PROBABLY Askrigg’s main claim to fame is that it featured, as the fictional Darrowby, in the 1970s BBC series All Creatures Great and Small, based on the James Herriot vet books. The vet’s house and surgery – or at least the exterior which was used to represent it – is a few yards up the road and still looks pretty much as it did. The King’s Arms in Main Street was the Drover’s Arms in the series, and it remains a popular pub. The rest of the village has hardly changed either, except the chapel (our chapel) has lost the spires that used to sit atop the small towers at the front of the building.
However, we can’t help thinking that the “Herriot Country” tag, so often used to market Wensleydale and surrounding areas, is a bit past its sell-by date: the area has such a lot to offer it hardly needs to align itself to a 30-year-old television series. I’m always amazed, though, that even younger visitors seem to be aware of the connection.
Since we came here in September 2007 we’ve been delighted to meet people who have happy memories of the chapel. They either worshipped here, or were married here, or went to Sunday school in the downstairs room – now our main living area. One gentleman told us, within a week of our moving in, that his grandfather had built it at a cost of £800! Slightly less than we paid 130 years later . . .
It’s a lively, friendly, place – we would say that wouldn’t we? The Oxfordshire village we came from, Eynsham, was pretty much the same. The North-South divide is not something we give much credence to, though as it happens we are both Yorkshire folk originally. But we seem to have fitted in and find we have lots of unexpected connections: when I was a journalist working for Tyne Tees Television in the early 1980s I remember doing a film here about the then vicar, Malcolm Stonestreet, a powerful force in the community. Ian discovered he went to the same school – in Hull – as the present vicar, Ann Chapman, and I was at school with the potter, Andrew Haig. So it very soon began to feel like home.