Dear Reader: Relief road protest + my bad old days at school

Harrogate and Knaresborough Andrew Jones MP, centre, with some of the protesters against a relief road in the Nidd Gorge.  (Picture: Gerard Binks)
Harrogate and Knaresborough Andrew Jones MP, centre, with some of the protesters against a relief road in the Nidd Gorge. (Picture: Gerard Binks)

A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

Standing there in my running top and shorts last Saturday I thought I recognised one figure in particular in the crowd surrounding me.

Still, I somehow managed to get the protocol all wrong.

“Hello Mr Kirkhope,” I said after deciding I should be a little formal.

“Lord Kirkhope,” he replied with a certain look in his eye.

Emotions high as Harrogate choir ends

I’d run as fast as I could for a mile to ensure I got to the Bilton-Ripley bridleway in time for the start of MP Andrew Jones’s walk in support of sustainable transport at 10am.

It turned out to be a very well attended and civilised form of protest, though I, myself, must have looked a little under-dressed.

I was short of time and breath because I’d come straight from the first official Knaresborough parkrun at Conyngham Hall at 9am. It was a lovely, brilliant five kilometre, two-lap circuit but not one ideal for buggies or dog walkers or the fainthearted.

Hilly and challenging, some entrants had come from as far afield as Middlesbrough almost as if word had already got out that this parkrun was a particularly good one.

I enjoyed it but it left me pretty tired and with only 25 minutes to get to Bilton.

What to do? I realised I’d never make it quickly enough totally by foot so, truth be told, to get to this event aimed at persuading all of us to embrace a future with fewer cars I got a lift along a back road until the final mile.

A most unusual protest took place opposite Bettys elegant tearooms in the centre of Harrogate last Friday.

The pupils ‘strike’ was not only conducted purely by children, it was organised without the help of parents, teachers or any adult I could see after I’d walked from our new office at 55 Grove Road to the protest on Parliament Street.

Blame that pesky or, rather, internationally influential 15-year-old Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg. An obvious thought was whether the young protesters had permission to be off school that morning while doing their small bit to help save the planet?

I’m not sure asking all of them that question in turn would have helped the situation.

The reaction of passersby was mixed – from vocal support to mild verbal abuse.

I didn’t feel in any position to judge. I still remember the more laissez faire days of the early 1970s in Scotland at a time when the country’s famous football club dressed in blue was successful in Europe.

The morning after one famous victory I found myself among 50 or 60 other ten-year-olds running like whirling dervishes in a spontaneous lap of honour round the school’s perimeter until the teachers came out and chased us all back into class.

At the time I didn’t think I done anything wrong.

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