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My Yorkshire: Christa Ackroyd

Christa Ackroyd has co-presented Look North for the BBC, in Leeds, with Harry Gration since she transferred from "the other side" where she was on Calendar for more than a decade. She is passionate about the county and describes herself as a Yorkshire lass through and through.

What's your first memory of being outdoors?

We were very fortunate enough to have a car and every Sunday we used to go and look at "scenery". I remember picnics in places like Hutton-le-Hole, with stepping-stones, a tartan rug, flask of tomato soup, flask of tea, ham sandwiches and even the twist of salt in greaseproof paper. My mum is from Rosedale, so we'd always travel up that way. We had picnics and were always falling in the water wherever we went. Mum always had to take a change of clothes for us.

What's your favourite part of the county and why?

Can I have two? I used to walk the children, when we lived near Halifax, at Ogden Water, and thought it would be wonderful to live there. I now do live there, so I can't help but say Ogden Water. I look out on to the wild rugged Bront moorland and I just love it. My favourite place would also have to be Rosedale Abbey, because I went there a million times as a child. I still go there. I travelled to the Great Yorkshire Show from there

all week this year and I think it's a piece of paradise.

What's your idea of a perfect weekend/day out in Yorkshire?

My perfect weekend would have to involve food, food and food. It would have to be Yorkshire food too, so I would again be up in North Yorkshire visiting the little tearooms and farm shops that have opened. Grange Farm Shop I absolutely adore on the Helmsley road. They deserve the biggest plug ever. I love a gorgeous piece of Yorkshire-reared beef, and if I was going to have a posh weekend it would have to involve fish from Whitby, probably at The Star in Harome. Followed by lots of walking to get rid of the calories.

Do you have a favourite walk, or view?

That would have to be the one I look out on every morning, on to the moors, then on to the Halifax Golf Club, completely by myself. I can't believe I am lucky enough to look out on to the view I have every day.

Which Yorkshire sportsman/woman (past or present) would you like to take for lunch?

It would have to be one of the show-jumpers. I grew up watching show-jumping and I have been lucky enough over the years to interview them. I've known John Whitaker probably for 32 years. He's notoriously shy, but I'm always fascinated how someone who is 5ft 6ins tall can get the best so quietly, and he rides so beautifully.

Which Yorkshire stage or screen star (past or present) would you like to take for lunch?

I love voices. Radio was one of my first passions, so it would be someone who's voice is melodious, mellifluous, beautifully deep, but Yorkshire. Someone like Pete Postlethwaite or Brian Blessed. They could just sing in each ear.

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

Rhubarb. The rhubarb fields of West Yorkshire. Not enough people eat rhubarb and there used to be 150 families making it. There are now just 12. It's now becoming very trendy again. TV chef Marco Pierre White thinks he's rediscovered it, but those of us who still live anywhere near Rothwell and Wakefield have always known it's there and have always supported it.

What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity?

We call a spade a shovel. You can never get too big for your boots. Somebody once said to me – "Oh, for a moment I thought you were her on telly who reads the news, but I've met her and she's dog rough in real life." You can't get too conceited.

Do you follow sport in the county?

Show-jumping. The talent in this area is incredible and I think that is so because these are families that grew up with horses. They didn't get 1m pay-cheques to buy the best. Your Fletchers, your Smiths, your Whitakers – that dynasty is now huge – started on little scraggy ponies like the rest of us. It's just that they had talent that the rest of us didn't.

What about Yorkshire's cultural life?

It is mixed and varied. It depends what you consider culture to be. I love the fairy stories, particularly those associated with the North York Moors. I love the fact that you can still go to the top of the moors to Ralph's Cross, where as a kid we were taught that if someone held you up and you saw money on the top, to take the money that was there. Legend has it that if you're rich and you take it ,then you will meet a nasty end. Those little quirky, mists of time stories. I think that is Yorkshire's culture, brought about through generations of history.

Do you have a favourite restaurant

or pub?

I love pubs that do food but are still pubs. I love restaurants where the food served is what I can't do myself, so I like complicated food. I like the pubs where they still have characters that might have just brought their cows in from the field and still call in for a pint. Pubs like The Star at Harome who are doing great Yorkshire produce, but still have a load of characters propping up the bar, where it isn't all laminated menus. Certainly where it isn't cress and salad on a cheese sandwich.

Do you have a favourite food shop?

Grange Farm Shop and Blacker Hall Farm Shop – the butcher that went from Blacker Hall is now at Grange Farm. I'll travel to both. I've spent so much money there on their own beef and local lamb. I go there to stock up and stick it all in the freezer.

How do you think Yorkshire has changed in the time you've known it?

I really don't think it has. There are a few more high-rise flats and Leeds is now supposed to be the bustling busy city, but apart from that I'm not going to say its now marvellous since Harvey Nichols came. That to me is irrelevant. Yorkshire's beauty is that it hasn't changed at all. Farmers and country people still have the same passion, and there's still the same pride.

Who is the Yorkshire man or woman you most admire?

Jane Tomlinson without a doubt. I remember interviewing Jane in her first TV interview. Over the years I heard people saying that she couldn't be that ill. But I used to see her battered and bruised from chemotherapy, being sick, having to have extra make-up on because she was yellow underneath. Sometimes, I can't get out of bed in a morning because my knee hurts, so how on earth did she do it? I will always be in awe of her. Jane epitomises that true sense of never giving up and that every day is worth living.

How has Yorkshire influenced your work?

Everything I do is because of it. It is about truth, honesty, diversity and its characters. My job is nothing without the people that I meet every day. People say why don't you go to London? I can't think of anything worse. The greatest accolade I have been given is being able to tell the news, good or bad, to the people I admire so much.

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

For a true county influence through and through I would always go for the brass bands and male voice choirs of Yorkshire. Black Dyke still win awards even though their mill closed years ago. Their music is reminiscent of the time when the wool industry was so strong. My dad was in a male voice choir and they still send shivers down my spine.

What is your proudest moment?

When Harry Gration and I received our honorary doctorates from Bradford University recently. I didn't go to university because the daily newspaper

in Halifax decided to pay me to study.

My daughter, who has a degree, is mortified that I now have one without doing any work for it. I have explained that 32 years as a journalist is quite a lot of work.

 
 
 

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