NEWTON-LE-WILLOWS, permanent population about 350, is an attractive village a few miles west of Bedale in North Yorkshire and must on no account be confused with the much larger place of the same name, pop 22,000, between Manchester and Liverpool.

It is, quite frequently, of course.

This one has no pub, shop, state school or church, has a bus service which seldom runs and a railway which doesn’t stop.

Exactly a decade ago, however, the more sylvan Newton-le-Willows was named England’s village of the year in a competition promoted by Calor and won the “sustainability” award, too.

An outstanding example of how to think globally while acting locally,” said the judges, “a village which punches above its weight.”

What it does have is a vibrant village hall, home to everything from choir to climate change group, a recycling centre and a clothes bank, a newsletter called the Newton News and a wine tasting group called the Newton Newts.

Appropriately for so eco-friendly a place, the village hall bar’s called the Green Room.

There’s a cricket club, too, active since mid-Victorian times, its ground bordering the Wensleydale Railway. There’s a Saturday side in the fifth division of the Nidderdale League and a midweek team contesting the second division of the wonderful Wensleydale Evening League.

Last Wednesday they played Richmond Mavericks who every season dream of an open-top bus to celebrate title success and who include among their number my elder and larger son. Father’s day has become an annual occasion.

NEWTON, as it is known to thrifty Yorkshiremen unwilling to squander three syllables, isn’t the only Wensleydale village with a name double.

West Burton, closer to Hawes, is also the name of a Nottinghamshire power station. Thus it was that, in the 1983 miners’ strike, a coach load of Kentish colliers were despatched to picket the power station and, by some strange mistake, found themselves in altogether more scenic surroundings about 100 miles to the north.

Unlike Newton-le-Willows, the village of West Burton has a pub. The men of Kent never did make it to the front line.

FIRST, though, to the Newton village hall table tennis club run by Teresa Sanderson who’s also parish council clerk, village hall treasurer and several other things. “People keep asking me. I’m a bit gullible,” she says.

Teresa and her husband had a caravan in those parts, bought a house a few years ago. “There’s more going on in this little village than there was in the whole of our north Lincolnshire town,” she says. “The bigger the place, the easier it is to get lost.”

Chiefly, she supposes the parish council’s chief concerns are the usual ones of speeding, dog fouling, litter and broadband signal. Displayed in the homely little bus shelter, the council minutes identify the “greatest issue” as the former Wheatsheaf pub, long derelict.

Built as a hotel to serve the nearby Aysgarth prep school, it closed about 20 years ago after several failed attempts to make it viable.

In 1981, the Sunderland-based Vaux brewery went to Darlington county court in a bid to evict the tenants. The brewery, said the landlady, had done everything bar send them poisoned chocolates.

Judge Oliver Wrightson, well remembered, told them to be out within six weeks but made no order for costs, not even poisoned chocolates.

The 16-pupil school closed three years later – on the same day as the village school at Egglestone, in Teesdale – the station, named Jervaulx to avoid confusion with the other Newton-le-Willows– had gone in 1954.

Community spirit remains. “It’s a lovely location,” says Teresa, between games of table tennis. “You wouldn’t find a nicer village anywhere.”

A SHORT stroll discovers cottages with names like Tykes Fold, Turtles Place and Clare Cottage, two former chapels, a farm open day and the wooden bus shelter where the newsagent comes up from Bedale to leave the daily papers for collection.

It’s 7pm and still there’s a Financial Times, two Daily Mails (“Boris: the Tories face extinction”) and a copy of the previous day’s Times. Behind The Times, presumably.

From the cricket field a loud appeal can be heard: the boy, it transpires, has essayed one of those inadvertent run-outs which deflects from the bowler’s heel onto the stumps. “It counts,” he insists, inevitably.

THE cricket ground’s called Railway View, bordered by the heritage line up to Redmire and (as one of the visiting fielders discovers) by an electric fence.

In the village hall sits the rather splendid “Wicket train trophy”, introduced after someone supposed that a train brought a wicket – words to that effect – and one afternoon it actually happened as a steam engine passed.

“The choo-choo celebrations were amazing,” says Steve Coomes, who himself has claimed more than 1,800 wickets for Newton. “After that they always said that a train brought a wicket but it was a year-and-a-half before it coincided again.”

There are miles of stiles, a lot of long grass in which to lose a well-biffed ball, sight screens liberated from the army ground at Catterick Garrison, a well-equipped tractor shed, a barbecue and, in the little home dressing room, a shelf of spray can deodorants and what-not – or maybe, come to think, it was fly spray.

Dave Thompson, a player for nearly 50 years, watches from the boundary. At one time, he says, at least half the team – “mebbe nine or ten” – would be from the village,.

His family came to Newton in 1959, his dad followed into the village team by four brothers. Sometimes, says Dave, he’d drop out to give the lads a game.

Andy Wilthew, chairman and wicket keeper, is out of action awaiting a knee op. “I’ve only been here ten years but it’s part of my life now,” he says. “We’re getting younger players, improved the ground, it’s looking pretty good.

“We’re all right on Wednesdays, sometimes struggle a bit on Saturdays but I can’t remember the lastr time we didn’t have 11 men.”

Much of the ground work, they reckon, has been masterminded by Ben Fudali, an Australian who’d been backpacking in those parts when asked – almost inevitably in a pub – if he fancied a game. Now he’s married, lives here, loves it, doubts if he’ll return.

“English club cricket is so much more enjoyable, not so much sledging,” he says, his kids practising nearby.

Newton reach a pretty formidable 180-5 from their 20 overs, Scott Ryan hitting 50 before retiring, as league rules insist. The bairn takes 1-32, grabs a decent catch, celebrates pyrotechnically. As ever in the Wensleydale League, it’s all greatly good natured.

Mike Layfield, the Mavericks’ accustomed opener, has a shoulder injury and bats 11. They fall, all out, 70 runs short and with still just one win all season are bottom of the league.

At 9pm it’s probably not a steam train that we hear approaching, but it’s a damn sight more likely than an open-top bus.