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The North Yorkshire village of Helperby is gearing up for its biggest event of the year, as Amanda Griffiths reports

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Helperby may appear quiet, but beneath the surface there is a lot going on. Planning is well underway for the biggest day in the village calendar, when visitors will flood the streets and crowd the footpaths.

More than 1,000 people from all over Yorkshire are expected to turn up for the Hidden Gardens of Helperby and Brafferton day.
Jess Hayne, one of the organisers of the event, said: They drive quite a long way to visit the gardens. A lot of people come from Hull and Tyneside and one couple last year were on their way home from holiday when they saw the signs for the Hidden Gardens of Helperby and just followed them. They said theyre coming back this year they enjoyed it so much!

The event, which has run for 25 years, will be held on the first Sunday in July and usually includes about a dozen gardens being opened to the public. Some are regulars, others change each year and Jess added: A lot of our visitors like to come back year after year to see how the gardens change, we have quite a regular following.


We close off the main street to traffic and have stalls offering everything from cushions and clothing to plants and garden stuff.

We have a brass band playing and mini concerts in the gardens and outside the pubs, everything from string quartets to hand bells. Theres a choral concert in the church, Morris dancers and refreshments in the village hall.

The event started as a garden party at Helperby Hall, but when the house was sold the tradition and so it moved onto the street and became one of the first open garden events in the country.

Last year we raised more than 6,000 for the church, Jess added. I think people like it because it stays the same and people know what theyre going to get. Its a friendly atmosphere and everyone is very smiley.

This friendly atmosphere seems to be a common feature of village life. Samantha Malia works at Raines of Helperby, the village shop, post office and caf, which has developed quite a reputation since new owners Heather and Graham took it over.

I dont think theres another village like it, says Samantha. We just came to dinner at a friends house here. We drove down the main street and thought what a lovely place! I cant imagine living anywhere else now.

Activities in the village include everything from scouts and brownies to ballet lessons (for adults and children), martial arts, the WI and two successful amateur dramatic clubs.

What these groups have in common is Helperby Village Hall which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Built in 2000, the hall replaced a previous building with funding from the Millennium Lottery alongside a number of other local organisations, Helperby and Brafferton parish councils and local fundraising efforts.

The hall, which is also regularly used for wedding receptions and all manner of other social events, has a unique talking point that visitors cant help but stop and admire - a portrait of the villagers in the year 2000 by artist George Waud, a local man who has built up quite a following in London.

George, the son of the much-loved local doctor, who had his surgery here and consequently has one of the rooms in the hall named in his memory, has included all the local landmarks and at least one representative of each family in the village in the year 2000. People often gather in the entrance to look at the eight foot high painting, and the more you do, the more you see.

No-one else has anything like it, says caretaker Anne Tuley.
And the small village is also leading the way with an innovative oil co-operative. Chris Owens, vice chairman of the village hall, has been instrumental in setting up the scheme.

We arent powered by natural gas in Helperby so rely on oil tanks, Chris said. Each month I send an email round to the people involved to see how much oil they need to order. Then I take this group order to the oil companies and get a much cheaper price for it than if we all ordered it separately.

Its great for us, great for the oil companies because theyre only making one trip and its something thats being picked up in villages around us.

Where is it? Helperby is in the Hambleton district of North Yorkshire, about five miles west of Easingwold. It is adjacent to the village of Brafferton, in fact to the untrained eye the two would appear to be one village. Put YO61 2NT in your sat nav to find the village centre.

Where to park? There is no village car park as such. The pubs and village hall have their own but the rest is on-street parking. During the Hidden Gardens event a temporary car park is set up on a local fruit growers field.

What to do there? See a show at the village hall, or watch the local sporting teams play. Have a walk along the river or go specifically for the Hidden Gardens. Finish off with a drink and something to eat either in the caf or village pubs.

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