My Yorkshire: John Sutcliffe

South Yorkshire-born John Sutcliffe, 73, is a respected geologist, who describes himself as '˜lover of landscapes' and '˜a walker and adventurer'. He has five children and lives in Burnsall.

What’s your first Yorkshire memory?

It all takes place in Balby, in Doncaster – my father worked locally for British Ropes. I think that I must have been about three or four years old, and our neighbours had very kindly cobbled together a tricycle for me, utilising all the spare bits and pieces that they had to hand, and I was absolutely thrilled by the gift.

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What’s your favourite part of the county – and why?

Wharfedale and Langstrothdale, both of which I love a lot and where I have again very many happy childhood memories. My mother and father loved the outdoors, and used to take our little family up there camping at every opportunity.

What’s your idea of a perfect day, or a perfect weekend, out in Yorkshire?

Being out in the open air. Walking. Just about anywhere, because there are so many wonderful places to choose from.

Do you have a favourite walk – or view?

The area around Pen-y-ghent; it’s one of the Three Peaks, and it is a magical and atmospheric walk. I love the way that the Yorkshire Dales can be read like a book as far as the geology goes - they have no secrets but are endlessly fascinating.

Which Yorkshire sportsperson, past or present, would you like to take for lunch?

Herbert Sutcliffe, who represented both England and Yorkshire as an opening batsman, with his main career of many glorious innings being between the two wars. I have a bat signed by him, and I deeply regret that there is no relation between his Sutcliffe family and ours.

Which Yorkshire stage or screen star, past or present, would you like to take for dinner?

Charles Laughton would be interesting, someone from a coast background who ended up in Hollywood. Could I also ask Dame Judi Dench? She has a dangerous twinkle in her eyes.

If you had to name your Yorkshire ‘hidden gem’, what would it be?

The huge cave system under Gaping Ghyll. It runs for miles underground, and there is one chamber which is so large that you could put all of St Paul’s Cathedral into it, and still have plenty of room. I have been down there times without number - I started potholing and caving when I was about 16, and I joined the Craven Pothole Club. I am still a member to this day.

If you could choose somewhere, or some object, from or in Yorkshire to own for a day, what would it be?

Fountains Abbey and the lands around it. I’ve taken my children there so often, but I never stop wondering at its breathtaking beauty and magnificence.

What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity?

The Dales, the scenery, the variety of it all. The little villages, the bridges, the colours, the light, the fresh air.

Do you follow sport in the county, and if so, what?

My own feeling is that if you truly love sport, you have to get out there and become involved.

Do you have a favourite restaurant, or pub?

The Red Lion, at Burnsall. It looks lovely from the outside, and it’s a proper, impeccably run, very popular proper pub on the inside. Everything is fresh, the specials board is as tall as I am, and their Timothy Taylors cannot be bettered.

Do you have a favourite food shop?

Booths in Settle takes some beating. It’s very friendly and you get served by some lovely people.

How do you think that Yorkshire has changed, for better or for worse, in the time that you’ve known it?

There is a great emphasis on the land and on conservation these days, which is marvellous progress, but there are so many problems caused by second homes and holiday lets.

If you had to change one thing in, or about Yorkshire, what would that be?

I love cycling – but I do wish that some folk on two wheels took a little bit more care on our lovely winding country roads. Not to mention the motorists, who also whizz around the corners at breakneck speed, never dreaming for a moment that walkers could be ahead.

Who is the Yorkshire person that you most admire?

My late father, Jack, for his lovely gentle nature and character. He was Cleckheaton-born and he loved the Dales with a passion. He was well-read, patient, and a wonderful dad who always made sure that his family came first. If I have inherited just a bit of him in my own genes, I am deeply, deeply grateful.

Has Yorkshire influenced your work?

As a schoolboy, I was taken by a climbing club up to Malham, and for the first time in my life, I was allowed to descend one of the old mine workings. It opened my eyes to the geology, to the rock formations, to the strata. And a light went on in my head. I had chosen my career.

Name your favourite Yorkshire book/author/artist/CD/performer?

It’s the singer, songwriter, writer, raconteur, wit and all-round-nice guy that is Mike Harding. A great defender, supporter and spokesman for the Dales.

If a stranger to Yorkshire only had time to visit one place, it would be?

The village of Burnsall, which to me exemplifies what Yorkshire is all about. Or perhaps Malham – but before everyone else gets there. Aim for the month of June, and 5.30 to 6am in the morning. Then you’ll see how magnificent it all is.

Cape to Cape, by John Sutcliffe. Information at