Dear Reader: My night on the Stray + Knaresborough's amazing Xmas Trees Festival

The Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers.
The Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers.
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A regular column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

Strange but true, I once tried to sleep on the Stray after a night out at the Coach and Horses with some colleagues from work.

One of the many inventive creations in the Knaresborough Christmas Tree Festival at St John's Church. (1612057AM7)

One of the many inventive creations in the Knaresborough Christmas Tree Festival at St John's Church. (1612057AM7)

This was the 90s, I hasten to add.

Having gone home to fetch a sleeping bag, I settled down in the darkness of the Stray not far from a tree.

There wasn’t a single sole around, just me and the grass and the stars.

I promptly fell asleep but by 4am was awake again.

What on earth I was doing here?

After a moment’s reflection, I decided the best course of action was to roll up my bedding as quickly as possible and head off home.

The Stray means different things to different people but it’s a precious place for everyone who lives in Harrogate.

Which is the reason strict rules have always existed to protect it by law.

It’s these rules which Harrogate Borough Council is proposing to relax to make it easier to host popular public events on The Stray.

Since the council started its public consultation recently, I haven’t come across a single person who opposes the idea of Harrogate having more great music festivals or food and drink events slap bang in the middle of town.

But I also haven’t met anyone who wants to see The Stray damaged or turned into the sort of place you’d never dream of fetching your sleeping bag for in the dark of midnight after a night out.

A colleague once in the newsroom told me that a good journalist is never off duty.

I thought it was a bit of a pretentious remark at the time but, in retrospect, it wasn’t so far off the mark.

I say this after enjoying a visit to an amazing event at St John’s Church in Knaresborough on Friday night after work.

Between you and me, I’d decided to go the the annual Christmas Tree Festival mainly because a couple of friends invited me along for a drink and a chat.

That said, the trees themselves were spectacularly good and the festival is well worth a visit.

Created by local schools, charities and businesses, such was the invention and skill on display amid the pews, it was a little like being at the Turner Prize, if the Turner Prize was based on Christmas trees.

As for the church, well it was worth visiting for the building alone.

That said, I was ‘off duty’ and looking forward to popping into the Mitre.

I know how these things go and I wasn’t that surprised when some my fellow attendees at St John’s wanted to talk about the paper or give me suggestions for possible stories.

Still, I had been surprised at the very beginning of the evening to find myself holding one end of a length of red tape as the ribbon was cut at the event’s opening ceremony in front of the large crowd outside this magnificent 12th century church.