What’s your first Yorkshire memory?
At the age of about two or three years I was somewhere on the seafront at Withernsea and I was amazed at the size of the lighthouse. It’s a few streets inland and it certainly seemed a bit odd to a little boy.
What’s your favourite part of the county – and why?
The Dales, and Wharfedale in particular. I spent quite some time as a student at Scargill House (nothing to do with Arthur, by the way!) in Kettlewell. From there you can just stride out with nothing between you and the sky.
What’s your idea of a perfect day, or a perfect weekend, out in Yorkshire?
I’d book some tickets for a trip on the Settle – Carlisle railway line and in particular that stretch between Skipton and Garsdale. We’d get off, have a nice long walk, and we’d find a nice pub for a good lunch, and then walk off the food on the return trek back to the station.
Do you have a favourite walk or view?
I love Buckden Pike, in Upper Wharfedale, and the area around Walden Head into Aysgarth. It’s very quiet and secluded. You can almost hear the silence.
Which Yorkshire sportsman, past or present, would you like to take for lunch?
The incomparable Geoffrey Boycott, always a hero of mine. I’ve only ever seen him on television, so to have the opportunity to listen to his cricketing yarns would be such a pleasure.
Which Yorkshire stage or screen star, or past or present, would you like to take for dinner?
I am really not a television or films or theatre person… I’ll have to eat alone.
If you had to name your Yorkshire hidden gem, what would it be?
Back to Walkden Head again. I am well aware that readers will be thinking “must check this out”, and possibly I should have remained silent! .
What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity?
Three things. The stunning landscapes, the incredibly rich history, and the resilience and the warmth of its people. Which other place in Britain has been touched by the people of pre-history, the Romans, the Vikings, the Normans and everyone else after then in such a way? Constantine was crowned Emperor in York, and every time I look at the stone column from his palace, outside the Minister, I think of him and what he achieved.
Do you follow sport in the county?
Cricket, cricket, cricket. I really do want to get an afternoon to go to Headingley or Scarborough, but I never seem to get the opportunity. Maybe later this year.
Do you have a favourite restaurant, or pub?
The Mallyan Spout, at Goathland. I was first a curate at Whitby after being ordained, and Heather and I used to have the occasional afternoon off, and we’d drive up to this hotel-cum-pub (which is a converted 19th century country house, with the waterfall not so far away, and have a walk and a nice snack there. It’s about 20 minutes’ drive from Whitby in the Esk Valley. It was about the time that Heartbeat first came on TV, and it got more and more popular as the years rolled by.
Do you have a favourite food shop?
Lewis and Cooper’s in Northallerton, a town where I did some of my priestly training. In the lunch breaks I’d go into this remarkable deli, and I’d get some food, and always enjoyed it al fresco.
How do you think that Yorkshire has changed, for better or for worse, in the time that you’ve known it?
Quite a lot, and in both directions. You can lament the passing of a lot of heavy industry – and the mining communities in particular. But then you can praise the way that the landscape has been restored to its original beauty, or as near as. There’s quite a lot of building that is nothing much better than an urban sprawl, but people have to have somewhere to live. On the plus side, we still have great swathes of spectacular countryside, and people seem to respect their environment more.
Who is the Yorkshire person that you most admire?
My wife, Heather. We have been married for 20 years and my love and admiration for her grows daily. We were students at Oxford together, although I was a couple of years older, and doing a post graduate degree in music when we met. We were introduced by a mutual friend at a concert. Heather is a music teacher and a very talented performer, and she plays with the New London Consort, and she is about to go on a European tour. I miss her terribly while she’s away – but if the concerts are at somewhere like the Sage in Gateshead, she always comes home afterwards. She is an inspirational woman, and a marvellous mother – as our sons will tell you.
Has Yorkshire influenced your work?
Absolutely. It has played a key part in my life. I was born here, my first curacy was in Whitby, and I studied here as well as at Oxford. And now here I am, in one of this country’s finest cities, serving at arguably Britain’s finest church. Yorkshire, I am proud to say, is where my roots are.
Name your favourite Yorkshire book/author/artist/CD/performer.
Kenneth Leighton was only in his late fifties when he died. He was born in Wakefield, and sang in the Cathedral Choir and became Professor of Music at Edinburgh University. He was, for a time, composer in residence at Leeds University. He was a wonderful man, who I am happy to say I met in his later years, and I am still in touch with his wife. He’s a great composer, of all sorts of music, from church pieces (a setting of the Coventry Carol comes to mind) through to opera. His music is starting to be rediscovered, and there are a couple of good CD recordings of some of his output. Let’s hear more of Kenneth Leighton!
If a stranger to Yorkshire only had time to visit one place, it would be?
Well, I have to say York, don’t I? But I do mean it. We had a Spanish friend of ours staying with us last summer, and she’d hardly ever been out of London, but when she got here her jaw was on the floor for the first hour or so because she couldn’t believe the beauty of the place. She was speechless. Just walk into the Minster, and it is a building that impresses instantly – but it also embraces you in its warmth.