Find your own cas­tle in the town that’s rac­ing ahead of the mar­ket

Mid­dle­ham is an odds-on favourite with house hunters. Sharon Dale re­veals why.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

MID­DLE­HAM’S com­mu­nity web­site proudly boasts that the town is “the jewel in the crown of Wens­ley­dale”.

While the author may be bi­ased, those who know the area would no doubt agree with this bold state­ment.

Its lo­ca­tion is stun­ning. Nestling on a hill­side be­tween the River Cover and the River Ure about half an hour’s drive from Ripon, it is sur­rounded by breath­tak­ing coun­try­side with the mag­nif­i­cent Coverdale val­ley at its tip.

It has im­pres­sive his­toric cre­den­tials, too. Its ru­ined cas­tle was the much-loved child­hood home of the now in­fa­mous King Richard III, who was cared for by the Earl of War­wick. He mar­ried War­wick’s daugh­ter Anne in 1472 and Mid­dle­ham be­came his po­lit­i­cal power base while he ad­min­is­tered the North on be­half of his brother King Ed­ward IV.

Ar­chi­tec­turally, the town still bears the hall­marks of suc­cess. Its res­i­den­tial prop­erty is a mix of old cot­tages with some lovely Ge­or­gian and Vic­to­rian houses around the cob­bled mar­ket square and newer build hid­den away on the out­skirts.

But what re­ally makes it spe­cial is the race horse train­ing. Mid­del­ham has around 15 sta­bles, in­clud­ing those of Ge­orge Moore, Ben Haslam, Micky Ham­mond and top trainer Mark Johnston, who is right in the mid­dle of town.

For­mer vet Mr Johnston, whose main client is Sheikh Mo­hammed al Mak­toum has put Mid­dle­ham firmly on the rac­ing map since ar­riv­ing in 1988 and is the first trainer ever to have 100 win­ners in 10 con­sec­u­tive Flat sea­sons.

You will hear the echo of thor­ough­bred hooves in the morn­ing as the horses go up to the gal­lops above town and it is their rid­ers and train­ers who re­ally add life and vi­brancy to Mid­dle­ham and make it dif­fer­ent to other Dales tourist towns.

They also add an­other strand to a prop­erty mar­ket that now has three dis­tinct sets of buy­ers.

“There is the rac­ing fra­ter­nity who veer from ex­tremely wealthy to com­pletely broke. Never any­thing in be­tween,” says es­tate agent Liz Carlisle of JR Hop­per, draw­ing at­ten­tion to the fickle na­ture of the rac­ing busi­ness.

“Then there are the lo­cal fam­i­lies, who have lived here for gen­er­a­tions and, of course, the third lot are peo­ple from out­side who are want to live here or have a hol­i­day home here. We have four or five pi­lots there now be­cause it’s equidis­tant be­tween air­ports.

Off cumed ’uns have helped push prices up well out of reach of most first-time buy­ers.

The start­ing price at the moment is £120,000 for a small one bed­room cot­tage for sale with Nor­man F Brown.

A fam­ily-sized pe­riod prop­erty starts at about £220,000.

Or you can buy a life­style prop­erty suit­able for a B&B from about £300,000.

For value, look at ex-coun­cil houses and newer builds on the edge of the town.

JR Hop­per has a three bed­room semi in need of mod­erni­sa­tion for sale at £135,000.

“There are no good or bad ar­eas. They’re all good,” says Liz, who adds that the in­ter­net, which al­lows peo­ple to work from home, has added to the num­ber seek­ing to live the Dales dream in Mid­dle­ham.

Roland Han­d­ley, 75, who has lived there all his life, says: “It has changed a lot start­ing in the 1960s and 1970s in that there are a lot of peo­ple from out­side now. Peo­ple have bought houses and done them up and now they’re too ex­pen­sive for lo­cal peo­ple. When I was a lad houses cost £100.”

The town is also a pop­u­lar spot for those who want to “re­tire” to the coun­try. “A lot of peo­ple tend to re­tire twice when they come up here,” says Liz.

“First, peo­ple will re­tire early here at 55 or 60 and buy the house they’ve al­ways wanted or a life­style prop­erty like a B&B and then be­tween 75 and 80, they ‘re­tire’ again into some­thing smaller or a bun­ga­low and usu­ally in Ley­burn.”

Ley­burn is the bust mar­ket town two miles away with more shops and fa­cil­i­ties.

While Mid­dle­ham has town sta­tus, it is vil­lage-sized, though it still has a good lo­cal shop with post of­fice, a com­mu­nity cen­tre and four pubs.

These range from se­date to lively thanks to the teenage sta­ble boys and girls.

“It’s al­most like a uni­ver­sity for horse train­ing and young­sters flood in des­per­ate for some­where to live. They are quite hard to house. They come here at 16-plus and so need a par­ent guar­an­tor and find­ing

The rid­ers and train­ers re­ally add life to Mid­dle­ham and make it dif­fer­ent to other Dales towns.

rental prop­erty suit­able is a chal­lenge,” says Liz.

They also come and go, and have been do­ing so since race horse train­ing be­gan here. Ge­orge Formby was a sta­ble lad here un­til he swapped the sad­dle for the stage.

This tran­sience adds in­ter­est and con­stantly re­gen­er­ates the pop­u­la­tion and has done since the 1700s when the first trainer set up and race meet­ings be­gan on the High Moor, now home to the gal­lops.

“The boys and girls don’t tend to stay long but there’s still very much a com­mu­nity here. It’s a lo­cals town with all sorts of clubs and groups. It also has a very low crime rate. Peo­ple still tell chil­dren off for be­ing naughty. It’s that kind of place,” says Liz.

Roland sug­gests that by run­ning this piece we’ll be alert­ing ev­ery­one to Mid­dle­ham’s charms and en­cour­ag­ing more out­siders to set­tle there. He’s right, but then ac­cord­ing to Liz Carlisle, they’ve been com­ing since Richard III gave it his royal seal of ap­proval and there re­ally is no stop­ping them.


LAND­MARK: Mid­dle­ham Cas­tle was the child­hood home of Richard III.

,THREE TO SEE: From left, Do­mus, Mar­ket Place, £545,000, JR Hop­per tel: 01969 622936, www.jrhop­ – pe­riod guest house, six bed­rooms and owner’s ac­com­mo­da­tion. Glas­gow Cot­tage, £225,000, JR Hop­per – Ge­or­gian cot­tage, four bed­rooms and pa­tio gar­den. Over­looks a rac­ing sta­bles. Jasper Cot­tage, £130,000, JR Hop­per – two beds and pa­tio gar­den.

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