Dear Reader: Royal honour well deserved + an otter in Nidd Gorge!

An otter spotted in Nidd Gorge on Boxing Day. Photo by Rachel Christy as posted on Keeping Nidd Gorge Georgeous's Facebook page.
An otter spotted in Nidd Gorge on Boxing Day. Photo by Rachel Christy as posted on Keeping Nidd Gorge Georgeous's Facebook page.

A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

I know from my days as a member of a running club in Harrogate that there’s no bad blood between the various clubs in our district.

A well-deserved New Year's honour for local man Tim Pocock. (1801021AM1)

A well-deserved New Year's honour for local man Tim Pocock. (1801021AM1)

It’s fair to say, however, that they do tend to go their own ways.

I remember as a spectator at the London Marathon watching the waves of entrants flow past me from my crowded vantage point on a pavement in Bermondsey.

I got a bit excited at one point when a member of a Harrogate club that wasn’t mine went past but soon wished I hadn’t when my attempt to cheer the runner on was met with a puzzled look.

Had it been Tim Pocock, who’s just received an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List, I’m sure there would have been a smile and a wave in return.

I may not have belonged to the same running club as Tim but he’s always been eminently chatty and supportive.

I first met this likable teacher from Ripon who works at St Aidan’s School in Harrogate nearly 25 years ago on that secondary school’s football pitch.

In those days there were enough reporters at the Harrogate Advertiser to field a full squad, never mind a team.

The matches against the St Aidan’s teachers were strictly for fun but they were certainly, er, ‘competitive’.

Though an opponent, Tim’s friendly nature stood out from the kick off.

It’s a measure of the man that at no point over the succeeding years wherever and whenever I’ve bumped into him have I ever had a clue about his battle against cancer or the sterling work he’s done to raise awareness of the condition.

Neither was I aware that those staff football matches he organised all those years ago were only a small part of the charity fundraising initiatives he’s been responsible for.

And I didn’t know Tim had raised nearly £1 million in total.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been in the Gorge, the Nidd Gorge that is.

I’ve walked there and ran there and enjoyed many a relaxed hour along the winding paths, thick woodlands, steep hills and small beaches flanking this rugged tributary of the River Ouse.

I have to say I’m also a big fan of the Valley Gardens and The Pinewoods and The Stray but there’s something magic about the Nidd Gorge and its ancient wildness.

One of the key moments at that heated meeting in Harrogate about congestion measures and relief roads late last year was when one protester asked what it would take for Nidd Gorge to receive the special protection afforded some of the afore-mentioned beauty spots.

Asides from its history stretching back to King John and its popularity with idlers like me, there is, I think, one thing that truly makes the place truly different.

The wildlife.

On Boxing Day one member of the public posted they’d spotted an otter in its waters.

An otter. If that’s not enough to make it special, what is?