My Yorkshire: Harry Gration on his favourite people and places

BBC Look North presenter Harry Gration.
BBC Look North presenter Harry Gration.
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Harry Gration is the lead anchor on the nightly news programme, BBC Look North. The Bradford-born 67-year-old was educated at St Peter’s School in York. He now lives in the city with his wife Helen and their twin sons.

What’s your first Yorkshire memory? Every Sunday, without fail, there was a family excursion to Baildon Moor and Shipley Glen. At the top there was an amusement ride, which, as a little lad, I was convinced was at a terrifying height above the ground. At very best, it was probably about 15ft. I can also recall asking my poor father to join me in a kickabout – of anything. I must have been a very demanding lad.

Harry Gration admires Berwick Kaler, who writes and stars in York Theatre Royal's annual panto. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

Harry Gration admires Berwick Kaler, who writes and stars in York Theatre Royal's annual panto. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

What’s your favourite part of the county – and why? There are two. First, the area around Clapham, in the Dales, where I can stand and just listen to the birds and the sound of the rushing water cascades. Then it would have to be Scarborough Castle where you can stand and see for miles south, and then turn and look over the vast northern coastline. On a sunny day, it is just glorious.

What’s your idea of a perfect day, or a perfect weekend, out in Yorkshire? Heading off to see some cricket somewhere. I have a soft spot for the Scarborough Cricket Festival because it doesn’t get the attention and support that it needs. I do a bit of cricket umpiring, too, very much fourth division standard stuff – but then with bad eyesight and hearing on its way, I probably make the perfect man for the job.

Do you have a favourite walk – or view? We live in York, and I often head off to Lendal Bridge, and then do a zig-zag stroll along by the side of the Ouse – I take Maisie, our bearded collie with me for company.

Which Yorkshire sportsman, past or present, would you like to take for lunch? My great icon, Sir Len Hutton, and I’d quiz him about his incredible 
365 at the Oval. But I’m also a great admirer of Jonny Bairstow, and of former Leeds Rhinos captain Kevin Sinfield, both of whom are thoroughly decent human beings, and exemplars for their sports.

Scarborough Castle and the resort's South Bay is one of Harry Gration's favourite places. Picture by Richard Ponter.

Scarborough Castle and the resort's South Bay is one of Harry Gration's favourite places. Picture by Richard Ponter.

Which Yorkshire stage or screen star, past or present, would you like to take for dinner? Dame Judi Dench. As soon as she walks in the room, you know that someone truly special has walked in. She is great fun, has an extraordinary talent, and a very naughty twinkle in her eye.

If you had to name your Yorkshire ‘hidden gem’, what would it be? The Bradford Club, which is one of the few private clubs left in the county. Its aim is to promote business and industry, but it’s so easy to walk past and never notice that it is there.

If you could choose somewhere, or some object, from or in Yorkshire to own for a day, what would it be? A small part of the house and grounds at Ripley Castle. I remember being at an event there where Lady Ingleby gamely had a go on a bucking bronco. It threw her into the air, but as she landed knees together, the picture of elegance, someone asked: “How on earth did you manage that?” Without even thinking she replied “Finishing school, darling!”

Do you have a favourite food shop? Weeton’s Deli in Harrogate is where you’ll often find us, with an incredible range of very tempting goodies. One of the great things these days is that when you are out and about, each little village seems to have its own cheese or farm shop.

Do you have a favourite restaurant, or pub? The Crab and Lobster at Asenby, near Thirsk, is always a treat. Helen and I eat out quite a bit in Scarborough, because the York restaurants tend to be a bit busy.

How do you think that Yorkshire has changed, for better or for worse, in the time that you’ve known it? It has been so good to see Yorkshire put in the spotlight and a large part of that is down to that remarkable man, Gary Verity. Who would have known that cycling, which the vast majority of us could not have cared less about a few years back, would have captured the imagination so thoroughly.

Who is the Yorkshire person that you most admire? Jo Cox, and Jane Tomlinson, and their legacies continue. In both cases, it is a classic example of how their families made (and are making) something that is fine, and positive, after something so awful happened.

If you had to change one thing in, or about Yorkshire, what would that be? Access to the Great Yorkshire Show on the A59 is simply horrendous. They are trying hard to sort it, but I have to head out at dawn if I want to get there on time. And, more broadly, the dreadful rail services that we have to endure.

Has Yorkshire influenced your work? Yes, all the time. I remember, years back, going for a job on network TV, and I got down to the last two, but the other chap (far better than me) got it. When I was summoned in for the news, I asked why, and the chap behind the desk said: “Because you drop your Hs”. I knew right then that I should be far happier back on home turf.

Who is your favourite Yorkshire book/author/artist/CD/performer? Berwick Kaler, who through the York Theatre Royal panto has brought so much old-fashioned joy and sheer fun to hundreds of thousands of people. He came to York as an unknown, embraced us, and we in turn have embraced him.

What do you think was a defining moment for you, in your time at Look North? The Bradford City fire. Because I know the city and the people. The tragedy was so very deeply and personally affecting.

If a stranger to Yorkshire only had time to visit one place, it would be? The Shambles in York, because you not only get a sense of history in that street but you can 
then turn and see that wonder, The Minster. I tell our two lads to drink it in, and to appreciate it as they go to school every day, and all you get is “Yeah, yeah, yeah, dad…” But, one day, they will!

Harry Gration will be leading the celebrations for Look North’s 40th birthday in March.