There’s a saying: ‘Never ask a man if he's from Yorkshire. If he is, he'll tell you, and if he isn't you'll only embarrass him’.
Our regional pride is legendary. A couple of years ago the English Question survey investigated regional identities and unsurprisingly found that Yorkshire inspires the deepest passion and sense of allegiance. It also found that ‘Yorkshireness’ was associated with being plain-speaking, hard-working, friendly, resilient and with strong community values.
This may all be true, in theory at least. Yet the reality of pride in our beloved county is perhaps more passive than we’d have people believe.
I wonder if our love for Yorkshire might be more akin to that for a long-term partner than unbridled can’t-get-enough-of-you passion?
You’re really glad your partner is there, but don’t always remember to show your appreciation. It’s easy to settle into comfortable habits. Same old, same old.
We say we love Yorkshire, but it doesn’t necessarily transpose into action. Many of us live in one place, follow the same route, go to the same shops, and then dash off somewhere else when it’s time for a holiday or short break. Do we even know our beautiful county that well? Few can honestly say they’ve explored all four corners of Yorkshire, discovered the middle as well as the edges. We’re passively proud, not as willing to put our money where our mouth is.
Taking our home for granted might not sound very important, yet it could give our local economy an essential boost. There’s enormous power in the love of 5.3 million people.
Yorkshire has been battered by storms and flooding. The Coronavirus is just around the corner. Brexit is looming. Uncertainty is the only certainty. Visitors are thinking twice about coming. Their non-arrival will have an impact on thousands of businesses in tourism, retail and catering. There’s a knock-on effect to many more.
We bemoan the loss of the High Street. We wish we could still enjoy the independent shops we remember. We have vaguely nostalgic thoughts about past pleasures and long-ago adventures exploring the Dales, the coast, or another city. We feel sorry for people in areas affected by floods. It’s easy to wring our hands and weep. It’s not very effective though.
We could look to Westminster for help, turning to figures of authority for solutions. Boris may produce a magic wand. But in the meantime, my money is on my mother’s answer to practically any problem – do what we can ourselves. Now.
There’s powerful energy in our own hands and feet. We can visit. We can shop. We can eat and drink. We can do all this within Yorkshire. We’re fortunate – Yorkshire has fantastic and varied countryside, a long beautiful coastline and many historic and entertaining towns. And yet…
The ‘big names’ like major attractions and places like York suffer from what I call School Trip Syndrome. You’ve been, but it was years ago. Neither are we good at acknowledging the changes that have taken place in our cities, staying stuck in our views. Local rivalries can be fierce so we don’t venture off our well-trodden routes, believing ‘our’ place is better than the other, never actually visiting to check.
Lesser known locations and smaller attractions suffer because we simply don’t know our own county all that well. I frequently meet visitors from further afield who are truly stunned by the beauty and variety of the places on our own doorstep. It’s uplifting to hear their views about the places we purport to love. I think many appreciate our area more than we do. They often know it much better.
Discovering new places is a mood-booster. Expanding horizons expands the mind, helps generate new thoughts and ideas. It can aid creativity and provide a welcome break from the everyday grind. You don’t need to go far to see something worthwhile. Sometimes it’s just about noticing the small details we usually ignore. Taking a slightly different route to work might mean you discover an independent shop or café that would appreciate your support.
Within an hour of where you live there are probably a dozen places you’ve never really visited. Yorkshire is such a big county, you could easily plan a short break in another area that feels completely different to your home territory.
Even if you’ve only got a few hours to spare, there are hundreds of opportunities for new experiences to enjoy. Chocolate making, drystone wall building, abseiling, weaving, mountain-biking, lambing, rock climbing, meditation, axe-throwing… all within Yorkshire.
Not everyone can travel, but we all have our favourite places: ‘doorstep delights’ we can share with others, whether it’s a shop, attraction, café, walk or a lesser known spot.
Can you imagine the power of 5.3 million people deciding to show their love for Yorkshire?
The conversations that would take place, the stories we’d all have to tell each other and those outside Yorkshire? Please, if you feel the slightest bit proud of Yorkshire, explore more and share what you find. You won’t regret it.
I've worked in tourism marketing for over 30 years, developing strategies & practical solutions for accommodation, attractions, activity providers, food & drink businesses. These are some of the tourism industry issues I'm concerned about. I'm writing here about Yorkshire but most of the issues are relevant elsewhere.