My Yorkshire: Lorna Payne

Lorna Payne is one of Britain's experts on making, maintaining and furnishing doll's houses, and works from her home in Tickhill, South Yorkshire. A retired probation officer, she runs regular courses for other enthusiasts who come from all over the world.

What's your first Yorkshire memory?

My husband, Steve, was posted to Sheffield – he worked at British Steel until he retired – and we came up here to start looking around for a new home. We rented a room in a little B&B, and one morning I found that we'd run out of milk. I popped across the road to a little local store, and the chap behind the counter told me that he'd sold out. But then he said "Hang on a mo", and he went into the back of the shop, into his own kitchen, and he opened the fridge and gave me a pint of his own milk – and refused payment for it. I thought to myself, "If all Yorkshire folk are as friendly as this, I'm going to like it here". And the vast majority have been, and, yes, I do like it – very much.

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

Steve and I have a caravan, and we soon discovered the North York Moors, and that's where we always head when we have a little time to spare. We park it up somewhere nice, and we are surrounded by beauty, and peace. The perfect time of year for us is around Easter, when spring is on the way and everything is bursting into life again.

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

Taking the caravan to Robin Hood's Bay, and stopping at a really nice site we know, and then taking ourselves out for a long walk with Chip, our Cairn terrier, who is inexhaustible. We walk along the headland to Ravenscar, and then back along the beach, or vice versa. Maybe we'll stop somewhere for a drink and some lunch, but it's a pleasure for us because we just take everything at our own pace.

Do you have a favourite walk – or view?

Pretty much anywhere at all along the Yorkshire coast, really. I'm from Port Talbot, in Wales, originally, and the coast and the sea up here in Yorkshire is so very different from South Wales.

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

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You won't have heard of him – yet – but I'd like to have lunch with our grandson, Sam. I'd have no hesitation about that choice, because he is sports daft, and he's an all-rounder – golf, tennis, football, you name it and he's good at it. He's 17 and starting on his A-levels, so maybe books will have to take a little priority for a while, but I do know that his career will be something in the sports line. He's very determined about that.

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

I know a lot of people nominate Dame Judi Dench, and I'm afraid that I'm going to as well – but not only because she is one of the finest actresses in the world today, but because (and not a lot of people know this) she's a big fan of dolls' houses as well, and has one of her own at her London home.

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

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The Yorkshire Sculpture Park, just off the M1. Everyone will be saying, "Hidden gem? What's she on about?", but you would be amazed how many people don't know about the park, where it is, or that it even exists. There are signs up and down the motorway, and people just cannot be bothered to take a detour and go there. It's wonderful, with some breathtaking works of art, and some hugely interesting exhibitions. Also, they allow you to take your dog with you as you stroll around the vast grounds, so Chip comes along as well.

What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity?

As a Welsh-born girl, I'm going to tell you all (as if you needed telling) that you've got the lot up here. Big, thriving and rejuvenated cities, thousands of acres of stunning countryside, miles upon miles of coastline. Yorkshire could stand alone as a nation – and I'll bet that there are a lot of readers who wished that it did. Add to that the fact that the people are super-friendly and generous with their time. People come to Tickhill for one of my courses and they are surprised that the local folk smile and say "good morning". It's lovely to be an adoptive daughter.

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

I leave all that to Sam and to my daughter, Julie, his mum, who have been Sheffield Wednesday season-ticket holders ever since he was two and a half. I do follow snooker – I have been over to The Crucible to watch a few matches. There are two tables in the arena, and I remember one time sitting in the audience for the dullest game I've ever watched, watching varnish dry would have been more exciting. But the audience on the other side were all going "Ooooh!" and "Ahhhhh!" and clearly enjoying every second. I wanted to weep in frustration...

Do you have a favourite restaurant, or pub?

The Star Inn at Harome is a favourite place of ours. I heard the chef-owner there talking on the radio one day, and he sounded so nice and enthusiastic that I said to Steve, "We have to visit!" Chef was talking about his favourite dish, which was black pudding and pate de foie gras, so I tried that when we went. It is delicious. We always try to go there when we book tickets at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough.

Do you have a favourite food shop?

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Taylor's, here in Tickhill, a small and family-run grocer's store which also has an impressive little delicatessen. When we moved here, it was run by mum and dad, and now their lads have it. You couldn't ask for a nicer place. If they haven't got it in stock, then all you have to do is ask, and they'll get it for you.

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

Apart from the obsession with regularly digging up the roads, I have to say for the better, definitely. Take Sheffield, where I used to work... look at the Winter Gardens, the museums, the art galleries, the green open spaces, the imaginative use of steel and water. They've all either been built, or been smartened up, and the city is much more alive than it was when I arrived here... which reminds me of a conversation I had with my team leader in the probation service all those years back. I was asked, "Why do you spend a full hour with your clients, and everyone else only needs 30 minutes?" and I said, "It's probably because I can't understand them, and they can't understand me!"

Who is the Yorkshire person that you most admire?

William Hague. I think that he became leader of his party far too early when he was much too young, and that he would have been far better to have been given more chance to "grow". He strikes me as warm, witty, and a man of integrity, who speaks his mind. I know his aunt lives in Tickhill, quite near to us, so maybe I'll bump into him in Taylor's one day.

Has Yorkshire influenced your work?

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Yes, because the people are so nice – what I mean is that if you live in a happy environment, among good people, you feel better for it, and your work improves as well. I've had guests on the courses from places as different as the Netherlands and Ireland, and they all come back to the studio saying, "People speak to you here – they really want to know how you are".

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

Emily Bront's Wuthering Heights, because whenever we go to Haworth we can walk out on to the moors, which she knew and loved, and see everything that she saw, and experience what she felt.

You feel so connected, somehow, and there are very, very few books that do that for you.

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

I'd take the stranger out over to Sheffield, I'd watch their faces when they walked out of the station and saw the steel and water wall, I'd walk them around the green spaces, and I'd book tickets for something at The Crucible or The Lyceum. Couldn't get any better, could it?

YP MAG 6/11/10