John Challis: Herefordshire Ambassadors
PUBLISHED: 11:35 09 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:35 20 February 2013
Famous faces will be selling the county this year. Rachel Crow met some of them to find out why they've become Herefordshire ambassadors.
Perhaps weve been too modest in the past. Perhaps weve relied too much on our picturesque black-and-white villages. Its not in our nature to go on about how wonderful we are, writes Roger Thomas in the editors message of the new Visitor Guide for Herefordshire and the Wye Valley.
But there is a lot to praise in this beautiful, unspoilt county. Theres the patchwork rural landscape with its ancient woodlands and secret valleys; strong communities; fascinating history; thriving arts and cultural scenes and abundance of local produce. In short, it was decided the time was long overdue to sing the countys praises.
With that in mind, Visit Herefordshire launched its Ambassador Programme at Hampton Court Castle and Gardens at the end of last year. A select group of high profile and influential personalities who care passionately about the future health and prosperity of the county have agreed to act as its ambassadors by telling the rest of the UK and the world about its wonders.
The team includes TV celebrities, world-renowned artists and musicians, high-profile sportspeople, writers and broadcasters and many more. Their objective is to promote all that is great about living and working in the county, linking organisations together and developing its social and economic prosperity.
Chairman of Visit Herefordshire, Peter Hands worked for several months tracking down the Great and the Good to enlist their support in promoting Herefordshire and notes how willing they were to embrace this philosophy. I was amazed how many talented people were born or have migrated to Herefordshire to live. I have been overwhelmed by the response from everyone I contacted. The passion and love for Herefordshire and willingness to help in our quest to promote the county and raise its profile is without question and amazing, he says.
Ambassadors who have already signed up include actors John Challis and Miranda Richardson; journalist, columnist and political sketchwriter for the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and Daily Telegraph, Quentin Letts; Art historian, writer and broadcaster, Sir Roy Strong; international tenor, Ian Storey; musician Julian Lloyd Webber; sculptor Walenty Pytel; writer and storyteller Sam Llewellyn; golfer Brian Huggett and many more.
Peter Hands says: In tough economic times tourism is a shining beacon. We need to increase revenues that tourism brings into the county. Last year, the industry brought 410 million into Herefordshire and employs more than eight per cent of the countys residents.
Visit Herefordshire, as well as guiding strategy, runs three events every year: The UGO (University of the Great Outdoors) allows people to enjoy taster sessions of the best activities around the county; we have one of the UKs finest walking festivals, incorporating heritage, food and drink and fantastic scenery and the Flavours of Herefordshire Food Festival, because food production is inextricably linked with tourism. But we are always looking for new ideas and welcome people to help us. We have a lot to be proud of and a large part to play in the future of Herefordshire.
The new Visitor Guide, rather than written in tourism-speak tells the story of Herefordshire from the point of view of people who live here. Jane Lewis, Tourism and Marketing Manager for Herefordshire, says: It is quite amazing who we have discovered with connections to the county. Weve got something really exciting to offer in Herefordshire and we need to be shouting about it from the rooftops.
The Herefordshire Ambassadors share what it is about the county that makes it so special for them I really look forward to returning home to Herefordshire as I am always away performing in various operas around the world. It is just the most tranquil county I know.
The Herefordshire Ambassadors
Actor John Challis
Musician Julian Lloyd Webber
Journalist, columnist and political sketchwriter Quentin Letts
Actress Miranda Richardson
Writer and broadcaster Sir Roy Strong
World-renowned tenor Ian Storey
Sculptor Walenty Pytel
Writer and storyteller Sam Llewellyn
TV antiques expert Kate Bliss
Jockey Richard Johnson
Former Hereford United player Kevin Sheedy
Sports broadcaster Eleanor Oldroyd
Journalist and columnist Matthew Engel
Golfer Brian Huggett
Barrister Lord Alex Carlile
Former Hereford United player Colin Addison
House of Commons Clerk Robert Rogers
Sports writer Brian Viner
Wildlife writer and broadcaster Wincey Willis
Owner of Eastnor Castle James Hervey-Bathurst
Conservative Parliamentary Candidate Jesse Norman
When Im away on my travels I often remember the green and unspoilt hills and valleys of Herefordshire and they are always an inspiration for me. Many years ago it was my love of Elgars music which led me to follow his musical trail and discover the many hidden delights of Herefordshire the county where he once lived and has become so close to my heart. The countys beauty is always under threat from all manner of enemies. Let us forever keep our guard but also welcome visitors, as I was welcomed as a visitor many years ago.
Julian Lloyd Webber
I have lived in Herefordshire most of my life. We have such important things around the county and it is an inspiring place as an artist. I thought I could help in making Herefordshire important by creating a piece of art so gigantic and interesting, people in Britain will want to come and see it.
I am thrilled to have been asked to be an ambassador and I think it is incredibly important for the county to have people with a public profile bringing it to national attention. Whats great about Herefordshire is the extraordinary combination of landscape and food and drink, living arts and crafts and heritage. I dont think theres anywhere else in UK where that combination is as quite as good as here. I think my favourite spot in the county would be in the middle of the Wye River floating downstream. You cant do better than that.
As ambassador I will continue the role I hope I play at the moment, because Im always encouraging people to come to Eastnor and Ledbury. We get 100,000 visitors a year to the area because of the Big Chill and weddings and day visitors, but we want more. In Herefordshire the combination of buildings and landscape is wonderful. We have Shobdon Church, Hereford Cathedral, Ledbury Church and all of the towns are pleasurable. This year Im President of the Three Counties Show so Im hoping to bring Herefordshire to peoples attention, not just for the Herefordshire cattle.
I moved to Herefordshire about 12 years ago and knew no-one in the area and just came and fell in love with it. I am fanatical about wildlife and in Herefordshire you find fantastic things like ancient woodlands and proper meadows and there are still enough wild places that are unspoilt and untouched, the places that lift your spirits. For the size of the county, its quite extraordinary how many artists and poets and writers are here.
Obviously Hereford United was where I made my profession, so whenever I drive past Edgar Street it holds great memories for me. Ive found a lot of people who move here for work end up staying here. Herefords that type of place: once youve lived here even when you move away, you always call it home.
We moved out of London seven years ago and live between Leominster and Bromyard. Its not just the countryside, its the people who make the place. The friendliness of people and openness are great features of the county. You find incredible kind of entrepreneurial activities going on that you stumble across and people just getting on with things and doing very well, quietly. I think its a really special part of the world.