Big Issue Vendor

Charlotte Smith: The British countryside closest to my heart

Countryfile's Charlotte Smith picks the place in Britain that she's particularly fond of – which includes a "stately home on acid"

There are a few places close to my heart. I’m from Leicestershire and grew up in a small village, and I go to Devon quite a lot – but if I had only one choice I would pick the Howardian Hills in North Yorkshire [pictured above]. It is an area of outstanding beauty, between York and the North York Moors. The most famous bit is Castle Howard, which is like a stately home on acid –humongous, with really nice grounds.

My husband dragged me up there when we first met and we ended up going for our honeymoon there in 2004. We sat in the pub, watched the rain coming down and went for walks. It is proper Yorkshire, so you get brilliant food and lots of it.

It is proper Yorkshire, so you get brilliant food and lots of it

I live in a city now. Kind of by accident. But I long for that feeling of physical space, looking at the hills, the farmland, the big sky, but also the mental space. If I didn’t get that, city living would feel much more difficult. We now stay in a village called Slingsby. We go back every year – there is a great pub called The Grapes, which helps. And there is a great walk through the hills near Hovingham.

I would recommend anywhere in that part of North Yorkshire. At Sutton Bank, which is like this big cliff in the middle of nowhere, there is a lovely walk down to Gormire Lake, which is this old glacial lake. It is quite steep to get there, but the walk around it is flat, which is nice for those of us not as fit as we’d like.

Charlotte Smith

It is so peaceful at the bottom. The lake is fabulous. There are even rope swings for the kids – which us adults wimped out of – and they can swing out over the lake. It is just a lovely part of the world.

So often we have our phone with us for the map, but I’m trying to change that. It is worth getting a paper map and not being contactable. For kids, and some of us adults, it can feel like something hasn’t happened unless you have taken a picture of it and shared it. I’m as bad as anybody, I tweet all the time.

We saw dragonflies, climbed trees, and a friend told us about the various plants

But leave the phones in the car, get a map from the visitor centre, and walk and talk to each other, where you don’t have to think about anything but the immediate. We saw dragonflies, climbed trees, and our friend told us about the various plants growing in the undergrowth.


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We had such a nice time because we were just totally there. Not thinking about anything else, or how we were selling it to friends.

I’m very lucky. I get paid to get to go the most beautiful parts of the country for my job. I just have to hope when I go there with my friends and family, they don’t get bored of me saying: “I’m sure I’ve been here before with John Craven!”

Countryfile Live, Blenheim Palace, August 3-6

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