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Dear Santa: what the Yorkshire Dales want for Christmas
Friday, 20 December, 2002

Country columnist John Sheard submits an optimistic, non-political gift list for a Yorkshire Dales Christmas.

THIS SHOULD really be a very serious column, discussing the latest Euro-plans to take foot and mouth control out of British hands, or the mass slaughter of hedgehogs on the Scottish Isle of Uist by bird-lovers. Both raise deep political and ethical questions.

    Bah humbug
Happy Christmas
But, to heck with politics, it's Christmas - so here is my letter to Santa Claus asking for the presents that I think the Yorkshire Dales need to make their Christmas stocking bulge with goodies.

Most of all, I would like the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to put its money where its mouth is a start doling out some extra cash to hill farmers for their environmental work NOW - not after another year of "consultations." At the present rate of progress, there will no upland farms left by the time talk turns into action.

I would like every Dales family to sit down on Christmas day and dine on turkey, goose, lamb - whatever - so long as it has been locally produced. The producers and the local shops need the trade.

Such a meal should follow church and a couple of pints in the village pub (preferably pints of locally brewed Black Sheep or Timothy Taylor's). The vicar and the landlord need the trade too.

I hope that British Telecom will give us all a hi-tech Happy Christmas by announcing that it will install broadband internet technology in all our local telephone exchanges, not just those in the big towns.

I wish that the Department of Transport will change its mind and give to go-ahead for bypasses on the A65 around Gargrave, Hellifield and Long Preston.

I would like the London-based class-warriors who run the Ramblers' Association actually listen to their local members, so that friendly agreements can be reached on the "right to roam" consultations now underway.

I hope John Prescott sees the light and scraps forever his evil dreams of setting up a regional Yorkshire Parliament, which will be a total disaster for rural North Yorkshire.

I wish the French would start paying some cash into EU funds and agree to long-term reorganisation of the Common Agricultural policy.

And, a spirit of goodwill, I wish the thief who stole the Brussels sprouts from my allotment bon appetit. As there is a nationwide shortage of sprouts this Christmas, we will have to get by with spinach and roast marrow, also home- grown … but infinitely more tasty!

There then, Santa: can you oblige - or am I being somewhat greedy? Ah well, I might at least get a pint of Black Sheep. And I hope all our readers get at least one thing in their stockings they really want.

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