You don’t need to head for the sticks to find the quintessential English village. MATT CLARK spent the morning in one, just north of York.

IT'S ALWAYS fun trying to work out how somewhere would have looked 100 years ago. Sometimes the changes are so drastic it's tempting to give up, but you don't need much imagination in Haxby, where the main street is virtually unaltered.

This comes as something of a surprise for what is essentially a suburb of York. True, most of it is made up of fairly uninspiring cul-de-sacs, but The Village, as the high street is appropriately named, is a glorious slice of old England; leafy, grassy and clustered with chocolate-box cottages.

This is not just the heart of Haxby, it's the hub and you can buy just about anything here. Then there are the tea rooms that would give even Helmsley a run for its money.

Being a classic English village, there is a duck pond of course and Haxby is the sort of place where people stop to chat, like they used to, where they walk home with cuttings from a friend's garden; where foxgloves and delphinium are ubiquitous. A time capsule, if you like.

But tempus fugit applies even here. "Fibre broadband now available" proclaims a rather horrid little green box, fortunately hidden from the cottage behind by a suitably dense box hedge. ATMs are plentiful, the recycling lorry is a regular visitor and the pubs boast satellite TV.

In Haxby, past and present have learned to become anything but strange bedfellows, even the post war shopping centre has a certain charm.

The village's name is Norse and translates as Farmstead of a man called Hákr. It was established around the ninth century and recorded as Haxebi in the Domesday Book of 1086.

The village was originally sited within the Royal Forest of Galtres. During the Middle Ages its inhabitants were subject to forest law and took part in the occasional courts that devised and enforced it.

In 1629, Charles I gave up his interest in the forest and the village acquired the land to increase its size to 2,000 acres.

St Mary's Church is still a prominent feature from that period with parish registers from 1678, but the present building dates from1878, albeit on the original site.

Although Shaker-like in its simplicity, the church has a fascinating collection of kneelers that were made in the mid to late seventies and dedicated in 1981. Their varied designs and bright colours make an immediate and welcoming impression.

Wigginton's church has a much longer history. The present building may be Victorian, but there has been a place of worship here since Saxon times.

The village name derives from the old English name Wicga, meaning beetle, and suffix, tun, meaning a settlement.

It was named in the Domesday Book and noted as belonging to the cathedral church of St Peter in York. The first recorded owners of the manor were the Askebys, who may have been connected with Roger de Haxbey, who owned nearby land during the reign of Edward I.

These days Wigginton is more obviously a commuter town for York, although it does border onto glorious open countryside and retains a duck pond. Indeed the ducks often file across the road towards the old school, as if mimicking pupils on their way to class. One now features as the Primary School's logo and its youngsters were responsible for designing beware of the duck signs.