A Love Letter To Yorkshire

James Hare provides a ‘Yorkshireman’s guide to Yorkshire’, detailing the highlights of the region’s culture

Yorkshire. Nearly four million acres of every landscape imaginable, home to over five million people – all speaking a relatively incomprehensible form of English – and the place which has given its name to anything and everything, be it dogs or puddings that aren’t actually puddings (more on that later). It’s a confusing place for the outsider, as in York it often feels like every third person you meet is a Londoner – especially here at Nouse – then I expect the reader is someone who has felt that confusion before. Which is why I am here to provide you with something invaluable: a Yorkshireman’s guide to Yorkshire.

My guide covers everything you need to know about God’s Own County, starting with a brief history. From there, we’ll wander through Yorkshire’s mountains green, as well as stop to sample some culture on the way – expect Jarvis Cocker to feature prominently. Finally, having worked up an appetite we’ll finish with some culinary delights, most of which have contributed to Yorkshire having a significantly lower life expectancy than the rest of the country. But they’re worth it, believe me.

Unlike certain B-list counties (here’s looking at you Lancashire), Yorkshire has a long and proud history. In Roman times, York was Eboracum, capital of Britannia Inferior (the Northern inferiority complex has been long in the making) with Constantine the Great proclaimed Emperor in the city. As the Kingdom of Jorvik, Yorkshire was the only true Viking territory on the British mainland. Following the Norman Conquest, it was the region that suffered the most due to the Harrying of the North, with widespread death and destruction. A few hundred years of relative peace and prosperity – bar the Black Death – with the House of York even taking the throne for a short while.

Then the War of the Roses came – we won’t dwell on the result. Bitterness remained a key part of the Yorkshire psyche, with the Gunpowder Plot being, in part, planned by a Yorkshireman in Guy Fawkes, while Yorkshirefolk tended to be more likely than the rest of the UK to be recusants or Jacobites, marking them out as somewhat distinct from their southern cousins. After that, the Indus-trial Revolution created the landscape of the region we know so well today, Yorkshire be-coming a land of mines, steelworks and factories. This diverse history has given an unique flair to each of the many parts of Yorkshire. York provides the proper Viking and medieval experience with the Roman Walls and Gothic Minster at the centre, while Leeds provides the big city experience and glamour. Bradford has moved on from being known primarily for the textile industry to being renowned for high quality Indian food, while Sheffield is Yorkshire’s cultural hub, the home of the Arctic Monkeys and my beloved Jarvis Cocker.

Yet there is more to Yorkshire than just the cities. Stunning scenery can be found throughout the county, with the Moors, Dales and Peak District providing lush greenery – facilitated by the incessant rain – and some remarkable views of the land beneath their steppes. Heading to coastal towns such as Whitby and Scarborough you get a tradition-al British seaside experience, complete with candyfloss, arcades and award-winning fish and chips.

There’s also the small towns dotted around Yorkshire’s green and pleasant land which are a treasure trove of unique experiences. Take Hawes, home to the Wensleydale Creamery and therefore producer of the favoured cheese of Wallace, of Wallace and Gromit fame. Harrogate is home to Bettys and Taylors, producers of Yorkshire Tea (an essential drink at any hour) and their famous tearooms, as well as having one of the few remaining Turkish bathhouses in the UK. Finally, Knaresborough offers – in my unbiased opinion – one of the finest views you will ever see, with the sight of the majestic viaduct soaring over the River Nidd from the castle top, something everyone should see at least once in their life.

Speaking of Knaresborough, it also has an addition to make to the list of bizarre events that take place only in Yorkshire, with the Bed Race. It is very much what it says on the tin – beds are raced through the streets of the town, up and down a hill and then through a river for good measure. All this, after a parade through the streets in fancy dress, with a town of over 15 000 people being shut down for the day for this, the most random of events, and teams coming from as far as Germany to take part.

Yorkshire is also known for its farming heritage, so it’ll come as no surprise that a bizarre event has emerged from that as well, in the form of the Great Yorkshire Show, a three-day bonanza of everything agricultural. Not only do you have the expected judging of horses and cattle, but y o u even have some more niche events such as sheep shearing and horse shoeing to meet the needs of the farming community. Coming up from 10-12 July this year, it’s an event that’s not to be missed in any circumstances.

Stunning scenery can be found on the Moors, in the Dales and Peak District

As you can see, Yorkshire has plenty of culture. Yet we are still to touch on the remarkable musical and literary heritage of the region. Pulp, Arctic Monkeys, Kaiser Chiefs and Chris Rea are all Yorkshire born and bred, as are comedians Reece Shear-smith, Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer (and by extension the Shooting Stars Dove from Above). In literary terms, most of the work of note came from one family in the form of the Brontë sisters, although playwright Alan Bennett is a Leeds lad. Additionally, multiple TV shows have started out among the drystone walls and rolling hills of Yorkshire – Downton Abbey, Emmerdale and Heartbeat the most notable. Such a breadth and depth of culture is rare to find in the UK outside of London, but unsurprising considering Yorkshire’s exceptionalism.

That exceptionalism manifests itself further when it comes to the cuisine offered up in Yorkshire’s eateries. We should first start with the golden battered delight of the humble Yorkshire Pudding. The simplest of foods, and yet one of the grandest. A grandiose mix of Milk, Eggs and Flour creating a warm fuzzy sensation in your mouth, stomach, heart and soul after just a short spell in the oven. I admit I may be biased, loving Yorkshire Puddings more than all but my closest of family, but there is nothing better than the feeling I just described – though I have lived a somewhat boring life.

Such a breadth and depth of culture is rare to find in the UK outside of London

The rest of Yorkshire’s culinary delights are more of the sweet variety. Multiple notable confectionery producers emerged out of the murky industrial landscapes, with Rowntree’s and Terry’s (York) and Thorntons and Bassett’s (Sheffield) the most well known, and Pontefract the place where liquorice came into the world. And to wash it down, why not have a ginger beer? The brewed form as we know it now is as Yorkshire as Geoffrey Boycott or Captain Cook, and makes a fine accompaniment to food or a pleasurable beverage to consume simply by itself.

I could wax lyrical about Yorkshire for many words more, but in truth I feel like there’s enough been said already. So here I conclude my Yorkshireman’s guide to Yorkshire, hoping that those of you from outside this majestic land have gleaned something valuable from this – other than that, yes, I am indeed very Yorkshire. And with that, I fare thee well. Have a good’un!

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