Celebrities max lyrical about favourite places in North East
PUBLISHED: 08:31 07 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:18 20 February 2013
Celebrities wax lyrical about their favourite North East icons. Jo Haywood joins them on their travels
Rosie Boycott likes a nice fossil. Sebastian Faulks enjoys nothing more than contemplating pub signs. Alan Titchmarsh, perhaps not surprisingly, has a penchant for wild flowers. And Alexei Sayle, who has obviously mellowed with age, cannot contain his joy when smiled at by a stranger on a country walk.
These are just four of the 97 personalities who have contributed a short essay to a new book celebrating Icons of England (7.99, Transworld), published this month by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) with a preface by HRH The Prince of Wales.
This eclectic, joyous jumble of writing about Englishness and Englands unique countryside features contributions from the likes of Michael Palin (crags), Eric Clapton (Surrey hills), Kevin Spacey (canal boating - well, what else would a Hollywood legend choose?), Jo Brand (a country childhood) and Joan Bakewell (estuaries). Each writes fondly about their corner of the country or a specific aspect of English life that they hold most dear.
But what exactly makes an English icon? Renowned author and president of the CPRE, Bill Bryson, has an interesting take on it.
A number of qualities, I think, set English icons apart and make them more memorable, more individual and vastly more noteworthy than icons elsewhere, he said. Foremost among these is the ability - so gloriously evinced in the seaside pier - to be magnificent while having no evident purpose at all.
For broadcaster and former war correspondent Kate Adie, who was born in Northumberland and grew up in Sunderland, iconic Englishness is not so much about arriving at your destination as the journey itself.
As a child, it was a treat to take a run in the car into Swaledale or Teesdale, away from the industrial cranes and pitheads of the County Durham coast, she said.
On the way back, full of egg and tomato sandwiches and homemade shortbread, we would always stop on the edge of the village of Staindrop. Once there, Id peer over the drystone wall towards the outline of Raby Castle and stare at its vast park of rather lumpy northern grassland, with a small copse here and there.
Singer Bryan Ferry, originally from Washington, opts for something a bit more concrete: Penshaw Monument is a half-sized replica of the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens. Built in 1844 at Penshaw, close to Sunderland, it was dedicated to the first Earl of Durham.
High on a hill in the middle of an otherwise flat part of the North East coastal plain, it dominates the surrounding land. As a young boy growing up in the nearby pit village of Washington, it made a huge impression on me.
Small impressions are more the style of Sue Clifford, co-founder of Common Ground, a lobby group founded in 1982 to promote local distinctiveness, who eschews monoliths and monuments in favour of fossil found on the beach.
It is always a pleasure to bump into fossils: the so-called Purbeck marbles are full of shells and form dark pillars and carvings inside many a church, she said. On polished walls and floors such as those of Londons Festival Hall, you can find the confused patterns of Hopton Wood crinoidal limestone from Derbyshire.
And on the beach at Holy Island in Northumberland, you can pick up St Cuthberts Beads, the little coins of crinoid stems.
Makes you see things in a slightly different way, doesnt it? And thats not even taking into account Andrew Marrs views on lines, Rick Stein on cold water swimming and what Libby Purves thinks about harbour walls.
All royalties from Icons of England will go to the CPRE. The campaign is a charity that promotes the beauty, tranquility and diversity of rural England. Founded in 1926, it has 60,000 supporters and a branch in every county. To find out more, visit www.cpre.org.uk.