Your first Yorkshire memory? I have many but the one that stands out the most goes back to the winter of 1947, as a young lad having to walk well over a mile to school wearing little wellies and short trousers when the snow was over two feet deep. The schools never seemed to close because of bad weather in those days!
Your favourite part of the county and why? This would be the southern dales, particularly Wharfedale and Langstrothdale chase and up to the headwaters of the River Wharfe. When people say there are no more wild places left in the country, I suggest they make for Langstrothdale and enjoy mile after mile of magnificent, empty moorland. I am also very fond of Rosedale on the North York Moors.
Your favourite walk? Starting out from Gargrave on into Flasby and up over Sharp Haw. This is a gentle walk with wonderful views and is not too challenging. Flasby, a tiny hamlet and the home of the late Fred Trueman, consists of one farm and a handful of houses, overshadowed by the beautiful Flasby Hall. No matter which way the wind happens to be blowing, it always seems sheltered here because of its position in the valley. Walk up through the woods to the descriptively named peak of Sharp Haw which overlooks Skipton – it’s a relatively gentle walk down over the fields to Hetton and a welcome drink at the Angel.
Your perfect day out? Now that I live near Harrogate I would drive over Greenhow and up Wharfedale over Fleet Moss and down into Hawes for lunch and then take in the Dales Countryside Museum. This houses a classic collection of Dales history and also has a room dedicated to John Baker, the national park officer who tragically died at 54 from leukaemia, and inspired the legendary Calendar Girls story. There is an exhibition running in this room this summer which charts the whole Calendar Girls story and includes many of the photographs that I took of the “Girls” over the years.
Your Yorkshire hidden gem? We have many gems, most of which you could not describe as hidden, except perhaps in the case of Thorpe. This little valley lies between Threshfield and Burnsall and is reputedly where the locals used to hide their livestock away when the border raiders came calling! If you should investigate you will see how effective this would be.
Which Yorkshire celebrity would you invite to dinner? I think I would choose Eleanor Tomlinson. When she was a teenager and about to start her acting career she came to lunch with us after being brought by a mutual friend. It would be interesting to get the inside story about her rise to fame in the role of Demelza in Poldark.
What sports do you follow? I’ve always loved horses and in the past I used to ride, compete and hunt. Now I follow country sports alongside my labrador, Monty.
Favourite pub? My local is the Grantley Arms where you are always assured of a warm welcome and lovely food. I also like the Blue Lion at East Witton and the Angel at Hetton – sitting outside in the summer at the Angel is one of life’s greatest pleasures.
Favourite food shop? Can I have two? I’m a big fan of the Mackenzies Smokehouse at Blubberhouses. They smoke pretty much anything – fish, meat and game – their bacon is the best and they make a cracking pie! There’s a good cafe too. Keelham Farm Shop in Skipton has an incredible range of proper Yorkshire produce – you can easily do your weekly shop there, and have a good lunch at the same time.
How has Yorkshire changed? Many places in the Dales have become victims of their own popularity and in places like Malham on a sunny summer day you would have trouble parking a bike. It’s best to go out of season if you really want to see it.
How has Yorkshire influenced your work? I have been lucky enough to have made my living by painting and the Dales and moors have been my preferred locations. The sheer variety of the landscape has provided me with endless painting subjects and thankfully they have been appreciated by many.
The Yorkshire person I most admire? Sir Gary Verity would have to come top of the list. He’s achieved a remarkable amount for Yorkshire and put us firmly on the map and I can’t think of anyone else who could have pulled it off.
Name your favourite book, author, artist or performer?. The late Bill Mitchell, author and ex-editor of the Dalesman magazine. He kick-started my career by commissioning me to paint covers for the magazine. It was a fantastic opportunity and I’ve been forever grateful. What he didn’t know about the Dales was not worth knowing.
If you could change one thing about Yorkshire? A little less rain and a shorter winter.
What is Yorkshire’s unique identity? Tenacity and the “can do” attitude that lies behind things like the success of our athletes at the Olympics and the creativity it spawned in the world of artists, sculptors and musicians.
If you had time to take a visitor to Yorkshire to see just one thing, what would it be? Fountains Abbey, hands down. It’s such an extraordinary place and incredibly atmospheric at any time of year. I love to walk along the riverside paths that lead to the deer park – if you’re lucky you’ll see red, sika and fallow deer amongst the ancient lime and oak trees.
If you could be anywhere in the county for a day, where would it be? I would settle for the Devonshire Arms at Bolton Abbey. I would start off my day with some fly fishing on the Wharfe followed by rest and rejuvenation in the spa. In the evening I would feast on the menu in the restaurant and explore their famous wine cellar. Hedonistic or what?