For me, this is me coming home, along the road out of Middleham up to the Gallops. When you look around you get a contrast of different scenery straight away. You’ve got Pinker’s Pond down to one side of you; you’ve got these big hills in the distance; you’ve got Braithwaite Hall there. You’re entering Coverdale. You’re entering the National Park, which of course is a special place to many of us.
This picture gives the impression it’s quite flat, but you are entering a proper glacial valley. Each of the dales has their own distinctive shape, determined by the kind of glacier that was in there: so Swaledale with that narrow V-shape; Wensleydale with that huge U-shape. Coverdale’s something in between. It’s less well known than the other dales, and is less commercialised if you will, but it’s just as beautiful as any of the dales. It was known as the artists’ dale because of the light; Turner painted in Coverdale a lot.
We’re looking towards the farm that has been my home for 20 years now. I’ve spent more years living here than anywhere else in my life. Although some people say it’s very remote, it’s not actually remote. Everything’s relative; this is just a few more minutes away from metropolises.
We used to have quite a big flock of sheep, relatively speaking. My wife died three years ago so I now rent quite a bit of the land out, but I still have enough sheep to keep me busy. I didn’t grow up on a farm, but I always had a love of animals, which the James Herriot books helped cement. I think there are probably two things you would want to do as a Yorkshire man if you could: one is to play cricket for the county, the other is to have sheep in Yorkshire. I’ve been lucky enough to do one of those. Next year I start as President of the Scarborough cricket festival, but my cricket-playing days are probably not really going to happen now.
The sheep soon bring you back down to earth. They are not interested in what you’ve done in your corporate life; not interested in who you’ve had meetings with or how the meetings have gone. They’re completely classless, and they will stand on your foot regardless of how successful a week, day, month, year you think you’ve had. The farm is where I can maintain my sanity.
I think as a farmer you’ve always got that awareness of your fragility and your reliance upon the weather and the landscape and the elements, and the respect you need to have for them. So I’ve always had that – I hope.
I’ve been the Chief Executive at Welcome to Yorkshire since September 2008. I lead this team, and hopefully help corral and cajole and inspire them to do the great work that they do. We look to grow the Yorkshire economy, primarily through tourism, but not exclusively. I like the variation of the job. We meet so many great people from different businesses from all across Yorkshire. I get to travel around the great county of Yorkshire. We get to do wonderful projects like bringing the start of the Tour de France to Yorkshire.
It’s not a difficult ask is it? If you ask a Yorkshire man does he want to be responsible for marketing Yorkshire, and salesman chief for Yorkshire? It’s one of the greatest honours you could be offered.
We’re very lucky in Yorkshire – we’ve three National Parks and they’re all different and very distinctive. We have three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty too, and they’re all distinctive. We have a stunning coastline. All of those things added together mean that we are very blessed. You can see why people call it God’s own county.
There’s atmosphere when you’re in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Whatever time of year, whatever time of day, there’s always something very special there. I think it’s very spiritual. There’s an authenticity about it – you know you’re in a very real place.