It would be easy to assume Bedale has something of an identity crisis when one of the regular questions asked at the Tourist Information office is “what’s it like to live here?”

There is no doubt Bedale is part of the bedrock of North Yorkshire society, with market charter status dating from the Middle Ages.

But while it has a long history and established community, it is also known as the ‘gateway to the Dales’ and attracts a healthy tourist trade as a result.

That does not translate into an identity crisis, however. Bedale takes it all in its stride and the visitor interest helps to maintain the vibrancy of the community.

The town and its surrounding villages are very much a living entity and modern developments like North Yorkshire’s YorBus scheme, an on-demand service first trialled in the area last year, help today’s residents deal with the rural nature of their home.

However, the community itself also steps up, with organisations like the Meals on Wheels service helping to keep residents healthy and happy, with a force of volunteers taking on all the work.

Bedale and Villages Community Forum also helps the community to thrive, either through its own work or by supporting others with the sort of small grants which are worth a fortune to the organisations which benefit from them.

The volunteer theme continues with the Tourist Information office, again operated on a voluntary basis since the official version closed and where the question about life in Bedale often spills from the lips of impressed visitors.

Those visitors may be in town for one of many reasons. Some are drawn to the area because of the presence of the military nearby, but many others are holidaymakers.

The town itself has much to attract people, oozing history and with interesting 21st century shopping also available from independent retailers.

There is even more, not least of which is the Wensleydale Heritage Railway, which contributes on many levels.

Primary schools from the area make regular trips to see its restored station buildings, which allow visitors young and old to take a trip back in time, and its annual Polar Express brings in visitor numbers large enough to fill up overnight accommodation when it runs from November until Christmas.

If plans stay on the rails, it is also expected a Wallace and Gromit event may achieve similar success next summer. Wensleydale, anyone?