Yorkshire is beautiful. But when will it boom?

The South-east continues to race ahead in economic growth, jobs, and house prices


Queuing for fish in North Yorkshire’s Easingwold market earlier this year, I latched on to the conversation of two men, possibly farmers, standing behind me. The early morning mist had begun to lift, revealing bright sunshine for the first time in what felt like months, after endless rainy, cold days. Crop-sowing had been put back by about three weeks, but here, at last, was the warm late-spring sun bathing the cobbled square and market stalls. One of the men said to his friend, in his full-bodied North Yorkshire accent: “Aye, we’ll put up with this.”

I can imagine a similar reaction this week at the news that Yorkshire has been named by Lonely Planet as the third best region in the world, after The Kimberley in Western Australia and the Himalayan region of Sikkim in India. The people of Yorkshire may be famous for their understatement and a default setting often regarded, unkindly, as grindingly miserable. But Lonely Planet is effusive about the three  ridings in its Best in Travel 2014.

It is not only the breathtaking open beauty of countryside like the grouse moors of North Yorkshire, or the wild Dales. Lonely Planet also praises the rich arts and culture of its cities – Bradford has become the world’s first Unesco City of Film, Leeds is “fashion-thirsty”, Wakefield has a new art gallery and there are more Michelin-starred restaurants in Yorkshire than anywhere else outside London. To this I would add Salts Mill, a honey-coloured stone former mill turned into a Hockney gallery in Saltaire, just outside Bradford, and the recently refurbished Talbot Hotel in Malton, whose restaurant must be next in line for a Michelin star – if only for its scones.

I’m not from Yorkshire, but I hope the Red Rose side of the North will forgive me for being in love with its White Rose rival. I spent five years studying in Leeds, and now go to North Yorkshire, where my partner’s mother lives, several times a year. I have a longing to start my own hillside asparagus farm in North Yorkshire one day – if only I could be released from London’s grip.

And this dilemma goes to the heart of the issue about our unbalanced country and economy. It is understandable that Yorkshire has been rated third best region in the world. But London and the South-east continue to race ahead in economic growth, jobs, house prices and population – all interconnected pistons in an engine barely touched by recession. Tourism bosses in Yorkshire will be delighted by their new world ranking, but for local people, house prices are flat and joblessness is high in the less affluent areas. Even the well-to-do farmers who queue for fish in Easingwold market are struggling, as they will tell you within minutes of meeting them.

Janet, the farmer’s wife who runs our favourite B&B in the Howardian Hills, had difficulty attracting visitors last year because the Olympics sucked all the tourism to London, and the rain did not seem to stop in 2012. She has seen trade pick up this year, and the Lonely Planet rating will be a further boost, but in nearby villages a pub that closed down two years ago still cannot find a buyer, a grocery shop is on the brink of closure; its post office went a few years ago, replaced by a mobile one, which comes every Thursday. Places need more than just tourists to keep them flourishing: they need a local population to keep growing, creating jobs, and spending, to keep it alive.

Those of us who live in London take for granted the capital’s soaring economy. It is difficult to break free from the capital – for me, I can’t really report from Parliament if I’m living in North Yorkshire, even though you can get from York to King’s Cross in less than two hours. I am fortunate enough to have a foothold on London’s housing ladder, and watching your property’s value streak ahead is a drug habit that is difficult to give up. But at a children’s Halloween party in south London at the weekend, the talk, as ever, was of there being not enough school places to go round, of not having enough outside space for our kids to run free, of traffic fumes building up in the roads around the local park – all downsides of a vibrant capital city.

Critics of HS2 are, rightly, concerned that the rail line will merely boost London and the South-east further, rather than bring prosperity to Birmingham and Manchester. If the government was really committed to balancing transport infrastructure in the UK, it would create a super-fast rail line linking northern cities to each other, rather than seeing the country through the prism of a station platform at Euston, King’s Cross or Paddington.

But it is not only ministers who need to look beyond London: major capital-based firms need to see Yorkshire, and other regions, with new eyes: the BBC was bold to move most of its operations to Salford; Leeds is starting to pick up some business in financial services, but there needs to be more of this. Because Yorkshire will always be beautiful, but it needs more than tourism to help it remain one of the greatest places in the world. Like many regional centres, it needs better public transport, private investment, and maybe a hillside asparagus farm.  As they say in Easingwold, “we’ll put up with that”.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

Guy Keleny

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own