The Walker Family
In the beginning
The first Walker arrived at Blayshaw Farm as a jester! The Yorke family took over Blayshaw, which is part of Studfold, after the dissolution in 1536, bringing their jester, or ‘fool’ with them. Much has been made of this first Walker, arriving as a ‘fool’ who went on to marry a dairymaid and live at Blayshaw. He was the start of so much rich history to come, and the development of Studfold into the much-loved, and visited, family camping and caravan park, and attraction, that it is today.
In 1905, Jacob Walker, who was the High Sheriff of Yorkshire, made a speech at his 50th wedding anniversary in which he talked about his jester ancestor, of 11 generations ago. Today, those 11 generations stand at 16, equal to a period of around 400 years of the Walker family as custodians of the land, and still counting!
The Walkers’ first holidaymaker
It was around 1960 that Studfold cattle and sheep had to start getting used to families arriving with tents and caravans. When a fisherman first knocked on the door of Gladys and Herbert Walker in 1959 and asked if he could park his caravan so he could stay to fish in the beck, Herbert and Gladys agreed, and so the caravan park began!
The fisherman obviously saw the magic at Studfold, and who can blame him? Thanks to the initiative of this fisherman, that special magic is available today to all Studfold visitors and holidaymakers.
The Walkers today
Brother and sister, Ian Walker and Anne Challis, now run Studfold. Both with grownup families of their own, Ian and Anne took over Studfold from their mother and father, Freda and Stanley Walker, when they retired. Freda and Stanley were both school teachers at the same time as running Studfold.
“Mum was from a very creative, artistic family, and she was artistic too. Her Dad was Dan Binns who painted beautiful Dales landscape paintings and created the first Dalesman magazine covers, and her brother, David Binns was a famous wildlife artist. Dad was from a Nidderdale farming family.
“Mum and Dad took over the reins of Studfold in 1974. They installed many facilities and undertook a lot of accessibility work to make Studfold welcoming to all. We’re proud to take over the running of Studfold from them; we want to continue to make it a wonderful place for families and holidaymakers, so they can enjoy the beauty of the Dales countryside that our parents, parents before them, and all of us love so much.”
Ian and Anne both follow in their parents’ footsteps running Studfold, and also in their professions as school teachers. Their passion for learning and education, has helped them in their inspiration for the Adventure Trail. They’ve created a unique attraction that sparks young imaginations and helps children to learn, whilst teaching them about the wonder of nature and the great outdoors. Now many schools arrange group visits for pupils to Studfold, and Anne and Ian have secured funding to enable more to take part.
The countryside is absolutely central to everything at Studfold, as it has been to the Walker family for so many generations. Visitors can’t help but be immersed in Nidderdale’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) as soon as they arrive. The countryside in all its glory is all around, there’s no escaping it!
But the Nidderdale Experience is all about a warm Yorkshire welcome too. From sheep rearing in the seventeenth century to a Dales hill farm occupying 170 acres of some of the most picturesque land in the Dales, Studfold is a special, friendly place that many families and holidaymakers now enjoy year after year.
Continuing the family theme for learning and love of the land, Anne’s children, Heather and Matthew, are now both at University and involved with land management and rural enterprise.
“As a family we have always been aware of the responsibility that comes with living in such a unique environment. It’s natural to us to be committed to preserving and enhancing our wonderful surroundings so that our visitors, especially the younger ones, can also start to develop a love and appreciation for this beautiful place. We are involved in projects to develop green electricity, embrace carbon offset, plant broad leaf trees, recycle and use locally-sourced products and services.”
And so Studfold, the rural family business, continues to develop under the Walker family, from a jester and dairymaid, to a farm with a solitary fisherman’s caravan, to farmhouse teas and an award-winning destination where families can enjoy an affordable and memorable day out or holiday.
“We love Studfold. We’re so proud to be able to share this special place. There’s nowt quite like it!”