have battled in vain, though, as parts of the path of the Roman road can still be seen. Fast forward a millennium and South Cave was largely owned by the Archbishop of York. After Royal Charters were granted in the 12th century allowing village fairs and markets, it was known as Marcacave - 'cave' possibly derived from the beck flowing from the Wolds.

Its location at the junction of several routes made it a natural trading centre and in 1796 a market hall was built, now the town hall. Although the general markets died out by the 1860s, killed off by the railway, the popular South Cave Farmers' Market, selling meat, cheeses, fruit and vegetables, has rekindled the tradition today.

Along with All Saints Church, with its fine blue clock adorned with golden numerals, the most distinctive building in the town is the Cave Castle Hotel and Country Club. Built by Henry Barnard at the start of the 19th century, this splendid Gothic manor house comes complete with turrets and 150 acres of sprawling grounds, including a golf course. It splits the town in two.

All Saints sits in the West End, while the main road and Market Place to the east is busier, and home to two pubs, the Fox & Coney and the Bear Inn. North Cave, a couple of miles up the road, is similar but smaller. Like its namesake neighbour it has a beautiful church, a thriving primary school, is picturesque and a pleasure to walk around, but this is no town, but a village.

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Rosemary Roach has lived in North Cave for 37 years, arriving to help run her husband's market garden business after they married. Its cucumbers are still much sought after. 'It's a pretty little village,' she said. 'There were a number of little shops, but they have disappeared.'

She's seen the village evolve. 'There have been a lot of new developments, new estates have built up. But there's still a good community spirit in the village.' People across the country know the area well through Rosemary's regular contributions to The Guardian's Country Diary. She says there's always something of interest to see in the flora and fauna around her home.

The North Cave Wetlands, a former quarry transformed into a nature reserve by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, supports more than 170 species of birds, 200 plant species and 24 butterfly species. Lakes there provide a home for the ringed plover, oystercatcher, redshank and avocet, the sand cliffs attract sand martins and kingfishers, while ground nesting birds such as skylark, meadow pipit and redshank breed in the grassland areas.

The wetlands are not the only wildlife haven. 'There's the beck that goes through the village with all the wildlife associated with that,' said Rosemary. 'There's the Wolds just on our doorstep. BrantinghamDale is a lovely walk, and of course there's the Humber. Deer roam around and we get a good selection of birds - we get heron flying over, large flocks of long-tailed tits, ducks and geese going to and from the Humber, great spotted woodpeckers, and both barn owls and tawny owls.'

Rosemary is on the committee of the Yorkshire branch of Butterfly Conservation, but says it has been a bad summer for the insects. 'The numbers have been reduced - last year wasn't good for them. I hardly saw a peacock butterfly till very late. For only about three weeks I got a good selection in the garden.'

Someone who knows both North and South Cave well, and has idyllic memories of childhood walks through the surrounding countryside, is leading ballerina Natasha Oughtred.

She is starring as Belle in the Birmingham Royal Ballet's production of Beauty and the Beast, which tours to Sadler's Wells and the Edinburgh Festival Theatre in the coming weeks (more details at www.brb.org.uk). She was born and brought up in North Cave and went to primary school in South Cave. It was just perfect, she said.

'You are straight off the motorway - which is ideal to get to ballet classes - then suddenly you're into countryside which is so beautiful. It's away from everything. I love North Cave.'

She described her schooldays in South Cave as 'very happy and carefree' and remembered performing in country dances there. By then she was an old hand, having first attended ballet classes when three and a half years old.

'I used to dance everywhere, in supermarkets, wherever there was a bit of a crowd. It was something inside of me that had to get out.' She swapped sleepy North Cave for London's bright lights when she went to the Royal Ballet School aged 16, and joined the Birmingham Company in 2007.

Now first soloist, Natasha has danced many of the major classical roles and this year she performed at York Theatre Royal: 'It was so wonderful - I was able to bring ballet back home,' she said. 'A lot of people who knew me when I was younger came along and it was lovely to see them and hopefully to inspire a lot of other little girls and boys.'

Natasha has a hectic performing schedule until Christmas, when she will head home to see her family. 'My parents are still in the same house in North Cave. I love to get back there whenever I can to be looked after by mum and walk the dogs down the lane.'

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