Sunday, 30 August 2009

Camp Hill, Bedale

What an amazing day out - and what an excellent and effective way to illustrate just how unfit I am! We went to Camp Hill yesterday as part of a stag day organised for John Middleton, who's getting married in 12 days time. The entire event was organised by John's son Ben, which I have to say he did with military precision! We set off for Camp Hill with John blindfolded - he'd no idea where we were going - in fact the whole thing had been kept secret from him until just minutes before we went.
At Camp Hill we had a coffee and a briefing by the staff, and were then split into two teams. Our team went off for an hour on quad bikes, racing through forest trails and generally having a whale of a  time. We then changed places with the other group, to do some clay pigeon shooting. I didn't start off too badly, scoring eight out of ten kills in the first set. We then changed to a different discipline and I failed miserably! John's son Jack however pulled us out of the mire by scoring an incredbile 16 out of 16. That was despite never having pulled a shotgun trigger in his life before! It was also the first "full house" at the centre in several days. From the clay pigeon range we moved on to the fifty foot high climbing wall, and this is where my lack of stamina really showed. Ben, Jack and John's other son Joel were up to the top and back down several times. Other members of the team didn't fare quite so well, but I think I must have been the worst. I came off the wall with my arms and legs like jelly, and was quite relieved when time was called and we received our final scores. Despite my feeble efforts we beat our opposition by a couple of points, but I think I can speak for everyone involved when I say we had a fantastic time and we'd all go back again tomorrow!
From Camp Hill we made our way back to Ripon where there was just time to go back to the fabulous Unicorn hotel (the ONLY place to stay when in North Yorkshire), have a scrub and freshen up, before we met again the the bar for a drink, and then off to the Dragon Inn for a Chinese meal. We rounded the night off in a pub called the Royal Oak before heading for bed. What a fantastic day, which I hope John will remember for a long time to come. The weekend after next we all head off for Gretna Green - and The Big Day!!
Above - Thomas (rear), Jack, John, Joel, Me and Paul.
Below (left) me on the climbing wall.
Below (right) The quads in action

And if you want to see all of the pictures from our day out, go to:

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Reeth Show

It's 6pm, and we've just got back from Swaledale. We've been to Reeth Show which, despite less than pleasant weather, was great! Had some excellent fish and chips, talked to the team at Swaledale Mountain Rescue, and show president Kathleen Brown. We also had a very interesting chat with the guys from Mainsgill Farm which has resulted in an invitation for Julian and I to go along and make some sausages - should be fun! Having also had a very interesting chat with a lady from Kirkby Stephen I think I may have a recipe for chutney, which will blow Julian's chances of beating me in the Tempest Chutney competition right out of the water!
Once again my waxed jacket failed me (as it did at Ribblehead a couple of weeks ago), and leaked water horrendously, so I had to go down into Richmond and buy a new one. Posh boots stood up well though, so no complaints there. Hopefully I'll have a short package about the show ready for Breakfast tomorrow, which will include an interview with William Lambert, who I bumped into at the show. Many thanks to the kind lady who lent me her Orange mobile phone to do a live piece into Steve's programme. Despite having an O2 and a Virgin mobile with me, neither had a signal in Reeth, so she certainly saved the day!

Sunday, 23 August 2009

The Fresh Wedding of the Year

And what a great day it was too! There had been a bit of a dodgy forecast for the weekend earlier this week, but come the day it couldn't have been better!

Steve and Pam Mawdesley tied the knot in style, at the Rendezvous Hotel in Skipton. The couple have been listeners to Fresh Radio for more years than either cares to remember, so it was excellent news when the results came back from Rendezvous following our on-air competition earlier this year. We'd invited entries in the form of letters saying why you deserved to win the wedding of a lifetime, valued at £4,000 and provided by Rendezvous. And I have to confess we weren't prepared for what was to follow, with some lovely, and in a lot of cases very heartwarming letters - and, more than one turned up in support of Steve and Pam! Julian and I and the team at Fresh were VERY grateful we didn't have to make the decision, which must have been very hard for our friends at Rendezvous.
Julian, Jeremy and I and our respective partners went to the ceremony and thoroughly enjoyed the excellent wedding breakfast (at 5pm!) laid on afterwards. Needless to say Steve was the subject of an hilarious speech by his best man (his brother) who related the occasion when as small boys, Steve found an ancient axe and attempted to chop down a telegraph pole with it - of course it all ended in blood, sweat AND tears! It was a lovely day, thanks to Steve and Pam for inviting us along, and the very best of luck to you both.
And yes, I DID wear a pink tie, and as the picture (right) shows, it was even pinker than Julians!

