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My Yorkshire: Sue Woodroofe - principal of the Grammar School at Leeds

Fountains Abbey, Ripon, North Yorkshire. PIC: PA
Fountains Abbey, Ripon, North Yorkshire. PIC: PA
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Sue Woodroofe is the principal of the Grammar School at Leeds which is celebrating its 10th birthday.

Having taught all over the UK and been head of a school in Brussels, Sue has now ‘come home’ to the county where she grew up.

What is your first Yorkshire memory?

Driving through the streets of York in the mid-70s as we moved down from Newcastle. Seeing the ancient city walls and Bootham Bar was magical. I then had the daily privilege of walking along the Shambles – deserted at 8.15am – on my way to school. I had a tangible sense of history coming alive before my very eyes; it’s a passion that has never left me.

What is your favourite part of Yorkshire and why?

I love the Dales and am always enthralled by the sense of space, beauty and peace, the feeling that you are a small part of a vast and wonderful universe.

Do you have a favourite walk – or view – in Yorkshire? Just one? Fountains Abbey and its environs would be there, Rievaulx, Whitby or Bolton Abbeys: all hark back to that sense of history.

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

A visit to the Dales or one of the abbeys above or a stroll through Harrogate would feature, as would dinner in any of our favourite restaurants – we have some in Leeds and some great gastro pubs in the countryside that we enjoy.

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

Nicola Adams, the Olympic boxer. She is such a positive role model: intelligent and grounded, proud of her Leeds roots, utterly dedicated and driven in her chosen field – and she has the most infectious smile. However, I would want her to come into school for lunch, to meet our amazing students and address them – I think she would be inspirational.

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

Dame Janet Baker. As old girls from the same school in York, I would like to compare notes about our experiences. With such an interesting family background and an incredible career as one of the leading mezzo-sopranos of the last century, I suspect her life stories would be fascinating.

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

The Beaver Man. Originally an apprentice of the Mouseman, the furniture and smaller wooden pieces made here are beautiful – buying lovely things for special occasions has become something of a family tradition.

If you could choose somewhere, or some object, from or in Yorkshire to own for a day, what would it be? David Hockney’s landscapes of the Wolds. This was one of my favourite exhibitions and I would love more time to peruse them personally.

What do you think it is that gives Yorkshire its unique identity?

Its people – honest, decent, intelligent, hard- working, down to earth, straight-talking and, above all, great fun – what’s not to like?

Do you have a favourite restaurant or pub?

Well I’m delighted that the Magpie Cafe in Whitby has reopened – the fish and chips there are fantastic. I also love going to Salvo’s in Leeds, a family-run Italian restaurant with great food and a great atmosphere – it became a firm favourite when our daughter was studying in Leeds, before we even moved back here.

Do you have a favourite food shop?

I love Weetons and Fodder – both in Harrogate – for locally sourced fruit, veg, meat and cheese; supporting local industry is very important to me.

Who is the Yorkshire person you admire the most?

William Wilberforce. Then and now it’s very common to criticise politicians but he stood up for what he believed to be right. His focus on justice and dignity was profound.

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

I appreciate the poetry and humour of Ian McMillan, “the Barnsley bard” – a wonderful performance poet and broadcaster.

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

I think that the sense of vibrancy has grown in many places since I was a child; not least in Leeds itself. Beautiful old buildings and arcades have come alive, the market is a stunning piece of architecture and Leeds’s Victorian heritage stands proud. Leeds also has a very international feel now which reminds me of Brussels: varied cuisine, vibrant and diverse arts and culture and lots of green spaces and squares, ideal for families.

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

Maybe the weather. I don’t need tropical but just a tad warmer would be nice!

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

Leeds Town Hall: I’m particularly looking forward to GSAL’s 10th speech day in Cuthbert Brodrick’s architectural masterpiece, which is celebrating its 160th birthday this September.