My dad’s column from 8th August 1981 starts with a rant on one of his favourite topics, that of inconsiderate drivers clogging up our country roads. Although he was a patient man, Dad couldn’t abide what he called ‘Sunday drivers’ (His rant sparked one of my own, which you can read further down!).
I giggled as I read, hearing his voice in my head as I had heard it for real on many occasions: “I saw one at the head of a procession this week, trundling merrily along with a fuming queue behind. In the queue was a caravan, a lorry and a bus, and our hero’s selfish behaviour meant the caravan driver couldn’t overtake, and his slow speed was such that the caravan could not climb a steep hill. Our little man sailed over the summit leaving behind a queue of very angry motorists all stuck behind a caravan on a steep hill. I’ve no doubt, though, that he would congratulate himself on his skills.”
I am often in my car for work and enjoy it when the journeys take me to lovely locations around North Yorkshire. I’ve been despatched a number of times recently to Goathland, now a tourist honeypot since playing Aidensfield in the TV series Heartbeat, which was based on my dad’s Constable series of books.
I was due to meet a couple interested in buying a house on the North York Moors. I’m not one to often get cross, but this particular day was a very busy one, and a round trip to Goathland was more than two hours in the car on a baking hot day. I’m more than happy to make the journey for those with a genuine interest in seeing the house with a view to possibly buying it. However, this particular couple spent 10 minutes looking around, most of the time pointing out the faults of this pretty little moorland cottage, before the wife said, “I’m sorry you’ve had a wasted trip all the way from York, but we knew we didn’t’t want it before we came.”
Never has the word ‘sorry’ meant less. She can’t have been sorry about wasting my time, otherwise she would have let me know she didn’t want it before I drove all the way out there, wouldn’t she? Did it ever cross her mind that my hard-working boss would have to pay me for my time and my petrol just so she could spend 10 minutes poking around a house she had no intention of ever buying? Does she think we do this because we love nothing more than to meet selfish and thoughtless time wasters like her? Small businesses like ours are grateful to have survived the pandemic, but if everyone behaved like that, we would have no business at all.
The reason she didn’t want it, she explained, was because she knew there was a holiday home on neighbouring land. She said that they loved the moors and wanted to find a home but without visitors staying nearby.
So, if you want that quiet idyllic country lifestyle, but without the visitors, then perhaps it’s not the best idea to go looking in areas that are tourist hotspots, don’t you think? I do wonder sometimes if people forget that those who live and work in rural areas have to create ways to earn their living, and it’s no secret that places like the Dales and the Moors struggle to keep their young folk because there are simply not enough career opportunities to keep them there.
There are pros and cons of becoming a popular destination. The cons are obvious, but I would argue that the pros outnumber them. It would be interesting to find out from the North York Moors National Park Authority how much income is generated by visitors, income that helps maintain and look after our wonderful county and its beauty spots. And it would also be interesting to know just how many jobs have been created as a direct result of the success of Heartbeat, All Creatures Great and Small, Harry Potter and the like. Think of all the business that must generated for the hotels, guest houses, holiday cottages, restaurants, cafes, museums and other attractions, many of which are small independent organisations.
If I come across that couple again, I might suggest they move to the moon.
Contact me, and read more, at countrymansdaughter.com. Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug
This column appeared in the Darlington & Stockton Times on 13th and the Gazette & Herald on 11th August 2021