My Yorkshire: Miriam Skinner on the magic of Robin Hood's Bay, Flamingo Land and Yorkshire's best pizza
What’s your first Yorkshire memory?
It was a family holiday when I about six years old. We motored over to Robin Hood’s Bay, which I thought was just magical. I have always since thought of Robin Hood being the Patron Saint of Holiday Home Rentals. For me it was the epitome of Yorkshire - I was forever reading books like The Railway Children and The Secret Garden – with the sweep of the coast down to Ravenscar.
What’s your favourite part of the county?
Where I live – in and around Slaithwaite, for so many reasons. The Colne Valley is so beautiful, there’s a wonderfully supportive community here (it’s been voted ‘best place to live’ in so many polls) who invest in their village, and it’s an easy commute by car to where the Philharmonic is based, in Salford. The scenery is stunning, and there are lots of good walks.
What’s your idea of a perfect day, or a perfect weekend, out in Yorkshire?
I really want to go and see the Walled Garden at Scampston, which I am told is remarkable in so many ways, then we’d travel on to have a go on the rollercoasters at Flamingo Land, and after that, someone has recommended another garden, at Burton Agnes Hall.
Do you have a favourite walk – or view?
Out of Slaithwaite, and up on to the tops of Bolster Moor, on the north side of the Colne Valley, around Merrydale (on the banks of the Pennines), along the fringes of Marsden Moor, and down again. En route, you can get four things – a delicious pie at the farm shop, a good pint in the Rose and Crown, a view of Titanic Mill in the valley below, and a curious feeling of elation in that the next place in a direct line and on a land mass of exactly the same height, would be in the Urals.
Which Yorkshire stage or screen star would you like to take for dinner?
Sir Patrick Stewart for his extraordinary range of work, and his versatility. There are few who have slid with ease from Shakespeare to sci-fi, and back again. For me, however, it’s that wonderful voice, and I could listen to him for hours, even reciting the phone book.
What’s your Yorkshire ‘hidden gem?
Everyone who lives there will think me crackers, but for me, it’s Heptonstall. It’s the place that I take all my friends and colleagues to when they visit. It’s a great little community, with an independent spirit.Sylvia Plath is buried in the church graveyard, and I often go up there and salute her memory – one time, someone had placed a pot on the stone, and it was filled with pens and pencils. What a wonderful remembrance of such a fine writer.
If you could own one thing in Yorkshire for a single day, what would that object or place be?
She’s that engineering triumph that is The Northern Belle, and when you see her steaming over the local viaduct, you’ll realise why people book their picnic spots weeks in advance, just to take pictures and to experience the thrill. I’m totally taken with the steam age, and I’m going to ask that I am allowed up on to the footplate, alone, and that I can drive this magical beast for hours on end – preferably up and down the Settle to Carlisle branch.
What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity?
There’s a collective interest in the heritage and the social of the county, I think, and that’s informed by the landscape in so many parts – the redundant chimneys, the canals, the smelting plants. These were the Silicon Valleys and the AI hubs of their day, and they would have given Bill Gates something to think about in their producing power – and the money that they earned. There’s also a genuine warmth here, a “pulling together” attitude.
Do you have a favourite restaurant, or pub?
Our local Italian, Anello is just the best – brilliant pizzas and other dishes, and just about everything sourced locally (they even have their own allotment for produce) and run by such nice people who genuinely do take care of their staff and their customers. And the value is second to none.
Do you have a favourite food shop?
Green Valley Grocers, again in Slaithwaite, a wonderful place that is piled high with fresh produce, great cheeses, artisan breads….you name it.
How do you think that Yorkshire has changed, for better or for worse, in the time that you’ve known it?
It has certainly got a lot more busy, and there are some terrific musical events – Ryedale is a brilliant example. While some smaller places, such as my own patch, seem to thrive, the centres of some of the bigger towns and cities seem to be shrivelling away at an alarming rate. And our train services, despite all the promises, are simply execrable, defying all logic on a timetable. I don’t really want to drive all the way to Salford for a rehearsal or a concert, but the truth is that there is no other way. There isn’t a hope of playing in Hull one evening, and returning home on the train. That is just ludicrous.
Who is the Yorkshire person that you most admire?
Dame Janet Baker, who has just turned 90 years old, and who seems to be just as wonderful as ever. Everyone in the musical world admires and loves her – there’s the lovely story that, whenever she turned up for a rehearsal, she’d know the score and musical parts of everyone else in the room as well as her own, before anything actually started.
Has Yorkshire influenced your work?
Absolutely – and in the sense that I criss-cross it constantly to play in concerts and recitals. And also because I met my very dear friends Belinda and Heidi – the musicians who are O’Hooley and Tidow, and with whom I have had the great pleasure of recording, on the towpath of our canal, while out walking.
Name your favourite Yorkshire book/author/artist/CD/performer.
Sally Wainwright, who is a creative genius. I’ve loved her since At Home with the Braithwaites, and since then she has been one of the powerhouses of British television. A remarkable and hugely talented writer, and a wonderful lady.
If a stranger to Yorkshire only had time to visit one place, it would be?
To York, for a wander around The Shambles, and then over to The Minster, for evensong, as the sun is going down. Simply sublime.