The first time I ventured across the boundaries of Botton Village, I’d descended from Danby Rigg down the Jack Sledge path.
Leaning on a fence was an old guy smoking an ornate, curly clay pipe, dressed in lederhosen and sporting a green felt hat with a feather in it.
It was a very hot day, I was drowning in perspiration and a large cloud of mozzies were playing in the wavy lines rising from my head.
We eyed each other with a mixture of horror and trepidation before I trundled off down the valley to the pub and googled ‘Botton Village’.
The Bavarian connection makes sense when you research the history of the Camphill Movement, which was founded in Scotland in the early years of World War Two by Doctor Karl Konig, an Austrian paediatrician.
He was the son of a Jewish shoemaker and understandably scarpered when Hitler converted Austria into a handy German annexe in 1938.
In 1955, Botton Village became the first residential community for adults with learning disabilities.
You can find out more about them at www.camphillvillagetrust.org.uk .
I am also aware of some recent controversy about co-worker status in the village, but I don’t think this column is the right place (or has enough paragraphs) to elucidate, so for balance I’ll also refer you to www.eskvalleycamphill.org and www.actionforbotton.org which I think qualifies me for some sort of
It’s a long walk up from Danby or Castleton to the upper reaches of Danbydale and frankly, I cycled there.
My walk started outside of the village store, and with that building on my left, I soon turned right past an impressive garden centre.
Where the track bends left, take a path ahead marked “Come and see Scarlet the pig”.
A later addendum says “now bacon” so if you want to see Scarlet you’ll need to go back to the café.
Soon you’ll emerge on tarmac at Falcon Farm and you will begin now to get an idea of just how huge this whole place is as you pass various residential and functional buildings.
The architecture is remarkable – big wooden structures with curved corners and pastel coloured window frames.
Turn right down the road then quickly left to the large church and follow the path leading away from its front door, soon heading left and uphill, on a flagged track.
The next building has purple windows and there is a weavery and bike shop – this massively impressive place has pretty well everything – and soon you need to turn right on Tarmac to head downhill past High Farm.
At the valley bottom, turn left but then quickly right up a road marked ‘Nook House farm’ – still, amazingly part of this extended community.
To show they think of everything, on your right are the reedbeds which are a natural filtration system for treating sewage – clean enough for a few little black ducks to be enjoying a paddle.
As the road bears left to the farm, take a path through the centre of three fields on your right, eventually leading on to the road beyond Stormy Hall farm.
Turn right down the slope, admiring lovely views over to Danby Rigg, passing the little Wesleyan Chapel at the bottom, built in 1855 but with a nice new gate and a lick of fresh paint.
The road leads back up to the entrance drive of the Village Centre, but just inside the drive a path marked with yellow arrows pointing to the school, dives into the bushes on your left.
This takes you through trees, past a bike shed with two long abandoned kid’s bikes and opens up, as predicted, at a huge school.
A young girl was sat on the step crocheting what looked like a bobble hat.
She was one of the few people I’d seen as the village clearly enjoys a day off on a Sunday.
The path leads further uphill towards another farm, but splits right to take you back to the village centre, but not before reaching the ultimate location for this all-inclusive resort – its own cemetery.
The whole place amazed me, and in a good way.
The sheer size was a revelation, the infrastructure, the architecture, the variety of cottage businesses, the maze of illuminated paths, the cafe that only opens for two hours on a Sunday, the old red telephone box, the reedbeds, the nonchalant demise of Scarlet the pig.
It was like a cross between the Amish communities in the film Witness and the village in the 1960’s classic TV show The Prisoner.
As I pedalled off down the road, I concluded that it was a fine place for the residents to live and work and crochet bobble hats.
Then I noticed a big yellow balloon bouncing down the lane behind me….. (you’ll have to Google The Prisoner now, too!)