Things are changing in the North Yorkshire market town of Easingwold
Things are changing in Easingwold – but not too much or too quickly, as Jo Haywood discovers Photographs by Mike Kipling
The good people of Easingwold are not ones to keep their opinions to themselves. If they’ve got something to say, they say it. And, if the truth be told (and it usually is), their town is probably better off because of it.
When North Yorkshire County Council announced plans two years ago to give the town a revamp, with parking restrictions, cobble removal and changes to the traffic flow, residents said no. Or, more probably, no thank you (they are nothing if not polite in these parts).
‘People objected to the initial scheme drawn up by the county council because they felt it would alter the look and feel of the town too much,’ said mayor and chairman of the town council Diane Gallon. ‘There was a big public meeting and the plan was withdrawn.’
In many towns, that is where the story would end, with the status quo prevailing over progress. But not in Easingwold. The residents held a series of meetings and came up with their own plan to improve access to the town centre – a plan that is now in its latter stages of completion.
The �200,000 works, which began in March and are due to end this month, include new footways, crossing points, cycle parks, bus boarding facilities and information boards. And everyone seems happy with them (fingers crossed, touch wood, etc).
‘The work makes it easier for people to get around town,’ said Diane. ‘Residents put a lot of effort into getting the details right. We even had some who volunteered to visit quarries locally and further afield to find just the right sandstone for the new footpaths.’
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The Marmite cobbles (some people love them, others hate them) are largely still in place. Now, however, pedestrians can safely traverse the town on the new network of paths that link strategic points like the library and post office.
‘And there are still no parking restrictions, which most people are keen for us to maintain,’ said Diane. ‘Our centre is quite small and can get congested, but the fact that people can park their cars is still one of the attractions of the town.’
But it is not its only selling point. Easingwold has a good range of independent shops, numerous popular markets, a recently-installed children’s playground that’s already proving a big hit with small people, a well-used bandstand – the town has a very active band and concerts are a regular weekend occurrence – and the Galtres Centre, a volunteer-run leisure complex offering everything from badminton to live broadcasts from the National Theatre.
‘Easingwold has a tremendous record for voluntary work and goodwill,’ said Diane. ‘The town’s tourism office is run by a very enthusiastic group of volunteers and the Galtres Centre couldn’t provide the wide range of activities it does without its hard-working band of helpers.’
For a place of its relatively demure size, Easingwold has an amazing number of things going for it, which probably explains why it maintains such a consistently good visitor rate despite the bypass that takes traffic straight past it to York and Thirsk.
‘It’s surprising how many people come for a visit and, maybe months or years later, come back to stay,’ said Diane. ‘They were looking for somewhere in North Yorkshire and remembered what a lovely atmosphere Easingwold had. That’s very gratifying to hear and makes us all very thankful for what we’ve got.’
A new housing development with a mixture of around 80 homes and a smattering of businesses destined for a patch of land opposite the comprehensive school is now starting to edge its way along the precarious planning path. Surely the people of Easingwold will have something to say about that?
‘The town council doesn’t take the line that we can’t have new developments, but we do like them to be balanced with a good mix of housing and, preferably, some parking provision,’ said Diane. ‘But our opinion is only one part of the equation.
‘People tend to make their views quite clear in Easingwold, so let’s just say I think there will be a few more meetings in the pipeline.’
Getting there: Easingwold is an unspoilt Georgian market town in the shade of the Hambleton Hills. It lies just ten miles from York off the A19. Regular buses link the town to Thirsk, Helmsley, York and its surrounding villages. It is also on the Moors Bus route. For more information, click on visit-easingwold.com.
Parking: There are no parking restrictions in the town centre, but residents will ask you (politely) to move your car if it’s blocking one of their lovely new sandstone pavements.
Where to visit: The Galtres Centre hosts all manner of events from live theatre broadcasts to films and sports. You will also be spoiled for choice when it comes to markets, with its regular Friday, country and farmers’ varieties. And if you feel like getting lost, Easingwold’s very own Maize Maze is on hand to baffle and amuse for six weeks during the summer.
The print version of this article appeared in the October 2011 issue of Yorkshire Life
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