Stroll along the River Ouse to Acaster Malbis in Yorkshire
PUBLISHED: 08:33 24 May 2010 | UPDATED: 17:15 20 February 2013
Enjoy tales of the riverbank from this village just a riverbus ride from York
Tales from the riverbank
Stroll along the River Ouse to Acaster Malbis with Jo Haywood
A mother duck and her two ducklings little more than dandelion clocks with beaks cross a pebbled path at Chestnut Farm in Acaster Malbis on their way for a dip in the river in the late spring sunshine.
She had five ducklings last time I saw her, and seven the week before, said lifelong resident Steve Smith, proving that nothing and no-one goes unnoticed in this tight-knit community just a short riverbus ride down the Ouse from York.
Acaster Malbis has a small population the last census recorded it at 578 but it is boosted for a few months every year by a healthy flow of happy holidaymakers. The Smith family welcomed their first caravan to Chestnut Farm in 1899 and now have a thriving holiday park with numerous static caravans, tourers and converted cottages.
The village has attracted visitors, particularly from West Yorkshire, for decades, said Steve, who took over the park from his uncle 28 years ago. The river is the key. The lock at Naburn means were on the first non-tidal stretch of the Ouse, making it navigable and popular with boats. We have a big slipway thats well known in the boating fraternity and a riverbus taking people up to York.
Thats another key selling point of this picturesque riverside community its close proximity to the rich history, cultural attractions and shopping opportunities in nearby York.
Acaster doesnt have a village shop or a post office (it closed, as is the way of things, in 1993), but no one seems to see this as a negative. In fact, most see it as a veritable bonus.
People come here to be by the river in peaceful rural surroundings, said Steve. Were not in the middle of nowhere though. We have easy access to all the shops and facilities in Bishopthorpe and Copmanthorpe, theres the 24-hour Tesco up the road and York is just minutes away.
In Acaster itself we have a popular pub that does good business and a very busy village hall. Theres always something going on somewhere. There arent many of us but that doesnt stop us being a very active community.
The pub in question is the riverside Ship Inn, which has been threatened by floodwater a couple of times in recent years but hasnt been sunk yet. In fact, it seems to be more buoyant than ever and a perennial favourite with locals, tourists, walkers, sailors and spooks.
Among the numerous things that regularly go bump in the night is a mysterious grey figure who floats about the place scaring the bar staff, chucking things off shelves, lighting fires in the grate and generally making a bit of a nuisance of itself. It is believed the irritating apparition is a former regular known as Bob the Stoker who used to spend an inordinate amount of time poking and prodding the pub fire before his own flame was doused for good about 50 years ago.
Acaster is also home to a busy community hall, a Methodist chapel, Holy Trinity Church an enchanting little place with a quaint wooden spire on higher ground to the north of the village a boatyard and a public slipway to the river with mooring space and crane facilities. Acaster Marine also offers dry storage for up to 85 vessels about a mile outside the village.
Few properties come up for sale in the village as most families have lived in Acaster for generations. And when they do they attract a premium price, particularly if the package includes a riverside frontage.
Mill Garth Park, on the old post office car park in the shadow of the Manor House, offers one of the very few opportunities for new residents to add to the permanent population. It is a development of residential timber lodges aimed at 50-something downsizers looking for a rural retreat.
Theyre for people who want to downsize in luxury, said Jacob Smith yes, this is another Smith family endeavour. This isnt just about buying a property, its about buying into a lifestyle among other likeminded people.
And a key aspect of that lifestyle the thing that people refer back to again and again is the river. Whether they want to sail along it, fish in it, stroll its banks or simply plant themselves down at its edge with a pint and a paper, everyone seems to be unavoidably drawn eventually to the glistening stretch of water that skirts Acaster.
The river is a great attraction, said Steve. My great-grandfather was a salmon fisherman on the river and my uncle still has a licence to net salmon on the Ouse. There is talk that the salmon are coming back. Its too early to get excited, but it would be wonderful to watch them leaping again.
I remember when the river was full of lamprey too. The floodwater would recede and the mudbank would be boiling with them. My dad made a pate out of them it was quite a delicacy.
Acaster Malbis asides
It is widely believed that Acaster Malbis was once a Roman army encampment as the Latin word for camp is castra. The Malbis part comes from the land-owning family of the same name.
An RAF station opened on the outskirts of the village in 1942. It was briefly home to 601 Squadron and Group Flying Training Commands advanced flying unit. The station was rebuilt as a heavy bomber base in 1943 but didnt receive any operational squadrons. Instead, it was used as an aircrew school and for bomb storage.
Lesley Buxton and her family at Fossfield Farm have enjoyed the sweet taste of success after diversifying into ice cream. Yorvale prides itself on making the freshest ice cream possible, from cow to churn in 90 minutes (after the 30 or so milkers have had their breakfast of course).
The village church continues to celebrate Plough Sunday on the fourth Sunday after Easter by blessing a lamb and a plough. In the late 1800s, this was followed by Plough Monday, when everyone dressed up, paraded around and generally had a jolly good time.
Acaster Malbis has supported a wide variety of sporting organisations over the years, but none have come close to the success of its award-winning 1920s football team which claimed to have never lost a match.
The Acaster branch of the WI was one of the first in the county to form a breakaway group of the Yorkshire Countrywomens Association in 1983 after a unanimous vote. It is still going strong today.
The villages Millennium Book Group produced a fascinating history of Acaster Malbis to celebrate the dawning of the new century. They are difficult to come by, but if you can get your hands on a copy of Of Malet, Malbis and Fairfax, its full of interesting snippets and well worth a look.