Becky Wright: My Yorkshire

PRIORY APPOiNTMENT: Becky Wright at Mount Grace Priory. Picture Mike Cowling
PRIORY APPOiNTMENT: Becky Wright at Mount Grace Priory. Picture Mike Cowling
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BECKY Wright is the site manager for Mount Grace Priory, owned by the National Trust and managed by English Heritage. Becky’s partner is Dominic, an historic buildings architect, and they have a son, Archie, who is seven. She studied art at York University, took a summer job at Mount Grace after graduating 19 years ago – and stayed.

What’s your first Yorkshire memory?

It seems – in retrospect – that we were taken to Fountains Abbey just about every weekend when I was a child, and we used to play there. I am one of four girls, with one sister older, one younger, and the other a twin. On those outings, we’d run around in the little cloister, and then we’d walk around with our hands in the praying position, pretending to be monks. I was born in Middlesbrough, when it was still part of the North Riding, so I can claim to be “Yorkshire born”.

What’s your favourite part of the county – and why?

The North York Moors, and all because of the landscape. You can go up on to the Cleveland Way, and there are spots where you can stand and see the Vale of York stretched out below you on your left hand side, and then you can turn and see the blue-grey steel town of Middlesbrough off in the distance. And there’s the coast, as well.

What’s your idea of a perfect day, or a perfect weekend, out in Yorkshire?

The weekend would be a Saturday spent pottering about in York, a night back home here in Osmotherley, where we live, and a Sunday spent on the beach at Sandsend. Others might choose Runswick Bay, but I’m a Sandsend lass.

Do you have a favourite walk – or view?

A walk up from Osmotherley to the BT booster station at the top of the hill, and then… well, just to stand there and to drink in what you can see. On a very clear day, you can see the hills of the Lake District in the west, and I’m told that the very keen-eyed can spot the hill above Kendal.

Which Yorkshire sportsman, past or present, would you like to take for lunch?

Does mountaineering count as a “sport”? If it does, I’ve going to go for Alan Hinkes, the Yorkshire-born climber, who seems to have climbed just about every hill or mountain or cliff there is. I admire bravery and expertise like that.

Which Yorkshire stage or screen star, past or present, would you like to take for dinner?

Can I have two? And they are both Middlesbrough lads, so I really am pushing it a bit. The first would be Jamie Bell – I have yet to see his latest film, The Eagle, but I’m told that it is very good – and the second would be the brilliant impressionist and actor, Kevin Connelly. He was wonderful in Dead Ringers, and once impersonated William Hague to the point that you thought that Hague was in the room. Jamie Bell is such a versatile actor, and I think he’s going to develop into one of those “character” performers who is never ever out of work. Oh, and my mum was his health visitor when he was tiny.

If you had to name your Yorkshire hidden gem, what would it be?

What else can I say but Mount Grace Priory? Everyone is always delighted at what they find, and you can cheerfully have a good two hours here, wandering around. It was a religious site developed by the Carthusian monks from 1420, and that is so rare. It has the largest medieval cloister in the country, and the medieval fishponds are still there. It was redeveloped as a home in 1654, and again in 1901, when the Arts and Crafts movement was so important – so it criss-crosses a lot of cultural landmarks. Please, don’t drive past, take a little detour, and come and visit.

What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity?

The landscape – and the people. In which other county in Britain can you get so much cultural and geographic diversity? The Dales are as different from South Yorkshire as chalk is from cheese, and the folk are so different as well.

Do you follow sport in the county, and if so, what?

All the rest of my family are mad keen Middlesbrough supporters.

Do you have a favourite restaurant, or pub?

The Golden Lion in Osmotherley is a firm favourite with us. Not only is the food brilliant, but it is also served with a smile – it is faultless. I find that so often you get a lovely meal in front of you, and the waitress is abrupt and uncaring, and that spoils everything. Not at the Lion, they are smashing people, and they also offer great beers, too.

Do you have a favourite food shop?

Root’s Farm Shop, in East Rounton, has been my saviour on many occasions. I can get everything for a plentiful evening meal there, and still come out with change from a £10 note. They beat all the local supermarkets into a cocked hat, and give them all a good run for their money. Unbeatable – why go anywhere else?

How do you think that Yorkshire has changed, for better or for worse, in the time that you’ve known it?

This is a difficult one. I know that we are very fortunate in Osmotherley, because there’s a wonderful community spirit, and we still have our own little shop, a few pubs and a local school, as well as a bus service (though how much longer we’ll have the last is open to debate) so we are pretty well self-sufficient in that regard. But I do know of other wee villages nearby where they’ve lost the lot, and they’ve turned into “second home” dormitories that are only inhabited at weekends, and that’s not good.

Who is the Yorkshire person that you most admire?

WH Auden, for his writing skills, because his poetry and prose are beautifully constructed. And John Noakes (of whom we don’t hear much these days) because I adored him as a child.

Has Yorkshire influenced your work?

Only in that I’ve never ever wanted to work outside the county, and that I’m so very blessed to have such a wonderful occupation at the Priory.

Name your favourite Yorkshire book/author/artist/CD/performer.

Two authors here, and the first is Joanne Harris (who wrote Chocolat) and the second is Kate Atkinson, who is a thriller and detective writer who I really enjoy. She’s created a character called Brodie, a police officer to whom crime seems to happen as an accident. There are lots of local references, and its great observational stuff.

If a stranger to Yorkshire only had time to visit one place, it would be?

Wharram Percy, the deserted medieval village, which is about six miles south east of Malton, on a very minor road. Blink and you’ll miss it. It thrived from the 12th century, and was abandoned around 1500. My advice is to go and have a wander around on your first visit, and then go back with the guide book on your second.