Spotlight on East Ayton

THE SERIES I AM WRITING FOR THE ‘SCARBOROUGH NEWS’ ON LOCAL VILLAGES STARTED TODAY. UNFORTUNATELY, LIKE MANY SCARBORIANS, THEY HAVE CONFLATED EAST AND WEST AYTON TO MAKE ONE AYTON! SOME OF THEIR PICTURES ACTUALLY SHOW WEST AYTON SCENES AND WEST AYTON IS TO BE FEATURED IN ITS OWN RIGHT LATER IN THE YEAR.

Here’s today’s.

A person could live and prosper in East Ayton for several weeks without needing to go into Scarborough, always assuming they could manage without buckets of KFC, mobile phone wallets or selfie sticks. In short, the good thing about the village of East Ayton is its level of self-sufficiency; all of life’s basic needs are here.

It is blessed with its own Spar supermarket and service station (staffed largely by locals), has a first-rate takeaway fish and chip shop, one of Scarborough’s busiest and most successful restaurants (Walkers), hairdressing salons for both sexes and the wonderful Betton Farm visitor attraction.

With a population at the 2011 census of 1,678 and set five miles out of Scarborough the village is not big on places worth pointing a camera at.  However, East Ayton is functional and has a strong sense of community rather than being overly blessed with rustic charm.

The only part of the village that offers a handsome aspect is Castlegate which has a delightful view of West Ayton Castle and fields of horses.

Saint John the Baptist Church is impressive in a number of ways, not least its font which has been in use for an estimated 875 years. The memorial stained glass window is a relatively recent acquisition which reflects light exquisitely on a bright day. One feature of the Church that is a real source of mystery is a bulge in the wall over the top of the blocked-up North door. Is it possible we will ever know the answer to that somewhat cryptic puzzler?

First person to be buried in East Ayton churchyard was one Elizabeth Buckle in 1887 and, by coincidence, Jack Buckle is the first name registered in the school’s pupil log some years earlier.

When it was last OFSTED-ed in 2013, the school came out as ‘good and improving’. OFSTED operates on a four-point scale with 1 being outstanding and 4 unsatisfactory, East Ayton Primary came out at 2. Although smaller than average nationally at 178 pupils the teacher to pupil ratio is 26.7:1 which is not overly generous. Ian Fleming has been head for many years but he is due to retire this summer.

The village’s pub, the Denison Arms, has switched hands more times than a deck of cards during the last couple of years but now looks more settled. Trip advisor assessments on the Denison vary from outstanding to outrageous.

East Ayton Playing Fields are a source of local pride. Attached to them is a busy social club that acts like a magnet for locals and goes a long way towards establishing a sense of community. The children’s playground was spoiled years ago by vandals and it has taken strong action by the committee to defeat the once high level of dog fouling.

It is a long time since East Ayton ruled the roost in either football or cricket locally. Just 29 years ago Forge Valley CC (then based at East Ayton playing fields) won the National Village Cricket Cup, a mighty feat that has never come close to being repeated.

It is a long time since Ayton produced a football team that could mix it with the top sides in the area. Usually, decent facilities attract the top local sportsmen but that doesn’t appear to be the case here. Of course, it is organisation and management that draws in sporting talent and perhaps that is what is lacking at East Ayton: someone to run the show.

Local characters like Steven Garbutt and Heather Phillips and the committees that support them have produced some wonderful shows at the village hall: Old Time Musical Hall, Ayton’s Got Talent and Wartime Spectaculars among them. This facility is also used by Derwent Valley Bridge Library (West Ayton) for some high profile writers to meet their public: people like Gervase Phinn and, a real coup this coming autumn, Anne Cleeve, whose work is frequently televised.

The cost of living in East Ayton varies tremendously from a property which is currently well over the million mark to more modest houses in the £100k range. Some pleasant and attractive social housing exists at Seavegate off Moor Lane in the North of the village. A four-bedroom detached house on Racecourse Road, the main thoroughfare to Scarborough, will cost you £280,000 compared with a three-bedroom semi-detached on Moor Lane at £170,000.

In each village I consider in this series, I like to focus on aspects of a village that deserve to be a source of local pride. In East Ayton that ‘prize’ would go to the Betton Farm visitor attraction. Taken over by Basics Plus in 2010 this venture has gone from strength to strength and deserves all the support it gets from the community.

You don’t have to get out the motor and take a trip in order to see all that it has to offer. Betton Farm has a splendid website which will give you half an hour of harmless enjoyment and give you an insight into what the attraction offers.

The first thing you need to know is that it provides a place of employment for people with special needs. It does this responsibly, without patronising them, and seems to turn a decent profit in the process. The restaurant has won plaudits from many corners and I particularly recommend it as a lunchtime rendezvous. As Betton Farm produces its own bread and cakes you can expect to see them on offer at the restaurant.

The attraction has set out to be a place that welcomes families and that means numerous features for the children. Restless youngsters with energy to burn could head for the climbing frames or the big yellow chutes. For the infants there is a well thought-out play area which is constantly being added to.

Elements of the original farm remain and have been turned into a working farm which is supplemented by an aviary and a honey bee exhibition. Although they are not children’s attractions, the pottery craft workshop and woodturning facility add an extra dimension to what’s on offer.

Head out of East Ayton on the A170 towards Pickering, supposing you can resist stopping off for a fish dinner at Walkers (never had a bad meal there), you will travel past and across two of the village’s architectural boasts.

The first is the old Methodist Chapel to your right, a handsome building that has been out of use for far too long, and the John Carr Bridge which was built in 1775 from the same stone used on Ayton Castle.

The impressive original bridge is not to be confused with the modern road bridge on the south side of the Derwent, which serves as a launch pad for speeding traffic as it exits through West Ayton village, careless of the 30 mph speed limit. As a consequence, ambulance drivers must know this highway like the proverbial backs of their hands.

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© Alan Combes, 2017. All Rights Reserved

Alan Combes