There is usually a cluster of houses facing the green and behind them, their gardens or fields, wandering into the surrounding hills. Most have some kind of religious building nearby, whether a church or chapel. Village greens hold the settlement together, and it's easy to imagine them being the centre of local life in bygone times.
You may spot quoit boxes laid flat into the green, and there’s generally a bench or somewhere to gather and pass the time of day. Not far away a pub will beckon visitors and locals through-out the seasons.
On some village greens you can still see the remnants of an old pump or market cross, and perhaps even some village stocks. An ancient oak or ash tree may complete the story book picture of rural perfection.
Some village greens are common land, often in addition to commons on the edge of the village. These are often open, rougher land where local people have specific rights.
I love some of the old names for particular rights. Pannage is the right to run pigs in woodland, taking beech mast and fallen acorns. Pasture sounds like it comes from an old fashioned hymn – it means a place with the right to graze stock. Turbary rights are the right to dig peat for fuel. We still talk about doing our stint, which comes from taking turns to graze or use common land.
Village greens vary enormously in size. Some are tiny pockets squeezed among houses such a in Gunnerside. Others such as the one at Fearby above Masham stretch on for the entire village, and the grassy green grows right up to the houses.
If you’d like to enjoy some of the loveliest village greens in the Dales, take a look at Arncliffe, Carperby, East Witton, Muker, Reeth, and West Burton.