Monday, 17 August 2009

The Bradshaws

Buzz Hawkins, the man behind The Bradshaws, came for a look round the new Fresh studios today. He came with some great news about the Bradshaws latest venture, and we've brand new feature on the way - my lips are sealed, but stay tuned or sign up as a Fresh VIP on our brand new website - and you never know, you might be the first to hear the latest news! Anyway, linked to this I'm trying to organise a couple of Close up and Personal evenings with the Bradshaws around our region. Buzz and I have already looked at one potential venue in the south of the area, another venue right in the centre of Freshland has expressed an interest in holding an event, and Jenn Mattinson has checked out a third in the northwest. It's all looking very promising, but until details are finalised Bradshaws fans will just have to be patient. If you tune in to Breakfast tomorrow morning though, you could hear something to your advantage!

Saturday, 15 August 2009

A man with genuine integrity and talent.

How nice it was to meet a man with genuine integrity today. Sean Wilson left the cast of Coronation Street three years ago after his storyline made him a pretty unsavoury character, and he decided enough was enough. "Martin Platt" had an enormous fanbase from all corners of the globe. When the decision was announced that Sean (AKA Martin Platt) was to leave the Street after 21 years there was a massive public outcry, but the decision was upheld. Perhaps unsurprisingly many people we spoke to today in Skipton Market said they'd stopped watching the soap after he left.
Now Sean's found a totally different outlet for his talent, and has set up the Saddleworth Cheese Company, having enlisted the help and advice of our old friend Bob Kitching, of Leagram Cheeses. Bob has become something of a master cheesemaker since we first met him a few years ago, and chatted to him on Fresh Radio. You may or may not remember his comments about his Sunday morning cheese, which varied in strength and intensity depending on how long his local vicar's sermon went on!
Despite having officially been in the business only a matter of weeks Sean's enthusiasm and obvious talent as a cheesemaker has paid dividends, and he's already won top industry awards. I had a long conversation with him as he promoted his products on the famous Lawson's Cheese stall in Skipton Market today - you can hear what we talked about, and the results of a potted survey about cheese, on Breakfast this coming monday morning. If you're out of our broadcast region go to to listen on line.

Friday, 14 August 2009

The Big Day arrives - it's finally over

Well, I needn't really have worried. My dad's funeral went without a hitch - yes, it was poignant, and yes, there were tears - but the service was outstanding. Few people can have seen the Guard of Honour without developing a massive lump in the throat; then when the piper began practising behind the church there were quite a few tears shed. But that was nothing compared to the procession into the church, led by the piper right to the altar playing Amazing Grace faultlessly.
The vicar had done a superb job of researching my father's background, then my sisters both did a reading, and I was immensely proud of them both - if not a little ashamed of myself for chickening out. Flight Lt Tom Bailey from RAF Linton on Ouse laid a wreath on the coffin, and after the service the piper led us out again. After the coffin was laid in the hearse it was the pipes again, leading the hearse up the road and away from the church.
My father would have been so proud of his send-off, in a way it's a shame he couldn't have seen it all beforehand! Many thanks to all who packed the church today, for a very fine send-off which we will never forget.

The Big Day arrives

It's the big day no-one ever looks forward to - my father's funeral. It looks set to be an extemely poignant occasion too; the British Legion will provide I think what they call a Guard of Honour, RAF Linton on Ouse are to place a wreath on my dad's coffin, and he'll be piped into and out of the church by a lone piper playing one of his favourites, Amazing Grace. I was given the option of reading at the service, but I'm horribly afraid of making a complete fool of myself, so I declined the offer. Although dad was a Presbyterian he apparently expressed the wish to be "seen off" at the church in Dacre Banks, his home village for the last 59 years. I'm still quite overwhelmed by the response to my father's death, and the lovely messages we've received.
On a lighter note our friends Yvonne and Hasse sent a large bouquet of fabulous flowers from Trosa in Sweden; I got a phone call from a bemused florist the other morning asking where exactly "Kirkstall Drive Road is?" - in Barnsley!
And on another note: I've just found my father's obituary in "Norway Banking News" and "Gun Service and Repair - Tampa FL - Florida"

Friday, 7 August 2009

Don Wilson - a humorous poem

John Crooks, a former president of the British Veterinary Association, frequently called on my father's services to dart dangerous or unmanageable animals. He composed this poem for his friend and colleague, Donald Wilson.

When all of You are Dead and Gone
John Crooks, MRCVS, Beverley.

