What’s your first memory of being outdoors? I spent most of my summers as a child on a remote farm in Baldersdale – a beautiful corner of the North Riding made famous by Hannah Hauxwell. It was idyllic – building dams across becks, flying kites, climbing trees and playing cricket on the moor. We even turned an old chicken coop into a den for when it rained. Happy days.
What’s your favourite part of the county and why? It’s almost impossible to choose because this county’s diversity is one of the things that makes it so great, but if really pushed I would go for the Yorkshire Dales for their beauty and relative tranquillity.
What’s your idea of a perfect weekend/day out in Yorkshire? Fish and chips with the family by the harbour in Whitby, followed by a picnic tea beside a quietly bubbling beck in the North York Moors. Bliss.
Do you have a favourite walk, or view? There are so many to choose from. We recently ran a poll in the Dalesman to find Yorkshire’s best view, but whenever I’m asked for my own personal favourite I struggled to narrow it down. However, if I must choose just one I would go for Swaledale, with that patchwork of fields, barns and dry stone walls clinging to its slopes. Simply wonderful. An ever-changing view I could never tire of.
Which Yorkshire stage or screen star (past or present) would you like to take for lunch, and why? I think Brian Blessed would be fantastic fun. He’d be the centre of attention in any room. Having just started reading his autobiography, I know there’d be no shortage of incredible tales. Dinner with him would be, I’m sure, exhausting, but memorable.
If you had to name your Yorkshire ‘hidden gem’, what or where would it be? The Folly at Settle is a remarkable building that deserves to be better known. Aside from being a beautiful 17th century house, it is also home to the Museum of North Craven Life, which puts on some fascinating local interest exhibitions of the kind you don’t often see any more.
What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity? I think it is the people who set it apart. They are the most passionate, genuine, hard-working people you will find anywhere. Nothing encapsulated this better than the Grand Départ of the Tour de France in 2014. In no other county would you have witnessed such an incredible atmosphere.
How do you immerse yourself in Yorkshire’s cultural life? Because of my job, I am pretty much immersed in the county’s culture all of the time and I particularly enjoy discovering new local artists. Outside of work, on a weekend, I like to take the family to some of the many diverse events on our doorstep, such as the wonderful International Skipton Puppet Festival or the Bradford Alhambra pantomime.
Do you have a favourite restaurant or pub? For sheer personality and character, there’s nowhere quite like the Craven Arms at Appletreewick, in Wharfedale. Where else can you enjoy overhead ferret racing while supping a pint?
Do you have a favourite food shop? Growing up, I always enjoyed visiting Lewis & Cooper in Northallerton, with its shelves crammed to bursting points with enticing treats. Closer to home, I’m a big fan of the new Keelham Farm Shop, in Skipton, which brings together some wonderful Yorkshire produce from countless independent suppliers.
Do you ever find yourself ‘selling’ Yorkshire to others? Because I see my job as “celebrating Yorkshire” I spend most of my time singing its praises to anyone who’ll listen, and plenty who won’t. Fortunately, most of the time these days people don’t need much convincing.
Who is the Yorkshire man or woman you most admire, and why? It may sound corny, but I’d have to say my parents. They have supported me unfailingly throughout my life and continue to be an inspiration to this day.
How has Yorkshire influenced your work? Yorkshire influences every single aspect of my working life, because I am lucky enough to work for such a Yorkshire institution. Also, because my office is situated on the picturesque Broughton Hall country estate, on the edge of the Dales national park, I do not have to stray far from my desk to gain inspiration from the Yorkshire countryside.
Name your favourite Yorkshire author/artist/performer (just one of them!) and tell us why? I am in awe of Alan Bennett. He has a way with words that is so natural, so side-splittingly funny, so heart-breaking, that I’m not sure any living writer can match him. A career highlight was receiving an article from the great man, punched out on his famous old typewriter.