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December 18 2013 Latest news:
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Jim Coulson, 'the only Morris dancing, crossword setting, wood scientist in the country', reflects on his weekends at home in the Yorkshire Dales
The chance to be at home in Yorkshire is always a welcome treat. Wood consultancy can take me anywhere in the world, advising on historic timber structures or new buildings and attending scientific conferences. So it might be Hong Kong one week and New Zealand or Scandinavia the next anywhere there are trees or timber being used.
There was not much of an escape from the day job last year, however, as most weekends at home in Bedale were spent writing my book: Wood in Construction How to Avoid Costly Mistakes.
But now that its published, Im back to my real hobbies: Morris dancing and crossword setting.
A typical weekend in the dancing season starts with me donning my kit as a member of Ripon City Morris Dancers. In our distinctive red, white and blue outfits with hats adorned with fresh flowers, we head out to locations like Redmire in Wensleydale or Harrogates Valley Gardens to dance for the entertainment of the public and tourists who flock to this lovely county of ours.
I feel very lucky to actually live here. As JB Priestley said: In all my travels I have never seen a countryside to equal in beauty that of the Yorkshire Dales.
When Im not out dancing, Im usually at home in my garden, if the weather allows trying to put together a puzzle for The Times Listener series. Its reputed to be the hardest crossword in the world, and writing the clues is always the hardest part of all.
After a while, in need of fresh air, I have only to take a two-minute stroll down the hill and Im beside Bedale Beck, which flows past Leech House, once used by a Victorian doctor for breeding his little helpers. A bit further along the waterside is the harbour.
Yes, there really is a harbour in Bedale; the remnants of a would-be canal basin that was never completed. Had it been finished, Bedale would have become the most northerly point on the English canal system. As it happens, Ripon claims that honour, and my company, TFT Woodexperts, is just a stones throw from the citys restored canal basin.
As a fully paid-up member of the North Yorkshire branch of CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale), if not Morris dancing or crossword setting when Im back from foreign parts, my delight is a pint in a country pub. Were blessed here in Gods Own Country with some great pubs and some of the best real ale breweries in the UK.
Jim Coulson is one half of the North of England team on BBC Radio 4s Round Britain Quiz. He is also an expert on all things wood-related as part of the dedicated team at Ripon-based TFT Woodexperts.