Wednesday, 12 June 2013
Peter Walker, who (under the name Nicholas Rhea) wrote the books on which the enormously successful TV series Heartbeat was based, is the man who set up the Northern Chapter of the CWA, of which he was the convenor for many years. He's a great guy, and it was really good to have lunch with him and his wife Rhoda at another chapter meeting in Yorkshire on Sunday.
I was able to tell Peter and Rhoda that the previous day I'd finally achieved an ambition by travelling on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, the preserved steam engine line that runs through "Heartbeat Country" on the moors, passing through the station at Goathland where a good many scenes in the series were filmed. Departing from Pickering, you can reach the other end of the line at Whitby in an hour and a half, and on a fine day, it's a beautiful trip. I'd made the excuse for years of waiting for a fine weekend, and happily Saturday was the ideal day to undertake the journey.
There's somethng about steam railways that provokes nostalgia, and whenever I've travelled on lines like this (an old favourite being the Tal-y-Llyn line in mid-Wales), I'm impressed by the devotion of the volunteers who devote so much time and effort to ensuring that these lines and trains are not lost forever, but are used to introduce people to lovely corners of the countryside. A sign of the success of the NYMR venture was the large party of German tourists who were having a wonderful time on board.
The NYMR is very different from the conscious glamour and luxury of the Orient Express, but in its own way, it is equally appealing (and a lot cheaper, believe me..) I had a great time, and I'd like to do the trip again and spend more time at Goathland. I was struck, too, by the number of guidebooks available with a Heartbeat theme. Peter's stories certainly struck a chord with millions of people. And I find it interesting that the leading scriptwriter on the series was the former cricketer and now novelist Peter Gibbs, whose Settling the Score I enjoyed so much, and whom I had the pleasure of meeting for the first time recently. Both the Peters, Walker and Gibbs, are delightful companions. And highly entertaining writers.