I’m always amazed by the number of ex-pat Yorkshire-folk I meet at Little Paxton. Why do the most devout Yorkshire-men not live in Yorkshire? The answer is marriage. Finding a partner outside of Yorkshire is more or less mandatory so that we increase the gene pool and expand the Yorkshire Empire.
Trevor Gunton came up to me last winter and said: “Now then. Dus't tha the knaw it’s Yorkshire Day on August t' first?”
“ I know nowt about that” I replied, “but it sounds like a reet good idea.”
And so a plan was hatched. We would celebrate Yorkshire Day at Paxton Pits. Well, when I say “hatched” it was "nobbut-just a notion” at that point, and it still is really.
Yorkshire Day isn’t new but it's getting bigger. It started back in Viking Days. The top men in York would go out through the North, East and West gates of the walls and read out a “Declaration of Integrity” to the people of the three ridings. It was basically an oath of allegiance. The ritual was revived in the early 90s as a protest against the local government reorganisation that created South Yorkshire. (We see the word South as an insult. Southerners are reet soft.)
So why celebrate it? I’ll tell thee why.
If you drive North up t' Great North Road from Little Paxton, there isn’t much to see until you get to Yorkshire. There are no roundabouts after Buckden all the way to Scotland so it is a much quicker journey than in’t old days. You cross the Trent and see nowt but great cooling towers at the power stations, but soon you become aware of the Pennines off to your left and then the North York Moors and the Cleveland Hill's off to your right. Proper scenery. That's the Yorkshire I love: dry stone walls, curlews, market towns, abbeys, castles, parkin and Theakston’s Old Peculiar ale. There are other Yorkshire’s though; the cliff-and-bay coast from Scarborough through to Whitby and Staithes with seabird cliffs and the best fish and chips in the UK (officially); the great cities of York, Leeds and Sheffield and the old mill and mining towns that huddle along the Don, Aire and the Calder rivers.
That diversity of topography and industry has produced not one culture or dialect but a huge diversity of them, making it feel more like another country than an English county. Yorkshire-folk still have a strong regional identity that most English counties can only envy. We even have our own international football squad. We have our own iconic foods, such as Wensleydale cheese, curd tarts and of course Yorkshire puddings. There are treats like black-bullet sweets and Pontefract liquorice cakes and Yorkshire tea. I can’t help picturing those Sri Lankan ladies dressed in anoraks and scarves while leaning into the wind to pick tea on the Pennines above Harrogate. It must be a tough life, akin to the shepherds who tend black-faced Swaledale sheep on the high tops. Perhaps they will intermarry over time and grow rhubarb and liquorice together.
|Whalebone arch at Whitby|
Our celebration at Paxton will not overdo the cloth-capped, wise-cracking stereotype, but we will pay homage to the humorous side of the Yorkshire character with a few anecdotes. There will be some tasty treats too, if we can get them through customs.
|Swaledale, near Gunnerside|
The heart of the event will be two illustrated talks that focus on Yorkshire’s natural history. Trevor Gunton will talk about the Eastern bit of the county including the great seabird city at Bempton Cliffs. Then Jim Stevenson will talk about the flora and fauna of the northern Dales around Swaledale and Wensleydale where he grew up.
We look forward to seeing you theer, wherivver tha's from.