Why All Creatures Great and Small TV phenomenon is boost for Yorkshire tourism – Andrew Vine

LIKE millions of others, I’ll be settling down to watch the new series of All Creatures Great and Small when it starts on Thursday evening.

Channel 5's second series of All Creatures Great and Small begins this week.

The first series last year was a joy, and the perfect tonic at a worrying time for the country, which is one of the reasons it proved such an audience favourite, attracting five million viewers for each episode and establishing Channel 5 as a new home of quality drama.

Catch-up audiences since then, plus word-of-mouth praise, will probably send viewing figures even higher this time round.

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But the popularity of All Creatures Great and Small isn’t only attributable to it coming along when viewers wanted their minds taken off Covid. It touched a chord in people because here was a programme with its heart in the right place which didn’t regard the label of “family-friendly” as a term of disdain.

Channel 5's second series of All Creatures Great and Small begins this week.

When so much television drama seems hell-bent on making viewers wince at what they are seeing and hearing, a programme which exuded decency came as a breath of fresh air.

In enchanting its audiences, the series remains faithful to its source material, the books written by Thirsk vet Alf Wight, who assumed the pen-name James Herriot. Worldwide sales in the tens of millions attest to the appetite for stories that have at their heart a great generosity of spirit.

And central to the appeal of both books and television adaptations is another magic ingredient – the Yorkshire countryside. In the new series, as in the fondly-remembered BBC adaptations of the 1970s and 80s, the Dales take a starring role, and in featuring them so extensively, Channel 5 is doing Yorkshire a considerable favour.

Besides being top-drawer television, All Creatures Great and Small is the best advert Yorkshire’s tourist trade could have, and at a time when the industry is still recovering from the effects of lockdowns and bans on overnight stays, this is especially valuable.

Channel 5's second series of All Creatures Great and Small begins this week.

We’ve seen before how Yorkshire benefits from a hit series being set and filmed here. Go back to the 1990s and ITV’s Sunday-evening must-watch, Heartbeat, which brought visitors flocking into the North York Moors around Goathland, its principal location. Heartbeat’s spin-off, The Royal, did the same for Whitby.

Go back a bit farther and the hugely popular BBC comedy Last of the Summer Wine turned modest little Holmfirth, minding its own business in the Pennines, into a tourist magnet.

All Creatures Great and Small will have the same effect on North Yorkshire. Tourists will not only head for Grassington, which serves as James Herriot’s Darrowby, but fan out across the Dales to take in the glorious scenery that is the backdrop to the storylines.

Of course, Yorkshire is a gift to programme-makers. The breadth and magnificence of its landscapes provide stunning backdrops. But there’s something else, too. It’s about the very nature of Yorkshire, its character, its warmth, its generosity and its humour.

Actor Nicholas Ralph plays James Herriot in All Creatures Great and Small.

Channel 5, in particular, has been very savvy in recognising this. The Yorkshire Vet, Our Yorkshire Farm, featuring Amanda and Clive Owen, and The Yorkshire Steam Railway, about the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, have all been hits for the channel.

Now the BBC has also woken up to our county’s appeal, with Jay’s Yorkshire Workshop, set in Bradford, which is another show with its heart in the right place, focussing as it does on saluting unsung community heroes.

And across on the Yesterday channel, there is Bangers and Cash, following a family firm of car auctioneers from Thornton-le-Dale, again using plenty of lingering shots of the surrounding countryside.

All these shows are great shop windows for what Yorkshire has to offer, and they are bringing people in. Out and about over the past few months, especially on the coast or walking in the Dales, I’ve been struck by the number of people I’ve got chatting to from around Britain who were visiting Yorkshire for the first time.

More often than not, it was a television programme that had alerted them to Yorkshire as a staycation destination.

All of us in Yorkshire know how much we have to offer, but competition for domestic tourism is more fierce than ever in the wake of the pandemic, so every opportunity to get the message out to prospective visitors has to be taken.

We’re fortunate that television is giving us a helping hand in doing just that. It’s impossible to place a value on the subtle nudge to head here provided by a drama played out against breathtaking scenery, a documentary following a farming family or shots of a vintage steam-hauled train travelling at a leisurely pace through the countryside.

But that exposure means a winner of a show like All Creatures Great and Small is a win for Yorkshire too.

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