COLUMN – My Town, with Andrew Willoughby

Knaresborough Bed Race 2011.  1st Knaresborough Scouts.  110611M1h.
Knaresborough Bed Race 2011. 1st Knaresborough Scouts. 110611M1h.

Former Mayor and born and bred Knaresborough man Andrew Willoughby tells us what makes the town special to him.

Who are you and what do you do?

I am a local lad, born in Knaresborough, and it’s hard to believe that I am now approaching 60. Seven years ago I retired and now spend most of my time in our town.

What do you like best about Knaresborough?

Everything! There are so many interesting places and things to see. Gardens, fields, woods, the river the castle and so much more.

What is your earliest memory of Knaresborough?

Going shopping with my mother almost every day when I was three and four years old. Westmorland’s on Bond End for bread, Reed’s for ice cream, past Knutton’s the plumbers and Fred Holland’s newsagents then further up the High Street to Mann and Wright’s to give them the weekly order for groceries to be delivered on Saturday by Carl Wright in an old Morris van. Dewhirst’s for meat where the butcher always made a fuss of me, and then up past Abbott’s fruit shop to reach the Market Place. This was all before I started school at Fysche Hall. Memories after that revolve mainly around school, at Manor Road, Castle Boys and King James’s Grammar School.

What would be your perfect day in Knaresborough?

Walking through the market on a Wednesday, gossiping as well as shopping, stopping for a drink of coke and a scone in Lavender tea room. Then the Castle Grounds and that super view of the gorge, and a sit in Bebra Gardens followed by watching the boats on Waterside and a cheese toastie for lunch in any of the cafes on Waterside. More walking around Bilton Fields and Conyngham Hall or a game of Pitch and Putt at Cono, finishing with a couple of pints in a pub before the pleasure of sitting at home with Christine to watch a bit of telly. But mornings volunteering in Bebra Gardens and Foolish Woods are also good starts to perfect days!

Do you have a favourite view or walk in Knaresborough?

Two riverside walks provide lots of views of the Nidd, especially colourful in Autumn. On the south side of the river the muddy footpath from the Lido to Spital Croft is always good, with memories of school cross-countries and walking on the two footbridges I built there thirteen years ago. A shorter riverside walk is Foolish Wood and next to the island before crossing Soapy Water Bridge, as it used to be known.

What is Knaresborough’s best kept secret?

Possibly the sally port, but lots of others as well.

What is your pet hate about Knaresborough?

Locals who run the place down. Maybe some things could be improved or tidied up, but really it’s a super town and we should shout about it!

Is there anything you think the town does particularly well?

It has to be the bed race. What a day! I watched the first race in 1966 and have enjoyed many since, but watching it as Mayor was very special. Parading down the High Street, watching from the front lawn at Knaresborough House, firing the starting pistol - these were all good, but then watching the river crossing from the fenced off area, that was just wonderful. Well done to Knaresborough Lions. Then another event that improves every year is the Remembrance Sunday Service, Parade and Wreathlaying.

What three things would you suggest a visitor to Knaresborough should go and see?

The Market Place, The Castle and the boats on the river. Then come back another day to see the Market, Bebra Gardens and Conyngham Hall.

Do you have a favourite shop/venue?

My favourite shops are just memories from childhood. George Heapy’s shop on the High Street, the toy shop opposite, and of course Woolworth’s. An excellent shop nowadays is the ice cream shop on Cheapside, with lots of scrummy flavours to try.

Do you know a quirky tale/legend/fact about Knaresborough?

I don’t think I know any legends that are not already in print, but there are plenty of facts I have learned over the years.

What is your favourite pub/restaurant in Knaresborough?

My preferred pub these days is the Cross Keys, somehow it has the right atmosphere, though it could do with a few more customers. There are plenty of other pubs worth visiting and of course I remember the evening when five of us had a half in every one of all twenty three pubs. I was younger then!

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