When all of you are dead and gone,
They'll still tell tales of Immobilon Don.
So settle down - fill your glasses, of course,
And I'll tell you the tale of the unlucky horse.
Everyone was helpless, the owner upset,
No one could catch it, not even the vet.
Ever since he went out, in the spring of the year,
They couldn't get near him and thought it was fear.

But the crafty old equine, it wasn't just fear,
He was blowed if anyone was going to get near.
For saddles or bridles were not to his taste,
Nor galloping, nor jumping, nor unseemly haste.
Lots of grass, lots of sleeping and nothing to do,
While other poor ponies could wait in a queue,
For snotty nosed kids in pony club hats,
Instructed by colonels in breeches and spats.

His name was a legend, like Churchill or Beckett,
Or Engler or Amin or Sir James Reckitt.
Don loaded his darts, Don loaded his gun,
Shooting horses with Immobilon is skilfully done.
"I'll soon put a stop to this ridiculous farce!"
Out flew the dart, slap into the arse.
The horse leapt forward, brushed past an alder,
Staggered and swayed - and fell into the Calder!

The river was fast and the river was deep,
And Immobilon induces a most rapid sleep.
As they pushed out a boat Don stood in the bow,
"He's just about out, put a rope round him now!"
There's a legend at Reckitts that Don never missed
Bullocks, camels or horses, sober or p...d.
It's true, cardiac arrest was occasionally found,
But this was the first PM finding "Found drowned"!
© John Crooks - 2004

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Donald James Ross Wilson - 1916-2009

It came as quite a shock when my father died suddenly on Tuesday, after falling ill a few days ago. He was 93 years old, but lived on his own, quite independently in the Dales. I've been deeply touched by all of the kindness shown to me and the expressions of sympathy following his death - and got quite a surprise to receive an e-mail message of condolence from sir David Jason. I introduced my father to sir David when I had the good fortune to interview him at the Yorkshire Air Museum last year. I'm not going to say any more on the subject right now, but below is my father's obituary:

One of Nidderdale’s most fascinating characters has died suddenly aged 93.
Donald Wilson moved from Edinburgh to Dacre Banks in February 1950, having been stationed at RAF Linton on Ouse during the war. Don was shot down over Germany early in the conflict and was eventually imprisoned in the infamous Stalag Luft III, setting for the film The Great Escape. He provided invaluable information and advice for the makers of the film, having kept a detailed wartime log during his incarceration.
Having trained as a vet before the war Don took up a position as a veterinary services advisor with Hull-based Reckitt and Coleman, spending almost the rest of his working life with them. He was a friend of Thirsk-based vet turned author Alf White, better known as James Herriot, who he visited on a regular basis. During his career with Reckitt and Coleman Don became involved in the development of a new drug to be used in the rapid tranquilising of animals, and subsequently set up a rapid response dart gun service for the company. He appeared on TV’s Blue Peter and Magpie programmes, and helped out on the set of what was then known as Emmerdale Farm – in the days when it featured real animals!
When not working Don became heavily involved in local life, and over the years served on the local Parish Council the Village Hall committee and the Home Guard. He was extremely reluctant to accept becoming old, and walked down to his local, the Royal Oak most lunch-times until relatively recently, when he bought an electric buggy. He quickly got used to riding the machine, and almost as quickly – despite being by this time in his late eighties – decided it wasn’t fast enough, and went out and bought a “GT” model!
Don never forgot his time in the RAF and had been a long-time member of local branches of the RAFA, and the British Legion. Just a few years ago he accompanied his son on a news assignment to the Air museum at Elvington, and was delighted to be offered an exclusive look inside their recently restored Halifax bomber – once again, despite his advancing years, he was up inside the aircraft, as one member of staff put it “like a rat up a drainpipe”! More recently he had the pleasure of being introduced to the actor Sir David Jason, who’s a huge supporter of ex-RAF flyers.
Despite the privations Don suffered throughout the war years he never lost his sense of humour, and would often recount the tale of when he first moved into Dacre Banks and making friends with the Abbot family, owners of the local garage. One dark, windy night he visited Kit and Norah Abbot, knocking on the door and asking a bleary-eyed Kit, who at first hadn’t recognised him, if he could have a fill-up with petrol – for his cigarette lighter!
Over the last few years his ever-increasing family and friends have celebrated his birthday with the annual June Barbecue, which has recently become more like a United Nations event. Guests have represented Australia, Africa, Israel, Scotland, Norway, and of course his beloved adopted home – Yorkshire. Don’s only regret was that his late wife Vera, who died 16 years ago, couldn’t be with him.
He leaves six children, eleven grandchildren and seven great grandchildren, with another on the way.