Follifoot, gig things afoot in North Yorkshire
PUBLISHED: 20:35 14 February 2010 | UPDATED: 15:48 20 February 2013
Jo Haywood visits a rural North Yorkshire village that specialises in grandeur on a small scale PHOTOGRAPHS BY MIKE KIPLING
There's quiet, and then there's Follifoot. There was not a soul to be seen on the streets of this lovely North Yorkshire village on a fresh but bright late winter day, and the only sound breaking the otherwise tranquil silence was the occasional peal of uninhibited childish laughter from the playground of the primary school.
Peaceful is an over-used word when it comes to rural Yorkshire villages, but in this case it fits the bill. There is a real feeling of quiet contentment here, of a village at peace with itself and happy with its lot. After half an hour or so of contemplative wandering (that's journo-speak for noseying in people's gardens and lurking about in churchyards), I did meet two people going about their business on Main Street. Both smiled, but with an additional 'And you are...?' look on their faces; a look that's not uncommon in a close knit community where a stranger is always welcome but never goes unnoticed - particularly a stranger in a startlingly green coat with a tatty notebook in one hand and a nibbled pencil in the other.
They probably don't get many strangers in this neck of the North Yorkshire woods. Not that Follifoot is particularly farflung. The village is just four miles south of Harrogate amid rolling park and farmland. Its attractive array of cottages, houses and barns are almost all built of Yorkshire stone, giving it a distinct air of well-designed togetherness. It is made up of little more than two streets, but each is packed with interesting architectural gems, from lovely chocolate box cottages that manage to stay just this side of twee to grander family homes that have been generously but sympathetically extended over the years.
Among the village's most noteworthy features - apart from the fact that it, rather refreshingly, only has one shop - are its restored stocks, horse pond, animal pound and its Saxon cross on the village green (a rather grand title for what is really just a small triangle of grass) which dates back to the 7th or 8th century. Most noteworthy of all however are Rudding Gates, formerly the south gatehouse of the Rudding estate, which enjoy an imposing position at the head of Main Street where it makes a neat 'T' with Pannal Road and Plompton Road.
The Mackaness family has owned Rudding Park and the surrounding 2,000 acre estate - including Follifoot - since 1972. They have ploughed a great deal of time and effort into it since then, considerably upgrading the agricultural land and traditional estate properties and transforming Rudding Park House into one of the north's most prestigious conference and banqueting centres. The estate was once owned by Sir Joseph Radcliffe, which explains why one of the village's two pubs is called the Radcliffe Arms.
The other hostelry, the Harewood Arms (known to locals as Lascelles), highlights Follifoot's connection with its equally grand neighbour on its Leeds side. The village's other notable connection is with horses. Its name is thought to derive from the Norse meaning 'place of the horse fight' indicating that it was once possibly used as a centre for training horses and staging fights, an equine sport made popular by the bloodthirsty Vikings.
Horses still feature prominently in the daily life of Follifoot, although thankfully there is no fighting involved these days (having said that, I did see one playfully headbutting another as they trotted along Plompton Road). Horse Pond Beck flows along the line of modern Main
Street, joining Lolburn stream, which runs beneath the village, at Horse Pond. At one time, there was actually an open stream running along the side of the street, intermittently crossed by miniature bridges.
The village is also home to Follifoot Park Riding Centre - the name is a bit of a giveaway - which offers tuition for all standards from absolute beginners to the more advanced, as well as a group dedicated to disabled riders. This means of course that the usual peace of the village is often broken by the clip-clop of hooves and the murmured conversations of jodhpur-clad riders. But that is not such a bad thing, in fact its actually a pleasant addition to an already exceedingly pleasing village, despite what the local road cleaner might say on the matter.