My Yorkshire: Amanda Owen, the Yorkshire Shepherdess, on her favourite people and places

The Yorkshire Shepherdess Amanda Owen.

The Yorkshire Shepherdess Amanda Owen.

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Best known as the Yorkshire Shepherdess, Amanda Owen lives in Ravenseat with her husband Clive and nine children.

What’s your first Yorkshire memory? Being chased across a finely manicured lawn by a peacock at Harewood House is a particularly vivid memory. I don’t know quite what triggered this, maybe it was the ice cream cornet I was eating that he took a fancy to. He was flapping his wings and honking at me, I 
ran away screaming and dropped the ice cream which I suppose was his ultimate aim.

Amanda Owen admires Sir Geoffrey Boycott.

Amanda Owen admires Sir Geoffrey Boycott.

What’s your favourite part of the county – and why? Swaledale. Twenty miles of changing scenery, from the top end of the dale where you have vast swathes of exposed, open moorland, sparsely populated, just isolated farmsteads and grazed only by sheep. It is breathtakingly wild.

Which Yorkshire sportsman, past or present, would you like to take for lunch? I am not a big follower of sport, but lunch with Geoffrey Boycott would probably be interesting. In many people’s eyes, the best cricketer in history. I once read an article about him and he appears to have all the attributes of a true Yorkshireman – he says what he thinks and is not afraid of being controversial.

Which Yorkshire stage or screen star, past or present, would you like to take for dinner? James Mason. He was from my home town, Huddersfield, and was an international movie star back in the post-war years. I imagine that he would have been able to recount tales of indulgence and decadence from a time when Hollywood oozed glamour and sophistication.

If you had to name your Yorkshire ‘hidden gem’, what would it be? Hartlakes. The walk from Keld to Muker takes you behind Kisdon Island and follows the meanderings of the River Swale. Waterfalls and hay meadows, deserted ruins of once inhabited farms, Crackpot, Hartlakes and Salt Pie.

Amada Owen would send a stranger to Yorkshire to the Muker Show.  John Giles/PA Wire

Amada Owen would send a stranger to Yorkshire to the Muker Show. John Giles/PA Wire

If you could choose somewhere, or some object, from or in Yorkshire to own for a day, what would it be? I’d have a tractor, a David Brown 770 Selectamatic. My father worked on gearboxes at the factory in Lockwood and sometimes at the Meltham works so I feel a great affection for these machines. I should have asked my father more about his work, but as a teenager you just don’t think of such things. I’d have one, drive it around the farm and wonder whether he had been on the production line and played a part in its assembly.

What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity? Yorkshire is unique in that it offers such incredible contrasts. The busy urban heartlands where I grew up, with towns forged from heavy industry and populated by hard- working, proud people who worked together to produce great things. Then we have the rolling green dales and the mountains and moors that I now call home, places where you can take a step, gather your thoughts, look up and wonder whether anyone has ever walked those same footsteps as you.

Do you have a favourite restaurant, or pub? The Wensleydale Heifer in West Witton. Living a long way from the sea means that it is very rare that fish is on the menu at home so eating at a seafood restaurant ranks as a real treat for us. Distance-wise, it isn’t too long a trek for us and this is important as there is a good chance that we will not get there when your mode of transport is a tired Land Rover.

Do you have a favourite food shop? I have two. My local shop is the Good Life at Hawes. This place is well stocked with an array of locally sourced produce and health foods. Gurkha’s Corner, at Catterick Garrison, is great for buying ethnic foods, spices and big sacks of rice.

How do you think that Yorkshire has changed, for better or for worse, in the time that you’ve known it? Yorkshire doesn’t change, that’s its beauty. We, as Yorkshire folk, just keep doing what we do and in these troubled times that is good.

If you had to change one thing in, or about Yorkshire, what would that be? The weather. All the seasons in one day is just fine if you are just looking at it through a window, but it’s not great when you have to work outside in it. A bit less rain at haytime, a bit less snow in the winter and a bit warmer at lambing time would be good.

Who is the Yorkshire person that you most admire? Alf Wight aka James Herriot. His books set me off on the path to becoming a shepherdess. His talent for writing was immeasurable, his books were readable. What I mean was that they weren’t pretentious and that folks who didn’t read would read them. He could tell a tale, spin a yarn.

Has Yorkshire influenced your work? Absolutely it has. Ravenseat, where I live and work, was undoubtedly a catalyst in bringing out the writer in me. Its simplicity and wildness, a remote farmstead standing alone and exposed, steeped in history and so deafeningly quiet. Big skies, lashing rain and biting gales, what else is there to do other than think... a lot?

Name your favourite Yorkshire book/author/artist/CD/performer? Apologies for the predictability of this answer – Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë.

If a stranger to Yorkshire only had time to visit one place, it would be? I’m going to have to make this answer time specific – Muker on show day (first week of September). The glorious setting that couldn’t fail to impress – a small showfield at the foot of Kisdon. Spectators, sheep, produce, sheepdogs, all with Muker Silver Band playing in the background. Then the fell race, all the wiry lads and lasses racing up the hill until they’re just like ants in the distance. What a place, what a spectacle, Yorkshire life and tradition 
all happening right in front of your very eyes. 
A Year in the Life of the Yorkshire Shepherdess by Amanda Owen is published by Macmillan, priced £7.99. She will appear at Headingley Literary Festival on March 25.

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