A FORMER outdoor clothing store manager and his family have taken on a quest to bring the best in bed and breakfast value to Dales hikers, ramblers and cyclists.

Saul Ward and his wife Floss have taken over the former Youth Hostel Association (YHA) building in Kettlewell - and will soon be running the village's post office, which is in the same building, too.

The YHA pulled out of the hostel last year but Saul, a father-of-two who was manager of specialist outdoor clothing firm Rohan's Harrogate branch for 10 years, says he and his family are convinced they can succeed in an area so greatly liked by lovers of the great outdoors.

He says: "We saw the property on the internet and immediately fell for it. Floss is in financial services so can work anywhere and our children Mollie and Humphrey, who are 12 and10, were really enthusiastic.

"The prospect of running a hostel in this wonderful part of the world and helping to keep a village post office going was too good a challenge - and opportunity - to miss.

"I spent my time in Harrogate talking to customers about their travels and walking in the Dales and now I see the same people out here in Kettlewell.

"We have been here for a month and have already met some amazing people - there is something about being outdoors that brings out the best in people."

Saul, born and bred in Blackburn, and who also worked in Cambridge for several years, says he is convinced that the family's Kettlewell Hostel - which provides 40 beds in various dormitory set-ups, including some of two beds - will succeed because of the 'economies of scale' which being a family-run business gives.

He says: "The YHA did a very good job over the years but we believe we can do better by providing a more 'personal service'. Our set-up is a very cost-effective way of getting good bed and breakfast, especially for families and larger groups.

"We are happy to cook breakfast for people, and there is a self-catering kitchen too for those who want it. All our food is locally-sourced as well - it's all about providing a really good breakfast and really good customer service. Where else in the Dales can you get a good bed and breakfast that works out not much over £25 a head?

"People can also hire the whole hostel all year round. With 40 beds we can offer really versatile accommodation for large groups at very good prices and the whole hostel can be hired for just £400 per night in the low season. We are convinced there is a market for what we provide."

And it was bit of a 'baptism of fire' on the family's first night at the hostel in January when 25 guests were booked in as part of a birthday celebration.

Saul says: "It was a bit of a flying start but we coped and it showed us the potential of the business - January is low season after all. There is a huge amount of interest in this area from walkers, cyclists and anyone who enjoys the Dales.

"The Tour de France coverage has helped to create even more interest in the area, and not just from cyclists. Everyone can see that this is a superb place to visit - and to live and work for that matter!

"We have borrowed a fair amount of money from the Cumberland Building Society, who specialise in helping travel and tourism businesses, and who have shown a lot of faith in us and in the area. I'm confident we will make this work."

One of the most important assets to any community is a post office, and Kettlewell residents feared the worst when the YHA announced it was leaving the village. The hostel has housed the post office since 2004.

The YHA is still running the post office at present while arrangements are made for the Ward family to take it over. And, says Saul, his aim is to preserve the continuity of service that is so important to the village.

He explains: "Hopefully villagers will not notice any difference. We are delighted that Pam Lambert and Pat Charlton, who have both been at the post office for several years, are staying on to provide the excellent level of service they have always done."

A website for the Kettlewell Hostel is being constructed at the moment and should be operational shortly. At the moment further information is available and bookings can be made by calling 01756 760232 or by emailing saulward@hotmail.com