Growing up in a Yorkshire town was a wonderful thing.
It gave me access to all the trappings an adolescent boy thought he needed but also incredible access to the countryside; access that wasn’t spurned on countless family drives out into the Yorkshire Dales, and weekend ‘bat’ walks at dusk on the rural fringe of Harrogate.
Yet, upon first taking up notepad and biro as Agricultural Correspondent at this region’s national newspaper, my appreciation of what living and working in the countryside was like was distinctly limited. I’d like to think I’ve picked up one or two things along the way since.
Some 60 agricultural and countryside shows have been clocked up over the last (almost) seven years, as well as countless farm visits and conference attendances. I’ve racked up more than 100,000 words in this column alone, so if I haven’t conveyed a sense of what rural Yorkshire is all about, even to the converted, then I’ve clearly failed.
This is my swan song. Pastures new are calling, and pleasingly, within the agricultural world about which I have had the joy of having written so much about. It’s an opportune moment to relay some observations.
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Respect: Never take our countryside for granted, its capacity to provide so much nutritious food, to capture carbon, to inspire the arts and nourish our soul; all delivered by the sense of place created by those who work and live there, the guardians of our rural heritage, culture and landscapes that inform how we view Britain.
Pressure: Geography dictates that rural communities can feel marginalised, a sense that empowers their collective resilience yet brings sustainability challenges. Even when farming – essentially a public service – is on the cusp of era-defining change, how often are rural concerns part of the national narrative or debated in Parliament?
Hope: A strained political atmosphere has us seeking comfort – walks in the hills, nights under the stars maybe. Climate change brings debate closer to the land. Our growing population needs our farmers. We are all reliant upon and, on a primal level tethered to, our countryside. Long may it flourish.
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