Haxby and Wigginton - a North Yorkshire town and village which are joined at the hip

PUBLISHED: 09:41 16 October 2012 | UPDATED: 22:05 20 February 2013

Memorial Hall in the heart of Haxby

Memorial Hall in the heart of Haxby

Explore a North Yorkshire town and village which are joined at the hip, suggests Chris Titley<br/>Photographs by: Joan Russell

Position yourself at a busy intersection about a mile north of the Minster in York city centre and youll find a simple choice. To your left is Wigginton Road, to your right is Haxby Road. Go right and youll see the chocolate factory and the school named after its founder, Joseph Rowntree School.

Go left and youll pass York Hospital and the busy Clifton Moor retail park.
Eventually youll come to the parishes that gave their name to these roads: Haxby and Wigginton.

And although they are very much part of Greater York, they have their own separate histories and identities.

Haxby is the bigger and busier of the two, a proper town in its own right with more than twice the population of its village neighbour. But for centuries this was a simple rural settlement.

It was founded in Viking times by Haac the Dane, hence its name, and was part of the Forest of Galtres.

The trees were felled, the land cultivated, and farming began. Maps show that by the start of the 18th century Haxby consisted of a wide main road with rows of strip farms either side. And so its story unfolded: small farms were amalgamated into bigger ones and Haxby grew, slowly and steadily.

It was the sort of village where the schoolmaster would turn a blind eye to absenteeism at the end of summer as all the children were needed to bring in the harvest.

The Second World War changed things. The village came under attack by a German plane the fish shop was strafed with bullets so late on in the conflict that it is claimed to be the last attack by the Nazis on the English mainland.

And in the aftermath, Haxby put on a growth spurt. House building began in earnest and the quiet agricultural backwater developed into the busy township of today. Such was the population growth in the1970s that action was needed to protect Haxbys special character, and its centre was designated a conservation area.

Although the farms have all but gone from the middle of the town to be replaced by a busy shopping street complete with an artisan baker who is highly active on Twitter the place retains a rural feel thanks to its being surrounded on three sides by greenbelt farming land.

The best way to explore Haxby is on foot. Follow one of the routes on the leaflet of walks produced by the town council, which can be downloaded from its website. The western boundary of Haxby is shared with Wigginton.

To the untutored eye, it is hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. This is reflected in the number of groups and events which are partnerships between the two, including the Haxby and Wigginton Scarecrow Festival which raised more than 4,000 for charity this year.Wigginton has followed a similar trajectory to Haxby, with farmland sold off for housing, but it has kept a distinct village character.

Its country origins are there in the street names: Mill Lane was named after the nearby windmill, as was the Windmill pub, which once belonged to Tadcasters Tower Brewery before being turned into a private residence in the middle of the last century. The focal point of the village is the duck pond, keeping alive a rural atmosphere in what today is very much a commuter satellite of York.

Despite the changes a strong community spirit and sense of pride remains in the village: this year the parish council reintroduced the Best Kept Garden award scheme and a Young Persons Achievement Award.

And every Christmas, people from miles around travel to see a very special spectacle here. While the illuminations in York are a source of constant criticism, considered distinctly underwhelming for such a naturally festive city, no such allegations can be levelled at Wigginton. For a decade and longer the residents of Twin Pike Way have decorated their houses with all manner of twinkling lights, flashing reindeer and dazzling Santas.

Affectionately dubbed Twinkle Pike Way by the locals, it has become an annual tourist attraction and has raised more than 50,000 in support of different charities.

Getting there
Haxby and Wigginton are found a few miles north of York, between the A64 and the A19. Regular bus services connect them to York city centre.

Where to park
Theres on-street parking available in both centres, including marked spaces outside the Memorial Hall in Haxby.

What to do
Walk through Haxby on one of the guided routes published by the town council, or follow the Haxby Town Trail. Feed the ducks in Wigginton. Enjoy a spot of lunch at one of the cafs and pubs.

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