Enjoying Easingwold in North Yorkshire
Elegant architecture, interesting shops, desirable home locations, easy parking and Sunday closing all make Easingwold special. Tony Greenway reports PHOTOGRAPHS BY MIKE KIPLING
Do you remember The Saint, the old TV 'tec show starring Roger Moore? Every week, he used to drive his Volvo to a town centre cafe and every week, he'd be able to park right outside his destination, no questions asked. He never got clamped and he never had to cruise round looking for a space.
Once, I seem to remember, he actually parked underneath the Eiffel Tower. Try that in real life and see how far you get. You can't park outside anywhere you want to get to these days although, amazingly, it is still possible in Easingwold, the good-looking Georgian market town located 10 or 12 miles outside York (depending on which guidebook you read) near the rolling Hambleton Hills.
It's free to park, too so, as the Visit Easingwold website says, there's 'no danger you'll outstay your welcome'. Jo Helliwell who works in York but lives in Easingwold raves about its relaxed atmosphere and its easy-peasy parking. 'If I want to go to the butchers,' she says, 'I pull up outside the butchers. If I want to go to the bank, I pull up outside the bank. Simple. It used to be like that in York, once upon a time, although not anymore. Easingwold is just so convenient for everything.'
'It's got everything you could possibly want.'
And the centre, with its cobbled square and canopy-covered cross, resembles a French market town (although that village green is quintessentially English). From here you can turn 360 degrees and marvel at Easingwold's elegant Georgian architecture which is beautifully and sensitively enhanced by the period and heritage colours on doors, sills, sashes and window frames. There are some exquisite shops, too, such as the new Olive Branch interiors store, and - just outside the town on the Alne Road - a light and bright art gallery, called The Lund, which has been open for more than three years and is set in some converted dairy buildings in the grounds of a picturesque farm.
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The Daily Telegraph called The Lund 'a smart new gallery... a stunning exhibition space down on the farm', and, such is its reputation, people are getting the message and going out of their way to visit it.
The owner of The Lund is Debbie Loane, a painter who graduated from Bretton Hall College in 1995 and has since exhibited all over the UK, from London to Edinburgh. 'Ten years ago, I would never have contemplated opening a gallery in this area or even admit what I did for a living,' she laughs. 'But Easingwold has changed so much. There's been a renaissance here with cafes, antique dealerships, and delis. People want to buy in the town because it's been identified as a nice place to live.
'Easingwold is deceptively large, too, and surprisingly spread out. This is a busy place, especially on a Friday when the market comes to town.'
House prices seem stable enough here but then this is part of the so-called 'Golden Triangle'. Phil and Kirsty would love it to bits. 'There are some beautiful properties in a lovely part of the countryside,' says Jo Helliwell. 'The village of Coxwold is nearby and we're six miles from The White Horse at Kilburn and the best walks in Yorkshire. Plus, Easingwold is very selfcontained with loads of great pubs, new cafes and bars, some lovely shops and a fab arts centre, so you don't really have to leave town. It's got everything you could possibly want.'
And that includes a remarkable deli called Fine Foods of Yorkshire, which was named by The Independent as one of the 50 best delis in the country. In fact, the Independent called Easingwold 'a small market town (that is) becoming an essential foodie pit stop. As well as Tea Hee cafe, which sells a fantastic selection of British cheeses alongside award-winning coffee and cakes, it's also home to Fine Foods of Yorkshire, a great all-round deli which sells fresh fish (delivered daily) and a good choice of cheeses, artisan breads and homemade savouries and desserts.'
The other remarkable thing about Easingwold? On a Sunday, most of the retailers shut up shop. That sounds like a minus point on the face of it, but it's actually a plus because Easingwold becomes extra tranquil and extra beautiful then. It feels just like Sundays used to feel and all the more enjoyable for it.