My Yorkshire: Walking in the Dales and a good pint of cider

Royal Armouries jouster Andy Dean.

Royal Armouries jouster Andy Dean.

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Andy Deane is one of the world’s leading experts on jousting and medieval combat. Based at the Royal Armouries in Leeds, the 51-year-old lives in Harrogate with his wife and two sons.

What’s your first Yorkshire memory? I was brought up on a farm near Winchester, so I’ve always had a love of the countryside. When I was about nine years old we came to Yorkshire to visit my uncle in Whitby and I remember being driven over the moors past Fylingdales. I can recall walking along the wall past the harbour and being dive-bombed by huge monsters of birds which I believed had come from prehistoric times. To a child who had only ever seen rooks and crows they were terrifying.

Andy Dean would take visitors on a trip to Helmsley. (Credit; English Heritage.)

Andy Dean would take visitors on a trip to Helmsley. (Credit; English Heritage.)

What’s your favourite part of the county – and why? Jousting can be very demanding, so I love coming home to Harrogate. You go over the brow of the hill near Harewood House, and there’s the countryside, laid out in front of you. Fields and ancient walls, streams, rivers, farms and woodland. Just magical.

What’s your idea of a perfect day, or a perfect weekend, out in Yorkshire? Walking in the Dales, and ending up in a good pub somewhere – one that serves a good pint of cider. That’s the southerner in me coming out. We always toss a coin before we go in anywhere for a drink so that the loser has to drive.

Do you have a favourite walk – or view? Up somewhere near Sandsend, on a day when it isn’t all fair weather, but there’s a bit of a bite in the air. Those are the days when you want to walk along the coast.

Which Yorkshire sportsman, past or present, would you like to take for lunch? A straw-headed marauder called Peter Winterbottom, who was one of the best rugby players ever, and my hero for many years. He was an openside flanker, and one of the best movers on the pitch that I have ever seen.

Which Yorkshire stage or screen star, past or present, would you like to take for dinner? The big, brash, booming Brian Blessed. There’s that line that some actors deliver, isn’t there, when they say that, “No-one sleeps when I’m on”, and Brian is the epitome of that. He’s a marvellous human being, who lives life to the full.

If you had to name your Yorkshire ‘hidden gem’, what would it be? The Forbidden Corner at Leyburn, which our two lads (Henry, 20 and Oliver, 17) used to love. It was always a great day out, experiencing the unexpected twists, turns, grottos and tunnels. It used to really fire their imaginations.

What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity? I could sum that up in two words. Straight talking. You don’t get any sugar-coated pill up here. When we relocated here in the mid-90s, we had to get used to that pretty quickly. That and being called ‘luv’. It took some while to assimilate.

Do you follow sport in the county, and if so, what? Rugby, all the way. I used to play when I was younger, and made it into the Saracens squad for a while, but never to the first team. I love the rough and tumble and the camaraderie. Both our lads still play for Harrogate when they are at home. If I’m honest I live and breathe rugby.

Do you have a favourite restaurant, or pub? We both love the Traveller’s Rest, near the Yorkshire Showground. Run by lovely people, it usually has a great log fire, is sensibly priced, dog-friendly and just has a welcoming atmosphere.

Do you have a favourite food shop? Audsley’s family butchers in Harrogate. Now I do love my game and they do some of the best. They also converted me to the joys of pork pies. Absolutely perfect, succulent and full of flavour. I can’t get enough of them now.

How do you think that Yorkshire has changed, for better or for worse, in the time that you’ve known it? Well, we’ve been here for 20 years now and Leeds has changed beyond belief. So many good shops and restaurants, and of course a huge revitalisation of the area around the waterways – and I include the Armouries in that. Hats off to everyone involved.

If you had to change one thing in, or about Yorkshire, what would that be? Better, faster, more comfortable and more frequent rail links, a proper tram system for Leeds, and the replacement of those wretched Pacer trains, the sardine cans on wheels.

Who is the Yorkshire person that you most admire? Donald Simpson Bell, who was a Second World War Second Lieutenant, and who died after he and two other men charged an enemy machine-gun post, armed only with revolvers. He came from Harrogate, and was a teacher and a football player. He was just 25.

Has Yorkshire influenced your work? Not in the way that I deliver my work, perhaps, but certainly in the way that it has offered me new opportunities. It has also given me the chances to meet people like Robert Hardy, the actor, who is one of the world’s leading experts on the history and use of the long bow.

Name your favourite Yorkshire book/author/artist/CD/performer? Being a farmer’s boy, I was always fascinated by the local vet, so when All Creatures Great and Small came on TV, I followed it fervently. Getting to meet Robert Hardy, a star of the series, was the icing on the cake.

If a stranger to Yorkshire only had time to visit one place, it would be? I’d take them up to Helmsley, or maybe Richmond. Lovely little towns, especially on market days. Full of hustle and bustle. Walkers, farmers, shoppers, visitors, with life a-plenty.

■ Jousting events begin again for visitors to the Royal Armouries at Easter.

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