Enduring relevance of Yorkshire Countrywomen's Association

Rebecca Hoggarth-Hall (left) and Angela Kay from the Yorkshire Countrywomen Association wrapped in the Yorkshire flag at their gathering in the Walled Gardens at Temple Newsam, Leeds on Yorkshire Day. Picture by Gary Longbottom.
Rebecca Hoggarth-Hall (left) and Angela Kay from the Yorkshire Countrywomen Association wrapped in the Yorkshire flag at their gathering in the Walled Gardens at Temple Newsam, Leeds on Yorkshire Day. Picture by Gary Longbottom.

Anyone who has ever tried to split the traditional county of Yorkshire in any way has come up against a barrage of criticism and a determination to maintain the three Ridings from those who have been born or come to live in the land of the White Rose.

Farmer Chris prepares for second series of TV hit

Rebecca Hoggarth-Hall (left) and Angela Kay from the Yorkshire Countrywomen Association at Temple Newsam. Picture by Gary Longbottom.

Rebecca Hoggarth-Hall (left) and Angela Kay from the Yorkshire Countrywomen Association at Temple Newsam. Picture by Gary Longbottom.

When the government ordained new areas such as Teesside and Humberside that effectively threw out the Cleveland Hills and the whole of the East Riding and lumps of the West Riding were shifted, some to other counties and specifically Lancashire there was outrage.

Yorkshire flags now fly proudly in those areas that either remember it well or are still under sufferance in towns such as Barnoldswick and Earby.

The East Riding of Yorkshire was later returned as a county and now the Tour de Yorkshire is providing a unifying force. So too is Yorkshire Day that took place on August 1; and one organisation that showed its strength in numbers and countywide membership was the Yorkshire Countrywomen’s Association, once again hosting an event to mark the day at Temple Newsam House and Estate, having held Yorkshire Day events at Tennant’s in Leyburn for the past two years.

The organisation was founded in 1983 following an attempt to divide off the Ridings of Yorkshire in the Women’s Institute, which succeeded in some respects as there are still many Yorkshire WI groups.

However, such was the fortitude of women like the now sadly passed Audrey Totty that the Yorkshire Countrywomen’s Association also became a force and one that continues to champion the traditional county and its heritage.

Britain in Bloom judging gets underway in Yorkshire as conservation becomes key

Today the Yorkshire Countrywomen’s Association has 68 branches, a membership of around 2,000 and a central committee of fifteen. It has a county chairman and treasurer and operates an office in the same building as the NFU on Tadcaster Road in York where central office administrators Angela Kay and Rebecca Hoggarth-Hall, who have recently taken on their posts, co-ordinate all event management and activity.

Angela, wife of a beef farmer in nearby Colton, where a small farm shop is run selling Dexter beef; and Rebecca, from York, whose father is involved with the Environment Agency share the passion of the membership for greater expansion building on the core values.

“It doesn’t matter whether you are a woman in the countryside in your 30s or 70s we all need social time, companionship and being able to communicate for our own wellbeing,” says Angela. “Despite the internet and social media communication nothing can beat being face to face talking and enjoying each other’s company and learning from each other. Farming is still an isolated existence for many.

“We all get to that point where we want to talk about and do something else rather than just stay on the farm. Our situation is in common with all women whether we work in an office, factory or a farm.

Tholthorpe: Community behind 'Britain's smallest panto' in six-figure fundraising drive to open coffee shop

“That’s just one of the positive sides of the YCA, bringing women together, but there’s far more. Passing on of traditional crafts is another major benefit that can be brought about.

“Our ladies who are already part of the YCA know just how relevant it is and what everyone in the organisation is focussed on is community and raising funds for charity. Our chosen charity this year is Yorkshire Air Ambulance. We are also conscious of attracting the next generation of YCA members without losing the confidence of the existing membership.

“Our membership wants everyone to be a part of the YCA family and to come together experiencing the quality and variety of what is available.

“We can all be in danger of getting into that syndrome where we put on the television or spend so much time on our smartphone or social media when the YCA offers probably one of the best versions of social interaction there is available for women in Yorkshire and in the countryside.”

Rebecca, whose background is in media and marketing, wasn’t aware of the Yorkshire Countrywoman’s Association before applying for her new role.

She’s now completely at one with the organisation and believes using today’s media will allow the YCA to become far more visible.

“It’s an amazing group of ladies and I’m sure even more will want to become involved if they saw what goes on. Posting videos about crafts such as rag rugging and crocheting, showing how to make things and what the organisation does will give women of all ages opportunities to see what goes on.”

The Yorkshire Countrywomen’s Association will be at Tockwith Show today and at Nidderdale and Stokesley shows in September plus others where the local branches take stands.