My Yorkshire: Margaret Chapman, chief cattle steward at Great Yorkshire Show

Margaret Chapman, with a herd of Beef Shorthorn Cross.
Margaret Chapman, with a herd of Beef Shorthorn Cross.
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Margaret Chapman is chief cattle steward at the Great Yorkshire Show. Her family has been part of the show for over 100 years. Margaret was born in Lincolnshire and now lives in Bishopthorpe, near York.

What’s your first Yorkshire memory?

Attending my first agricultural show in York in 1943 to raise money for the Red Cross, followed in 1944 by showing my first heifer calf at the age of five at the same event.

What’s your favourite part of the county – and why?

It’s difficult to say as Yorkshire is a unique county with varied landscape: the Dales, the Wolds and a wonderful coastline, which are all breathtakingly beautiful.

What’s your idea of a perfect day, or a perfect weekend, out in Yorkshire?

I love open spaces so for me, a drive across the North Yorkshire Moors when the heather is in bloom is just perfect; even in the depths of winter, the Moors, Dales and Wolds are all fantastic places to visit.

Do you have a favourite walk – or view?

The top of Sutton Bank looking across the Vale of York.

Which Yorkshire sportsman or woman, past or present, would you like to take for lunch?

Ruth Carr –a leading racehorse trainer from Stillington, near York. Ruth assisted her grandfather, the racehorse trainer David Chapman, for 15 years before taking up her own trainer’s licence in 2008. Ruth rode in her first race on her 16th birthday, the youngest jockey to this day to do so, going on to win 28 races on the flat and eight over hurdles plus many Point to Points. In her training career, she has had over 300 winners and over 700 placed horses. Ruth is very hands on and treats every horse as an individual to bring out the best qualities in each horse. It would be a very interesting lunchtime – so much to talk about.

Which Yorkshire stage or screen star, past or present, would you like to take for dinner?

Dame Judi Dench. She’s a great actress with a wonderful sense of humour, which would make it a very interesting dinner. I first saw Judi Dench play the Virgin Mary in the Mystery Plays in the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey in York in the early 1950s – I am sure she was still a schoolgirl as I was too.

If you had to name your Yorkshire ‘hidden gem’, what would it be?

The village and meadows of Muker. The wildflowers of Muker are very well known, especially in June and July, and it’s such a quaint small village too. In September the Muker Show is held, a perfect country day out.

If you could choose somewhere, or some object, from or in Yorkshire to own for a day, what would it be?

Bolton Abbey with its history, its open spaces and its beauty. It’s also home to the Craven Heifer and it was so interesting to work with their team and go back through the archives to find out about England’s largest heifer who lived in the 1800s which has now been sculptured by Emma Stothard to celebrate the 160th Great Yorkshire Show.

What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity?

The sheer variety of its different landscapes, including its historic cities, towns, villages and industries. There is so much to see, places like Rievaulx Abbey, Fountains Abbey, Wentworth Woodhouse, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Ripley Castle, Harewood House, Castle Howard, Saltaire and Sledmere plus many interesting churches and so much great farming land.

Do you follow sport in the county, and if so, what?

Some horse racing. I enjoy the grace and speed of one of the most beautiful and athletic of God’s creatures, a great combination of man and beast working together.

Do you have a favourite restaurant, or pub?

Yorkshire is bursting with good places to eat. One of my favourites is the White Horse at Ampleforth, especially for its superb Sunday lunch.

Do you have a favourite food shop?

The Yorkshire Agricultural Society’s’ Fodder shop and cafe with its excellent meat counter and fresh vegetables plus lots of other locally sourced tasty food and drink.

How do you think that Yorkshire has changed, for better or for worse, in the time that you’ve known it? On the whole, things get better year after year, but sadly the constant flytipping is a huge problem which scars our wonderful county. Also rural crime is on the increase and a worry to everyone.

If you had to change one thing in, or about Yorkshire, what would that be? To improve the weather.

Who is the Yorkshire person that you most admire? Alan Bennett with his dry sense of humour.

Has Yorkshire influenced your work? Yes, with many years 
involvement with the Great Yorkshire Show in the cattle section, which has helped me to learn to listen to people with their ideas to improve the cattle section and try to implement suggested ideas. Things change year by year, it is important to keep looking ahead all the time.

Name your favourite Yorkshire book/author/artist/CD/performer.?

Ken Jackson, one of the Singing Farmers, who raised great sums of money for the rabi (the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution) over 13 years.

If a stranger to Yorkshire only had time to visit one place, it would be?

Magnificent York Minster, one of the largest of its kind in northern Europe. Talented craftsman built such an iconic building, a masterpiece in medieval stained glass and stone hewn with very basic tools for us all to worship in and admire its elegance and tranquillity. And that’s not forgetting the Chapter House, undercroft, crypt, the great organ and central tower – the views from the top are superb.