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Adrian Edmondson interview

An interview with Adrian Edmondson about 'The Dales'

You grew up in Bradford, West Yorkshire – what was that like and what are your memories of the area?

Adrian Edmondson, presenter of 'The Dales' on ITV1 Adrian Edmondson,
presenter of 'The Dales'

My Dad worked for the armed forces so I spent a lot of my early life on army and RAF bases in Cyprus, Bahrain and Uganda, but we always returned to Bradford in-between postings. I remember the buildings were all covered in thick black soot, as a child I never thought they were ‘dirty’; I thought they were just naturally black. It wasn’t until the big clean up campaigns started (long after I’d left the area) that the natural beauty of the York stone was revealed. There are some magnificent buildings in Bradford – City Hall being the best – we were always told the tower was modelled on one in Florence, and it has a very different feel to a lot of municipal buildings. There were still trolley buses when I was at school and it used to cost me one old penny to get the trolley bus to school. I remember life as a kid being very different to the way it is today, I’d get home from school and I’d go straight out of the door again. There was a bit of disused land behind our house full of bomb craters which kept my friends and I happy for hours and hours, if we weren’t there we’d go up to the recreation ground and play cricket or football. We had a lot more freedom than the kids do these days, there was no fear and nothing much on the television!

My parents were very keen on ‘days out’ and picnics, we spent a lot of our time visiting Bolton Abbey, and Aysgarth Falls and we used to walk across Ilkley Moor about once a week. As I got older my Dad and I would leave my Mother, my older sister and my younger brothers behind and go for a romp around Malham Tarn, I remember going to the pub in Malham afterwards where we’d have...a pint of milk!

The Dales is also like a geography text book, I spent a lot of time going there on school field trips. As I got into my mid teens the Dales became a regular spot for me and my mates to go camping/hiking/chasing girls/trying to get served in pubs....

Does life in the Dales appeal to you now or are you a townie now?

I’ve lived a lot of my life on Dartmoor, and I still have a home there. We filmed a lot of the early ‘Comic Strip Presents...’ series down there and developed an affinity with the place, and eventually just moved there full time, so I’m no stranger to country living. In fact I even went as far as to own a few cows and sheep! I must say though, I do also like the city, and when my children grew up and left home we started spending more time in London again. Most people either prefer you to be one or the other, but I’ve always enjoyed both. I love arriving in the country – the fresh air, being able to see the horizon and the pitch black at night but then I love arriving in the city – the noise, the bustle, the excitement. I’m lucky to be able to enjoy both.

Do you take your family to the Dales – and what do they think of where you come from?

I’m ashamed to say I’ve never been to the Dales with my family, in fact it’s a place I lost touch with for a long time. It wasn’t until touring with Rik Mayall that I eventually rediscovered it, we did a lot of touring in the 90’s and early 00’s. Touring generally consists of travelling from city to city, doing the gigs, and holing up in your hotel in-between. After 10 years of it I got a bit bored of being stuck in my hotel and started renting cars and driving out into the surrounding countryside of whichever town I was in. I remember being in Leeds and driving out into the Dales – it was a revelation; everything seemed new and somehow part of my memory at the same time. We’ve all seen the calendars showing the long vistas broken up with dry stone walls, but once you’re actually in the view it all seems much bigger and more dramatic.

Why did you decide to take part in this series and what were you most excited about doing during filming?

I was glad of the opportunity to go and have a good look at The Dales, which seems silly I know, because I could have gone at any time. I also wanted to explore the idea of documentary film making, I’d done a couple of documentaries before, with Comic Relief, but it was something I’ve wanted to have a go at for a long time. It sounds glib to say I’m fascinated by people, but I am, and I really loved the idea of being able to ask people about their lives. If you go up to people in other circumstances and start asking them about their lives you can easily be mistaken for being ‘a bit weird’. I’ve written a lot of stuff over the years, comedies mostly, but understanding motives and behaviour has always intrigued me, this series gave me the opportunity to explore that.

Which is your favourite area of the Dales and is there a particular place that you would always want to return to?

There are lots of ‘hotspots’ in the Dales – places where everyone goes, like Aysgarth Falls or Grassington, although they are undeniably beautiful, there’s something else that I find more brilliant, and that is ‘the light’. The extraordinary thing about the Dales is how the weather and the light change the landscape, you hardly need to move around at all. If you stay in the same place the Dales will change around you. I remember being on the top of the Butter Tubs Pass in a thick fog – suddenly a small tunnel cleared, and down this clear tunnel we could see a village in the distance lit up in brilliant sunshine, it was like a Whistler painting.

Which of the people you met during the series have stuck in your mind and why?

I really loved Amanda Owen – the shepherdess I met out in the wilds of Ravenseat. She’s a terrific person, endlessly popping out babies in the remotest part of the Dales and running a sheep farm with her husband – she’s living her own dream. To some of us her dream might seem like hard work and not much fun, but she loves every minute of it, and it was great to be in the presence of someone with that kind of spirit.

What was the highlight of the series for you?

The Ribblehead Viaduct is one of the most stunning pieces of architecture only matched by its extraordinary location.  It looks like something not from this world – like a special CGI effect for a movie. While we were there filming the sun kept going in and out, and the shadow play on the arches was ethereal and magical, like being in a giant cathedral.

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Yorkshire Dales National Park

Malham Cove, © Príamo Melo.
Hardraw Force waterfall, © Britainonview / Martin Brent.
Limestone pavement, © Britainonview / Martin Brent.
Twisleton Scars, © Martin Priestley.
Swaledale sheep, © Britainonview.
Hay meadow in Malham, © Rick at Fortybelowzero.

Watch 'The Dales'


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