TV show brings reality check for buyers
TV series Love Thy Grassington into the spotlight, but has it destroyed a Dales dream for house hunters? Sharon Dale reports.
EVERY year, thousands of visitors discover the delights of Grassington, and a good many wish they could up sticks and move to the picture-postcard village.
That Dales dream is now a reality TV programme and it gives a snapshot of what it’s like to live in one of those pretty little cottages and be part of a tightknit community.
Love Thy Neighbour is a Channel 4 contest to win a £300,000 cottage in Grassington, and each episode features two families who have five days to throw themselves into village life and persuade residents they would be an asset to the area. At the end of each week, villagers vote for the family they want to see in the finals.
The series has a diverse array of contestants, including a lesbian couple, a transvestite, and a pair of Viking-obsessed travellers, and they soon discover that the rural idyll is not all roses round the door and friendly chats over the garden fence.
Just like anywhere else, it has its share of bigots, back-stabbers and busybodies and, naturally, the camera homes in on them.
However, each programme begins with panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, and focuses on some wonderful characters, including Bunty Leder, Mary Wilkinson and the Yorkshire Post’s Country Week columnist, Sue Woodcock.
It also makes you realise that there are some people you’d pay a premium to live next door to. In short, it’s been fantastic PR for a place that wasn’t really in need of it.
“I went the other day and the place was teeming,” says Ian Boothman, of Skiptonbased estate agency Harrison Boothman, who adds that hits on the firm’s website have increased since Love Thy Neighbour began.
“Grassington has always been a popular place to live because of its facilities and the quality of life it offers. It’s a pretty village, with an active community and it’s got everything you need,” says Ian.
“It was more of a locals place in the late 1970s, but even then people had started buying holiday cottages there and moving in from outside the area.”
Nicholas Gee, of Dacre, Son and Hartley’s Skipton branch, agrees; “It’s got shops, restaurants, a doctor’s surgery, dentist and a school, whereas most Dales’ villages don’t have those sort of amenities. It’s also got good community spirit. We’re seeing an increasing number of people who want to live there.”
Prices reflect its desirability and are bad news for first-time buyers. A tiny cottage costs from £180,000, and a family-sized property from about £250,000. The most expensive at the moment is The Old Hall, at £2.25, million with Stanton Mortimer.
According to Love Thy Neighbour: “Villagers claim that you have to have three generations in the graveyard before you are considered a local, and like many rural farming communities, it is largely white, middle-class and conservative.”
Nicholas Gee says: “We find the profile of the average buyer in Grassington older, about 55-plus. It’s those who are semi-retired or retired and they are people who have always dreamed of living there.
“We’re also getting more people who can work from home and families wanting to buy there because of the schools.”
The village primary and nearby Upper Wharfedale High School are well regarded, and the sought-after Skipton Girls’ High School and Ermysteds School are half-an-hour away.
The only disadvantage for some is the hordes of day-trippers Grassington attracts. But while the influx of cars and people can be an inconvenience, those who live there soon get used to it, and there are many compensations.
Whoever wins the £300,000 cottage will be the envy of many, and if they decide to stay, it should pay dividends.
“This is one of the most popular places to live in the Dales National Park and it’s always going to be a good investment,” says Nicholas.