The Dales home that made Wordsworth wax lyri­cal

Yorkshire Post - Property - - FRONT PAGE -

WORDSWORTH IS best known for wax­ing lyri­cal about the Lake Dis­trict but he was no stranger to the York­shire Dales and one idyl­lic spot caught his dis­cern­ing eye.

In a let­ter to his friend Sa­muel Tay­lor Co­leridge in 1799, he de­scribes Mill Gill, near Askrigg, as “a de­light­ful and de­li­cious val­ley”. The artist JMW Turner was equally en­am­oured and cap­tured this spe­cial place in his sketch book in 1816.

Lit­tle has changed since the poet and the artist de­clared their ad­mi­ra­tion and own­ers Pro­fes­sor David Blake and his wife, Rita, dearly hope that it stays that way. The cou­ple are sell­ing the prop­erty af­ter 32 years, dur­ing which time they have en­riched the land­scape and cared for the col­lec­tion of his­toric build­ings that sur­round their house.

The ask­ing price for what amounts to a mini-es­tate is £800,000. The prop­erty, on the mar­ket with Robin Jes­sop, in­cludes an early Ge­or­gian house with six bed­rooms and two bath­rooms, gar­dens and a seat­ing area over­look­ing the beck. Out­build­ings in­clude an his­toric water mill with at­tached coach house, a for­mer milk­ing par­lour, a derelict power house, a large barn, a dove­cote and 18 acres, in­clud­ing a tra­di­tional hay meadow, pas­tures, a mill pond and a stream, along with a val­ley that leads to a small wood and Mill Gill Force wa­ter­fall.

The Blakes bought the prop­erty in 1984 af­ter fall­ing in love with it while on hol­i­day in the Dales. They were liv­ing in York and were keen to es­cape the city for coun­try life.

Even though it was a three­hour round trip to and from his work at the univer­sity, Pro­fes­sor Blake, who taught music, deemed it time well spent for the re­ward of liv­ing at Mill Gill. “I fell for it and so did my wife, who is a mad keen gar­dener. It’s such a beau­ti­ful place,” says Prof Blake.

The prop­erty’s lo­ca­tion on the edge of Askrigg, near Ley­burn, is se­cluded but within walk­ing dis­tance of the shop, deli, church, vil­lage hall and the three pubs.

“It’s only about 400 yards to the edge of the vil­lage and I walk to the shop for my news­pa­per ev­ery day,” says Prof Blake, who has en­joyed re­search­ing the his­tory of his home.

The orig­i­nal mill build­ing dates to the 1500s with var­i­ous ad­di­tions. It then be­came a saw mill run by Wil­liam Han­d­ley Bur­ton, who spe­cialised in mak­ing hay rakes. He de­cided to use the water sup­ply for the mill to gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity. By 1909 he was of­fer­ing to light Askrigg’s streets and in­stalled a dam above Mill Gill Force and was pip­ing water to a power house con­tain­ing a tur­bine. It pro­duced enough power for street and house light­ing in the vil­lage. Bur­ton and his sons formed the Askrigg Elec­tric Light­ing Com­pany and in­stalled hy­dro­elec­tric schemes around the Dales. It con­tin­ued un­til the Na­tional Grid ar­rived in

1948. The mill still con­tains some of the old wood work­ing ma­chin­ery, tools and in­voices, though the power house is now a par­tial ruin. There’s also a cheese press next to the beck, which is thought to date from the early 1700s. It is men­tioned by Wens­ley­dale cheese saviour and renowned Dales­man, Kit Calvert, in one of his books.

Dur­ing their time there, the Blakes have ren­o­vated the main house and re-in­stated orig­i­nal fea­tures, in­clud­ing flag­stones in the ground floor rooms.

The listed West Mill, deemed “architecturally sig­nif­i­cant” by Nat­u­ral Eng­land, was in poor re­pair but has been re­stored and is now in good or­der.

Its water wheel was not work­ing but “for a bit of fun” the Blakes once had it spin­ning af­ter re­in­stalling the weir and cre­at­ing an aqueduct to feed it.

What was graz­ing land heav­ily ground down by horses is now planted with trees and wild flow­ers, in­clud­ing or­chids, prim­roses and blue­bells. The cou­ple also cre­ated an ecofriendly, flora-rich hay meadow and have a large two-storey tim­ber chicken shack for their 14 hens.

Es­tate agent Tim Gower, head of Robin Jes­sop’s Ley­burn branch, says: “This prop­erty is a won­der­ful one-off. It is a mini ru­ral es­tate that is very man­age­able be­cause most of it wild and nat­u­ral. It’s a very spe­cial place with stun­ning views.”

While there may be po­ten­tial to con­vert some of the his­toric build­ings at Mill Gill House, per­mis­sion would have to be sought from the York­shire Dales Na­tional Park plan­ning author­ity.

“I’d like to see the mill kept as a work­shop and used by an ar­ti­san, maybe by a pot­ter or a joiner. That would our ideal buyer,” says Prof Blake.

He and Rita are sell­ing to down­size and their sad­ness at leav­ing is clear.

“We will miss it and we re­ally don’t want to go. We are just about to take our daily walk. We go and feed the hens and then we feed the ducks on the pond and then we carry on to the tip of the wa­ter­fall. It’s the walk Wordsworth did and in sum­mer when ev­ery­thing is bloom­ing, it is even more beau­ti­ful. So much so it makes you want to cry.”

Mill Gill House is for sale with Robin Jes­sop, Ley­burn. For de­tails con­tact, tel 01969 622800, www.robin­jes­sop.co.uk.

This prop­erty is a won­der­ful one-off and very man­age­able.

Tim Gower, Robin Jes­sop

MINI ES­TATE: The own­ers ren­o­vated the house and re­stored miss­ing pe­riod fea­tures, in­clud­ing flag­stone floors. The old water mill was home to a hay-rake mak­ing busi­ness and the old ma­chines and tools are still there.

DE­LIGHT­FUL: Mill Gill House near Askrigg in the York­shire Dales is early Ge­or­gian. The 18 acres in­clude a chicken house, pic­tured, and stun­ning views over to Ad­dle­brough.

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