Left to right: Andy Singleton and Gillian and Adrian Harrison outside Hard Banks Barn
A beautifully restored barn in lovely countryside with an ice cream parlour hidden inside has proved to be a magnate for locals and visitors alike in Wensleydale since Saturday September 21.
On the approach along the A684 from Aysgarth Hard Banks Barn looks like a well-renovated traditional building that fits so well into the undulating countryside around it.
“You cannot tell from the outside what is within – which sort of makes it a nice surprise,” said Gillian Harrison who manages the ice cream parlour in a joint venture with her husband, Adrian. And it is a wonderful surprise to walk inside and find a light and airy ice cream parlour where the atmosphere is enhanced by the late 18th century beams.
The designer, Andy Singleton, commented that it was not where such a traditional barn was situated but rather the way It was restored. He had assured the National Park planning officers that the barn conversion wouldn’t have a detrimental impact upon the landscape and was delighted with the result.
Part of the airy atmosphere inside is due to his creative use of the original ventilation apertures. He had had the splayed reveals inside widened and small glass “windows” inserted without changing the outside appearance of the barn.
“I think those appealed to everybody. It’s a bit higgledy piggledy but that adds to the character,” Gillian commented.
Their Wensleydale Ice Cream comes from their own Jersey cows and is manufactured at their farm at Thornton Rust. There are now three generations of Harrisons at the farm: grandparents Maurice and Anne; Gillian and Adrian and their two children.
Gillian and Adrian explained that they hope the ice cream parlour will enable the family to support themselves without turning to intensive farming methods. “You’ve got to have additional revenue. There are so many variables in farming and it’s a big risk [business] with small margins,” Gillian said.
Hard Banks Barn, they believe, will show just how much everything in the Dales is intertwined in what is very much a man-made landscape. Even the colour of the grass depended, they pointed out, on the fertiliser used and the animals which graze on it.
They plan to have cows grazing near the barn and to display pictures to show how the milk is processed into ice cream. And their customers agreed that the ice cream is superb.
There are tables and chairs downstairs and more in the ‘Minstrels Gallery’ above. Alongside the ice cream there are also coffee, cakes and waffles. Adrian and Gillian are employing five local part-time staff to help Gillian with another making the ice cream. And they are very grateful for the support of Maurice and Anne Harrison.
The parlour is attracting a wide age range of people and Gillian was delighted to see children larking about outside and rolling down the grassy bank.
One Monday they hosted children from the BAWB federation of schools who were taken there by their parents as an after-school treat. “The parents said it was so nice because there aren’t many places they can take the children for a treat,” said Gillian.
She and Adrian were also very happy to see people going to the parlour for their sweet course after their Sunday dinner. “I always wanted it to be like a ‘pudding’ barn,’ she commented.
They believe the ice cream parlour fills a niche market in Wensleydale and helps to attract tourists. And they and their staff can – and do – tell tourists about other local attractions. They are looking forward to continuing to work with the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority to make the ice cream parlour a success, especially its tourist department and the Dairy Days project.
The Harrisons are very grateful to all those who helped to make their dream come true and for a grant from The Yorkshire Dales LEADER programme. They plan to hold an official opening in a few months’ time in memory of John Blackie for all the work he put into the project.
During the winter the ice cream parlour is open from 10am to 5pm Thursday to Sunday each week.
In November 2014 I posted a report on the obstacle race the Harrisons were facing as part of my coverage of the Rural Summit in Leyburn that was organised by John Blackie.
Below: Hard Banks Barn. The brown patches will disappear once the grass has grown.