THE SPOTLIGHT of the world shone on Yorkshire for the Tour de France and Grand Départ. Chosen ahead of Barcelona, Florence, Berlin, Venice and Edinburgh, would the county deliver?
I think we can now answer the question with a proud and resounding “yes”. This was just another chapter in the incredible history of success that this county has enjoyed.
Yorkshire folk are of course known for a humble, industrious attitude and just quietly getting on with things – we mustn’t grumble.
But, ahead of Yorkshire Day tomorrow, it is worth taking a moment to reflect on the attributes that make Yorkshire so great – its sports, film, culture, cuisine, countryside, history and its people – and why I have tabled a Parliamentary motion to this effect.
The world’s greatest cycling race is now part of a much wider sporting tradition which also includes the most successful team in English cricketing history.
Yorkshire County Cricket Club have now won 31 County Championships – and are on course for another title. Speaking of Headingley, I couldn’t not give Leeds Rhinos a mention. Coincidentally on Yorkshire Day, Rhinos will be taking on rivals Bradford Bulls in the Super League.
After Headingley hosted part of the rugby league World Cup last autumn, Elland Road will be one of the venues for the rugby union World Cup next year.
Talking of football, Hull City will, once again, represent the region in the Premier League (and Europa League) but other local clubs have enjoyed great success: Leeds United reached the Champions League semi-final in 2001, Barnsley beat the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea to reach the FA Cup semi-final in 2006, Bradford City were beaten in last year’s League Cup final and the world’s first football club was Sheffield FC (not to be confused with United or Wednesday).
Momentarily leaving aside our massive sports scene, God’s Own County is known as such for its stunning countryside and breathtaking views – the North York Moors, Yorkshire Dales and a bit of the Peak District too. It didn’t come as a surprise in 2006 that Kent lost the title of “Garden of England” to North Yorkshire after 400 years.
The beautiful hills and moors have been inspiring people for hundreds of years – from the Brontë sisters in the 1800s to more recently providing the backdrop to TV series such as Heartbeat, Emmerdale, Downton Abbey and Last of the Summer Wine.
If you’re looking for a calm holiday getaway this summer, you don’t have to go to somewhere in the Caribbean or Mediterranean – the hills and beaches of Yorkshire have an incredible amount to offer. I’m certainly sticking around; the peace of the Yorkshire countryside being the perfect antidote to the non-stop nature of Parliamentary life.
If you’re not going away but want a few moments of calm, some Yorkshire Tea should hopefully do the trick, with another reason to be proud of Yorkshire being its own unique food and drink.
While the Yorkshire Pudding is emblematic of our local cuisine, there’s Wensleydale’s own cheese and the Rhubarb Triangle between Wakefield, Morley and Rothwell giving us, well, lots of rhubarb. Pontefract gave us liquorice and of course we have Parkin too.
These should literally give you a taste of Yorkshire, and if you want something more fancy, Yorkshire has five Michelin-star restaurants – more than any other county in the UK– and this is a fantastic testament to the quality of local produce and local dishes.
I really could go on about Yorkshire’s greatness, but I will round off with arguably the single best thing about the county – its people. I began this article by mentioning the “mustn’t grumble” attitude of Yorkshire folk just cracking on with life, and the Tour de France showed just how hospitable we were to millions of visitors from around the globe.
The sheer amount of talent we have produced over the years has also put Yorkshire firmly on the map and given our towns and cities so many local people to cherish. Take this abbreviated list – the playwright Alan Bennett, giants of the film industry Sir Patrick Stewart and Dame Judi Dench, musical talent from the Arctic Monkeys to Corinne Bailey Rae, former prime ministers Harold Wilson and Herbert Henry Asquith, the anti-slavery crusader William Wilberforce and so many others.
The success Yorkshire has achieved is down purely to the ambition and attitude of our people – and maybe also our well-known refusal to take “no” for an answer.
So, on Yorkshire Day, take a moment to remember our long and rich sporting heritage, landscapes of unrivalled beauty, a wonderful local cuisine and the people who make us proud. They are all attributes that are worthy of celebration.