Why Grassington is one of the Yorkshire Dales’ most visited villages

Grass Woods, Grassington

Grass Woods, Grassington - Credit: Alamy

Community is important in Grassington as Esther Leach discovers

Grassington Hub volunteers

Grassington Hub volunteers - Credit: Archant

'It's easy, if you want to get involved; it's easy in Grassington because there are so many things going on,' said Cynthia Colley who has lived in the Yorkshire Dales village for 25 years. She and her husband Andrew were taking a late lunch break while manning Grassington Hub, a small, low ceilinged building off the cobbled market square. This was the only time during the day they had to catch up before they got home later that night. They were both out in the evening at different events. 'If you wanted to, you could be out every night of the week,' said Andrew.

The couple are trustees of the Hub formed four years ago by a group of people who felt the village needed a central point of contact; a way of keeping the community together. They wanted to preserve and develop local services including a library. The idea won funding for not just a building but a full-time manager and today is a vital part of everyday life not only providing information about local organisations but also acting as a launch pad for a variety of social projects. 'Do you remember David Cameron talking about the Big Society? Well we were the first to have a volunteer-run library,' said Cynthia.

No one should confuse the Hub with any kind of tourism centre in the much visited Dales village; one of the most popular destinations in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It is all about ensuring the community in and around Grassington has what it needs. Grassington Hub volunteers run the Grassington and District Helping Hands Patient Transport Service. 'We have a number of volunteer drivers who will take people living in isolated areas to keep doctor appointments, and to visit the dentist and the optician,' said Cynthia. The service also includes collecting and delivering prescriptions and there's a visitor service for housebound people who might otherwise rarely see anyone. 'Loneliness is a big problem especially for elderly people who live in the more isolated areas and we are trying to do something about that,' added Cynthia.

The Hub's full-time manger, Ann Wild, skilled in winning funding for social projects, said finding ways of combating loneliness especially among older villagers, was one of their main priorities. 'We aim to address problems associated with rural and social isolation, that is to say transport, social activity and local facilities,' said Ann. The Hub has been given the use of a North Yorkshire County Council mini bus which helps older people living independently and in care homes to get out and meet people. It will also help bridge the gaps in recent public transport cuts.

There's help at the Hub too for local groups applying for funding. It also offers volunteering opportunities and training, advertises local jobs, provides computer access and training and runs the community website in partnership with the Chamber of Trade. There is business support too with administrative services including photocopying, laminating, passport photographs as well as displays for local community groups.

And while Grassington Hub doesn't necessarily aim its services at day trippers and tourists, it is the place to go to learn about and get tickets for the latest events including festivals, concerts, exhibitions, theatre productions and movie nights. Volunteers will help with travel information too. Grassington Hub is a DITA (Dales Integrated Transport Alliance) Transport Hub with a dedicated computer and printer to help with transport inquiries and making travel bookings.

Special mention

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Grassington is the home of the Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association whose members risk their lives to save those who get into difficulty in caves, down mineshafts, on crags, on the fells or anywhere not accessible to normal emergency services. The rescue team is made up of over 80 well trained and well equipped volunteer cavers, climbers and mountaineers and covers Wharfedale, Nidderdale, Littondale and mid-Airedale.and is on call 365 days a year. The association relies on public donations so if you would like to give this Christmas go to their website uwfra.org.uk to find out how you can help.

Dickensian Christmas Festival

One of the highlights of year in Grassington are the preparations for Christmas when the whole village steps back to Dickensian times over three Saturdays including November 29th, December 6th and December 13th. The Grassington Dickensian Christmas Festival opens with a parade led by Hebden Bridge Band and Town Crier followed by a feast of entertainment ranging from Morris dancing and Punch and Judy to walk about magic shows and carol singing.

'There are plenty of Christmas shopping opportunities as you discover the nooks and crannies which house our traditional shops,' said Angela Jackson, festival co-ordinator. 'The village is also brimming with market stalls and there's an indoor craft fair with many local organisations and charities selling their Christmas wares.

'Enjoy the entertainment on the bandstand and throughout the village courtesy of local bands, choirs, street theatre, re-enactors, dancers, circus performers, buskers and lots more. All around the village aromas of open braziers, roasting chestnuts and mulled wine will whet your appetite for the delights of local cafes and hostelries.' And don't forget to visit Santa in his grotto then follow the torchlight procession to the Main Square and join in the community carol singing.

Find out more at grassington.uk.com or email dickensian@grassington.uk.com