To many, the countryside is something we visit, for a holiday, weekend break or just for the day and it’s fair to say that here in Yorkshire we’re blessed, because the jaw dropping majesty of ‘God’s Own County’ is only ever just an hour or two away.
But while most people these days live in cities and conurbations, the Yorkshire Dales and the neighbouring Lake District national parks are home to some 60,000 people, many of whom live lives far detached from their urban cousins.
A new eight-part television series made by Leeds-based True North (the biggest TV production company outside London) aims to show both areas off in all their glory and introduce viewers to the daily struggles of those who live and work there.
Former Yorkshire Post journalist Andrew Sheldon, who later worked on ITV’s Calendar news programme, is founder of True North production company and the man behind the new series, The Yorkshire Dales and The Lakes, which is due to air tomorrow (July 4).
The 56-year-old executive producer was born in Holbeck, Leeds and grew up in Morley, attending Batley Grammar School, before joining the Yorkshire Post as a rookie reporter. He’s a city boy but, as he explains, he’s always harboured a love of the countryside.
“We all know these places as picture postcards but we sometimes forget there are 60,000 people who live there and they cope with the weather and lack of buses and we are giving a bit of insight into what they do and how they live.
“The countryside is something I’ve always had passion for outside my work. We are living in a time when there are a lot of dark clouds in the world and people are feeling ill at ease with what’s going on in a wider sense and what’s good about this series is it shows you there is this other world, right on our doorstep, which is not without its challenges but it’s also at one with itself.
“I felt for some time that this world was something people were interested in. It’s culturally a very different experience and I think in some respects a much better one in that it does not suffer from the complexities of 21st century life. That’s something that makes the series very refreshing.
“We live in world which is so complex on a minute by minute basis and to step into a world where weather still dictates things, there’s something comforting about that You are not being driven by email or twitter or what’s on facebook, it’s a slightly more real experience. When we spend so much time living in a digital world.
“That’s one of the things that’s interesting about it. It’s one of the reasons why these programmes do so well, because they allow people to step outside the more pressurised way we live now and allows them to step off that for an hour.”
One man who knows all about the pressures (and pleasures) of living in the Yorkshire countryside is John Dawson.
Along with wife, Judith, son William, 20 and daughter, Hannah, he runs Bleak Bank Farm, just north of Clapham.
John inherited the farm from his father, Edward, who died in 2009, who took it on from his father, who bought the farm from the Ingleborough estate in 1927. “The Dawsons came here in 1920 as tenant farmers,” explains John, who has just turned 49. “Then in 1927 we bought it. It’s a small farm of about 300 acres.”
The Dawson’s ‘small’ farm still takes up a large chunk of their time. John and Judith have just enjoyed their first holiday in eight years, as he explains: “We took a trip to Scotland, we went right up to the top, we even ended up staying in a B&B run by a Yorkshireman.”
He’s speaking to me on the phone, having taken ten minutes out from sheep shearing….
“We’re doing about a hundred hogs today - that’s the sheep when they’re not quite adults. There is no typical day on a farm but there’s always a job to do.
“You have to want to farm, you have to enjoy the daily challenges of milking cows on Christmas morning or Sunday afternoon. It’s not for everyone, it takes over your whole life. Your family has to be on side with it. You can go away to shows and things like that but if a cow starts calving, you have to be there. Personally, I don’t know why everyone doesn’t want to be a farmer. It sucks you in and you cannot get away.
“If I lived where some people live, I would love to visit Yorkshire Dales and national park, I don’t begrudge anyone that. We are lucky enough to live and work where we do, it’s one of life’s little privileges. We try not to get in nature’s way but to help her along. We try not to take it for granted and appreciate what we’ve got. We are never going to do all the work but for the pleasure we get from it, we’re happy to take a lower income.
“It depends how you measure contentment, I suppose. If you measure that in terms of money, then you are never going to be a farmer… but the daily challenges are good fun.”
And before getting back to his sheep shearing, after which he has round bale silage and dry stone walling to fit in, he adds: “It’s better than working really.”
The Dawsons feature in the first episode of the new series, as they prepare for the outcome of the lamb auction at Bentham, an event which could make or break their year.
Also in the first episode are cheese shop and deli owners John and Jules Natlacen, who are hoping plans for a hyper-fast broadband service will transform their lives.
Jules and John Natlacen run The Churchmouse at Barbon, a cafe-cum-deli, which they bought in 2013, having previously run a specialist cheese shop in Kirby Lonsdale for 12 years.
Jules, 50, who has three children with her husband, said they relished the chance to be on camera.
“Because we’re used to dealing with the public and interacting with people, we enjoyed it.” She fell in love with the area after she and her John visited the area for some rest and recuperation after she broke her leg.
The couple have recently been named the UK’s best family run business in the Family Business of the Year Awards (run by Family Business United).
Another first for the series is its use of drones to capture some of the breathtaking beauty of the landscape.
Andrew says: “The landscape is so beautiful we have made quite a lot of use of drone camera work in a way you couldn’t do 10 years ago. Drones mean you can see things from angles you could never get before, so shots that were in the movies are now domestic television.
“The biggest thing is you are great big open spaces. When they expanded the Lakes and Dales national parks, apart from the slither of the M6 between them, it made it the biggest expanse of protected countryside and I just thought that was very interesting.”
The Yorkshire Dales was established as a national park in 1954, while the Lake District park was created in 1951. Both were extended to within touching distance of one another in October last year (adding an additional 180sq miles)
The Yorkshire Dales national park, 28 per cent of which is now in Cumbria, with 1 per cent in Lancashire, is about 840sq miles, while the Lake District is about 900sq miles
Plans to extend them were first made in 2009
The new TV series looks at the lives of farmers, fell runners, shop owners and residents who live and work in the Dales and Lakes
View this article on our website to see a teaser trailer of the new show, which starts tomorrow