Tourists visiting Betty’s Tea Rooms or strolling along the Stray will never have heard of Harrogate’s Jennyfields estate, let alone visit it.
“You only know this place exists if you live here,” says Sarah Dinsdale, who runs a café right in the heart of the estate. While visitors to the spa town would have no idea the suburb existed, the Jennyfields estate is notorious among locals.
“The Jennyfields have a reputation,” says Zenka Worrell-Shaw. “People say, ‘Oh yeah, the Jennyfields. It’s hard.””
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She grew up on the Jennyfields estate and returned after a short period away, but says violence has become a big problem in recent years.
She says: “It’s not really a tough area to live in, but what’s tough about the area are the young people. They come here and give Jennyfields a bad name. [have a bad reputation]. It’s only in the last five years.
“When I first came to this house it was lovely, but unfortunately other people moved in. The police often intervened.
“There’s been everything from drug dealing to violence. It’s ridiculous.
“About a year ago my son saw a group of young people beating a young boy with a metal pipe. And then they turned on adults who went to help.
“It’s terrifying. I don’t let my kids go out after a certain time of night.”
Arson, incidents of senseless vandalism and bullying behavior prompted police to hold a meeting with residents in 2019. Julia Mulligan, the former North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, said at the time that it was a “small group of individuals” causing trouble for others – and locals believe that is still the case.
“There will always be a rotten apple in the bunch, but you’ll get one everywhere you go,” says Sarah.
“I’ve noticed more crime, but I think it’s because I’m more involved in the community now. You see it all the time on Facebook. Where I live in Bilton, there’s always something going on. thing over there. It’s not just Jennyfields. It’s all over.
“The Jennyfields is known all over Harrogate, but you can’t really tarnish it like that. The people are really nice.”
While many of the people who live on the Jennyfields estate have lived there for years, 16-year-old Marta Batista only moved to the area two years ago. The teenager stopped for a chat on her way to Mrs Smith’s Cafe with her grandparents, who are from Lisbon, Portugal.
Marta and her parents moved from Moortown – an affluent northern suburb of Leeds – to the Jennyfields estate and the teenager hasn’t looked back since.
“I prefer it here, definitely,” she says. “ I find it really nice. It’s really close to a lot of things and it’s just a short bus ride from downtown.
“During my first week here, I made friends with my neighbours. They’re so kind – and we’re still friends two years later.”
While others have witnessed violent crimes and destroyed bus stops, Marta admits that she herself has never seen any crime.
“I hear about it, but I’ve never really noticed. I’m not one to walk around Jennyfields when it’s dark. It’s just a small group of people ruining Jennyfields for others for no reason. “
Running the most popular cafe on the estate means Sarah hears all the gossip from her customers, but she says the community spirit among the locals is still apparent.
“It might look a little rough around the edges — and you get the crime — but deep down it’s really nice,” she says. “People are really nice. There’s a really good sense of community here and everyone comes together if they have to.
“People are proud to be from Jennyfields and stand up for their community. They will help everyone. It’s nice to see. It’s quite humbling and heartwarming.”