Last week a friend came for a visit and during conversation asked when I first came to Yorkshire. I was mortified that my six years of exile to Suffolk in my teenage years had modified my Barnsley accent to such an extent that it was not just obvious that Yorkshire, was and is my natural home. I have delayed my blog this week to coincide with what should be a local holiday, Yorkshire Day, 1st August. I shall set out my simple argument for the joy of being a Yorkshireman, man and boy ready to represent Yorkshire at cricket at a moment’s notice, given my birth at Pinder Oaks Hospital, Barnsley in 1952.
I have only spent six years living outside Yorkshire in my entire life having gone with the family to West Suffolk around 1964 returning to university at York, then Hull and finding a resting place in and around Doncaster, first in Conisbrough and for over 30 years in the wonderful small town of Tickhill. My first experience of Suffolk was going to the shops and finding I could not be understood. I was so upset and came home in tears. My broad accent, the Barnsley accent, one of the most distinctive in Yorkshire, perished as my teenage voice began to mimic the country twang of Suffolk, such a shame, though I think the core aspects of a Yorkshire accent have always remained.
So why is Yorkshire so attractive. For me it’s down to people, places and locations. People in Yorkshire are proud people, whether rough honed from the coal pits, the steel furnaces, the woollen mills or the country fields. Facing their fair share of poverty, disappointment and unemployment, Yorkshire people bounce back often with a humour and resilience which is awe-inspiring. In the midst of this Yorkshire produces it’s fair share of poets, artists, sculptors, authors and many many sporting heroes to represent the heart at the core of the White Rose. People are at the heart of any community and in Yorkshire there is a warmth between neighbours: who will invite you in for a cup of tea; who will support you in time of need; and who will just be there with a robust humour and a sharp word when needed to tell you what should be. People will speak their mind and not all of that is good but there is an honesty at the heart of many normal conversations. The world is more global now and people are much more travelled but this essence is still evident around the heartlands of Yorkshire.
For me the exploits of the cricket team are at the heart of Yorkshire. A strong England team always has Yorkshire players in it as true now as it was during the heyday in the 1960s. I ensured my children were born in Yorkshire in case they were good enough to play for Yorkshire, an important action to take 35 years ago. I love watching Yorkshire play, particularly at the incomparable Scarborough Cricket Ground, and their resurgence in the last few years has been wonderful to watch.
The variety of place within the boundaries of Yorkshire mark it out as the county that can boast the best of places. The big cities of Leeds, Sheffield, Bradford, Hull and Harrogate offer contrasting treats if you like the splendour of urban living. But for me the smaller county town of York offers the most with its imposing Minster and charming centre, though admittedly overrun by tourists. But dig deeper and you will find so many delights from Bronte country and Haworth, the rural delights of Reeth in Swaledale, small towns like Skipton, Richmond, Whitby, Scarborough, Halifax, Huddersfield, Ilkley, Shipley, Ripon, Thirsk, Malton, Beverley, Barnsley and so many more. I mention Barnsley as it’s my birthplace and where I started out for my first 12 years. It retains an affection for me with its opulent town hall mentioned by George Orwell in The Road to Wigan Pier and of course its football club for which I retain a season ticket. A life sentence when you are born here!
And so to Yorkshire’s many wonderful locations. I have already mentioned Bronte’s countryside but I start with the two national parks in the North York Moors and my personal favourite the Yorkshire Dales. An inner calm comes across me when I drive through the Dales, through Reeth, Gunnerside, Muker and Keld in Swaledale or Leyburn and it’s surrounding villages in Wensleydale or Grassington, Bolton Abbey, Buckden in Wharfedale and the market town, the home of Wensleydale cheese in Hawes. In between splendid countryside, many small villages, good ale, with Timothy Taylor’s and Black Sheep as favourites. The dry stone walls mark out the areas as do landmarks such as Malham Cove. So much to see and do, it always repays a visit.
For me the other location I love is the East Coast. The area around my favourite resort and fishing village of Whitby is wonderful and I could easily move to Whitby and live there. I never tire of returning there and visiting my favourite haunts such as Staithes, Robin Hood’s Bay, Sandsend, Hornsea, Filey and Flamborough Head. I can highly recommend the Magpie Cafe in Whitby and on a quiet but dry winter’s day Whitby has such a charm it is so worth a visit. Or staying at Raven Hall Hotel on the coast at Ravenscar, after completing the Lyke Wake Walk is a must.
All in all Yorkshire could function as a devolved area with its own government. It has so much to offer and such a strong identity I love the fact I was born in it. And so let’s raise a glass of Taylor’s Landlord bitter, tuck into Yorkshire Puddings with onion gravy, fish and chips and then rhubarb, crumble, tart or pie for ‘afters’ and Wensleydale cheese and crackers with a glass or two of port. Ok it’s a stereotypical depiction of the local fare but not bad on a rainy, cloudy, windy, cold winter’s day of which there are a few.
So excuse my wallowing in this county but on this day of all day’s why not! Happy Yorkshire Day.
My week in photos