LOCALS HAVE a special word for incomers in the Yorkshire Dales.

Anyone not from the area is an “offcumdun” a dialect term for a person who is out of his or her usual place. Somebody, in other words, who has “come from off”.

Helen Holme, secretary of Craven District Young Farmers” Club, is 19 years old. She works as a student nurse and has lived in the Dales all her life. Getting on the housing ladder locally is almost impossible without a lot of luck, hard work and imagination, she says.

“I don”t think people who come from cities and buy second homes bring what is needed to a rural area,” she explains. “People who have lived here for 40 or 50 years often don”t want to welcome them in.”

The Young Farmers” Club has about 30 members. It meets every six to eight weeks on Thursdays at The Punch Bowl in the village of Silsden. House prices here start at 120,000 for a soulless semi. Even modest two-bedroomed terraces in the nearby town of Skipton go for about 115,000.

“I know farmers” sons and farmworkers who are in their late 20s and still living at home,” says Helen. “Even if they could afford it, there”d be no point in them buying a house in town because they”d have to travel into the countryside at ridiculous hours of the day just so they could get to work for jobs like milking.”

Staying at home is an option favoured by many young people in the area. By living with Mum and Dad rent free, they have a better chance of saving up enough money for a deposit so they can get a mortgage on a house. If they are lucky, their parents will act as guarantors.

But mortgage repayments are so high that once a house is bought, it is sometimes immediately rented out and the youngster continues to live at home. “A lot of people I know have bought houses just to rent out, so that once they decide to settle down at least they have a head start on the property ladder.”

Helen”s plan is to go to university. If she manages to get a place at nearby Bradford to study midwifery or nursing, she will be able to continue living at home with her parents. This will cut her living costs, although it will mean commuting to lectures.

“Hopefully, I can put the money I save by not living in halls or moving away towards a downpayment. Then when I get a better job and I”m employed, I”ll hopefully be able to buy a cheapish house and work it that way. But I”ll still probably have to rent it out until I”ve worked for a couple of years.”