Take a steady drive by bus or private transport into the countryside. As spring draws near and leafy trees awake once more you’ll be surprised by the number of villages you discover, each with its own charm and story to tell.
This week it’s Thornton-le-Dale, once described as the prettiest village in the National Park. Many think so, with its village green and beckside thatched cottages. Then just beyond, seek the medieval St Hilda’s Church at Ellerburn, reached by a lovely riverside walk from Thornton-le-Dale, or along Whitbygate northwards.
In the centre of the village is a large car park to accommodate the many visitors descending here in summertime. It was once the walled garden of Thornton Hall. Footpaths beside the large duck pond lead over the beck to the village green. The old market cross is in the shadow of a chestnut tree, and beside it, the village stocks. Here, offenders suffered the jeers and attacks from passers-by. It is not the original, but has been replaced several times.
You’ll find gift shops all around. The Old Smithy is popular, and used to be visited by farm horses waiting to be shod.
Thornton Beck flows from Low Dalby through Ellerburn – an attractive feature, as it runs along the south side of the main road.
Most folk will be familiar with the scene of thatched cottages at Beck Isle. Photographs have featured on calendars and cards, and even jigsaw puzzles. Thornton Hall was originally built in the 17th century. It was later enlarged and developed into a residential care home for the elderly, but provided a restaurant and public bar too.
The nearby bridge carries the main A170 road over the beck. On the hill close by stands All Saints’ Church. Sir Richard Cholmley is buried in the chancel. In the churchyard is the gravestone of Matthew Grimes. He fought at Waterloo, and guarded Napoleon on the island of St Helena.
You no doubt observed the row of almshouses near the village green. They end beside the old grammar school. Dated 1656, it was Lady Lumley who left a large part of her estate to encourage the education of scholars. Re-trace your steps to the west end of the village. At the junction of Chestnut Avenue with Whitbygate, turn right and head north up Whitbygate. A narrow road goes north along the dale side. Seats are provided for the weary and to admire the scenery of sheep pastures, and watch inquisitive squirrels.
After about a mile you reach St Hilda’s Church in a lovely setting. Much of the church dates back to Norman times, but it was restored in 1904. Nowadays it has provided a home for a colony of bats! You may find the graveyard is grazed by natural lawn mowers – sheep. Wander further to view the trout hatcheries - a popular haunt for fishermen.
You may choose to wander back beside the beck, which makes a grand return route – weather permitting.
Now, looking ahead to summer, on most Sundays you can enjoy music on the green, with silver and brass bands performing.
Motor enthusiasts must call at the Motor Museum, which is open daily. There are classic and vintage cars, along with motorbikes, from the year 1918 to 1976. You can even see how the restoration process is carried out if you watch from the gallery.
Then August bank holiday weekend, the Scarecrow Festival takes place with entertainment for all the family.
Last, but by no means least, is the annual Thornton-le-Dale show. In its 98th year this year, look out for the date in August. It will make a good day out.
Refreshment and public conveniences in the village.
Access by private transport. From Scarborough use the 128 bus service, Pickering/Helmsley.