Dear Reader: New bypass fears + my fear of panto is behind me

A regular column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

Friday, 25th November 2016, 3:41 pm
Updated Tuesday, 6th December 2016, 11:45 am
The Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

I took a walk through part of the land that might be swallowed up by a new bypass - if plans by North Yorkshire County Council get the go ahead and a lot of money from the Government.The scruffy stretch of land between Bilton Lane and Nidd Gorge may look like nothing to write home about but it’s packed with unspoken history.There’s also a lot more wildlife than you’d imagine in what were once the ancient hunting grounds of kings and princes.Two of the possible routes earmarked for a possible new bypass would plough through fields where deer still roam and foxes and hares, otters, sparrowhawks, buzzards, woodpeckers.Of course, this rough-and-ready wilderness also contains the Bilton-Ripley bridleway, four miles of converted former railway line.Opened in 2013 by charity SUSTRANS with the support of Harrogate Borough Council and NYCC, the path is a highly popular spot for walkers and runners and cyclists and horse riders and mums with buggies.So the multi-million pound question is whether greenway will make way for ‘freeway’?As someone whose daily commute of just four miles usually takes me 30 minutes, I know exactly how bad traffic congestion is in the area.But Harrogate is a town, not a city with a semi-rural feel and its attraction to visitors rests largely on this fact.I’m probably not the only person who things there’d better be evidence of seismic proportions that a bypass would actually bring massive benefits to people’s daily commutes.

Each year the festive season seems to catch me unawares.Only one thing awakes me from my unnatural slumber – the pantomime at Harrogate Theatre.News of its imminent launch reminds me that Christmas is, indeed, just round the corner.Last week I had the pleasure of being granted a sneak preview of this hugely popular fixture in the annual calendar.This year’s is Dick Whittington. The sets alone are almost worth the price of admission but it’s the script and the cast that makes the Harrogate panto so good and so different.Chatting to two of its biggest stalwarts, actor Tim Stedman and director/co-writer Phil Lowe, was a little like interviewing Morecambe and’s clear that if audiences have a great deal of fun watching it, the panto team are having just as much fun creating it.Personally speaking, I’ve never really liked pantos, not even as a child.I must have mentioned that to Tim the last time I met him a year ago.Being an actor well-versed in the art of remembering lines, he reminded me of my confession.Eh hem. What was I to do?Suffice to say, for the first time in many, many years I will be going to the panto.

Part of Nidd Gorge near Bilton.
Part of Nidd Gorge near Bilton.