Forget the pandemic, let's celebrate the wonders of Yorkshire in 2022 - Christa Ackroyd

So 2022 begins and I know many readers will immediately respond by saying good riddance to 2021.

I have to admit it certainly has a feel of Groundhog Day to it. Covid cases are soaring. The Government is being urged in some quarters to introduce new measures. And like me you probably know of many family plans scuppered by the pandemic over the festive season. I have friends who were forced to cancel seeing loved ones at the last minute, others who have caught the dreaded virus and many, including myself, who spent hours trailing the chemists for tests to prove that, despite being in contact with someone who has, they are for the moment negative. And yet despite that I write today about the importance of being positive. And that doesn’t refer to two little red lines on a piece of plastic.

I know I am lucky. I had a wonderful Christmas surrounded by family, friends, and most importantly children. Masked, double jabbed and boosted, we even ventured out to the pantomime. Twice. Oh no you didn’t. Oh yes we did.

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And it was glorious, especially watching the little ones respond to that most traditional of Christmas theatre experiences that were so much a part of my childhood too. Billy Pearce, ‘‘Hiya Billy’’ as we shouted at this most beloved Yorkshire treasure at the top of our voices, you were as magnificent as ever at the Alhambra in Bradford. We sat in the Gods as we used to all those years ago and laughed and booed and sang our hearts out and forgot about the world out there. Well done also to the cast at Halifax’s Victoria Theatre. Like the theatre itself you were small but perfectly formed. And the grandchildren enjoyed your show just as much. And today we plan a walk in the rain in Whitby to blow away the cobwebs and recharge our batteries. I think we all need that.

The Saltaire to Bingley route along the Leeds Liverpool Canal. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.The Saltaire to Bingley route along the Leeds Liverpool Canal. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.
The Saltaire to Bingley route along the Leeds Liverpool Canal. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

But as we prepare to take down the Christmas tree, now shedding its needles furiously as so many were put up early this year to put aside the reality of this damn pandemic, I know many of you including me are worried about what happens next. And there is nothing I can do or say that will prevent that.

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But this column isn’t just a shameless plug for the programme I played a part in, and which begins this week. It’s about what happens when you rediscover things you have forgotten about, when you retrace happier, less stressful, times and when you realise how lucky you are to live in this great county of ours. It is also about the joy of reconnecting with friends you have made along the way. Friends, perhaps you haven’t seen for years. And new ones waiting to be met. And we can all do that and feel the better for it.

Our Great Yorkshire Life begins this Thursday on Channel 5. It is a glorious potpourri of the very best of the largest county in the country, a county we are lucky enough to live in or have been born here. Over the next few weeks we meet its characters, its history and its present. We unashamedly wallow in its beauty, its drama and its warmth. And I guarantee it will envelop you like a cosy jumper or a comfortable pair of slippers. It has not been made to change the world but rather celebrate the world we live in. And that surely is a lesson worth learning. It offered me the opportunity to visit places I hadn’t been to for years. More than anything else, it made me realise that there are many new places, stories and people out there still to meet. Pandemic or no pandemic. And for that I am truly grateful.

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This first week we encounter a fourth generation fisherman who sets off in the early hours of the morning from the very harbour in Whitby I am looking at right now. We see the dedicated railway enthusiasts, young and old who keep the glorious Worth Valley railway running. Perhaps you journeyed with them on the Santa express this year. Yorkshire vet Julian Norton introduces us to his passion for wine when he meets Yorkshire vineyard owners as I travel to Saltaire to remind myself of the beauty of our industrial past and talk with those determined to keep the legacy of our ancestors and their achievements alive.

In later weeks you will meet scores of interesting people and reacquaint yourselves with Peter, our other favourite Yorkshire vet, Rob and Dave my friends from the wonderful Cannon Hall farm, Emmerdale actor and series narrator Dean Andrew and many more. We all have one thing in common and that is we revel in the strength and determination of the people who live and work in this stunning part of the world. And are grateful to be a part of it.

I wrote that this was not just a shameless plug and it’s not. The last few months of last year reminded me how great our Yorkshire life really is. Of why I could never live anywhere else and of the wonders on our doorstep to be discovered for the first time or revisited again in the weeks, months and years to come. For me it was not about being on the telly again. It was about remembering that out there are millions of interesting places and fascinating people right on our doorsteps just waiting for us. And if we promise ourselves to do that in the coming months we will all feel the better for it.

Let us decide right now that our New Year’s resolution will be to make the best of our great Yorkshire life. And I’ll see you in the telly on Thursday to remind you of why.