An insider's view: Josie Beszant, Masham Gallery
Can you tell us a little about your job and how you came to be doing it?
You'll mostly find me behind the desk at Masham Gallery which I’ve owned and run since 1994. I am also an artist, as are a number of my family and that’s more or less how I came to start the gallery. My gallery job involves choosing and being surrounded by beautiful works of art and craft, meeting lots of artists, regular customers and visitors to the area. It’s generally a pretty fabulous job to have!
What aspect of your job and the place where you work makes you feel happiest?
I think just being surrounded by such beautiful work, work that’s often inspired by the atmosphere of the Yorkshire Dales.
What do you think visitors gain from coming to Masham Gallery?
The Gallery has a very distinct personality: it’s busy, warm, with a contemporary handmade feel, but despite this people often remark on how calm it is. I think they are pleasantly surprised by such a high standard of work in such a small town (Masham) and for so much to be created within the area.
If some one is feeling a little down and perhaps in need of a boost, where in the Yorkshire Dales do you suggest they should visit?
Well of course I am biased towards Masham, I’ve lived here 25 years and I still find it a really special place. However there are so many places near here that would lighten even the heaviest of hearts - the follies in Hackfall woods, the top of Penhill or Whernside or the calm beauty of Coverdale, Jervaulx Abbey or joyous West Burton Falls are all in my top 10.
If a visitor was coming here for two days what would you recommend they should try to do? Any particular places to eat or drink you'd like to recommend?
All of the above places if you can fit them in! As for eating/drinking I’m a vegetarian so I always look for a place with a good choice on the menu, I love the Fox and Hounds at Carthorpe, The Cafe on the Square in Masham, Berry’s Farm shop/cafe Wensleydale, The Blue Lion at East Witton, The Angel at Hetton. In the summer the Bruce Arms in Masham has a great beer garden, looking out over the cricket pitch to the river. Of course you have to visit both Theakstons and The Black Sheep Brewery in Masham too….too much for two days? Better come back again!
Where do you feel sudden swooping joy?
Coming down Station Bank towards Masham. Always beautiful whatever the weather. The first time I ever saw it an unwitting tear rolled down my face at the beauty of it, its emotional power has never faded in all that time.
Is there a happy detail in everyday life that many of us miss?
There are so many details we can miss in a busy life, in the Dales just stepping outside taking a breath and being aware of all the minute changes in the seasons can give me a lot of happiness.
Where's your favourite place to just sit and look?
There’s a bench by the river Ure in Masham, next to a place called sandy bay by the locals, and just along from the wishing tree, it’s pretty magic.
Do you know a local person who you think embodies the Yorkshire Dales spirit?
This is a difficult question as there are so many really. However I’ve settled on my work neighbour Ian Johnson. Ian was born in the dales as was his family for decades before him. He is a traditional carpenter with an amazing level of skill. He is a great treasure trove of local stories, myths, legends and history. He is an intrinsic part of our community, a bellringer, a church warden and a very generous person who will always help anyone out and is often seen volunteering at events. But perhaps contrary to first impressions, the dales isn’t just about tradition, and neither are the people who live here.
On some evenings, weekends and at many local hen parties you’ll see Ian as an entirely different person, all 6ft 5 of him, with the most outrageous heels, skin tight dresses and sparkles you’ve ever seen on any drag queen. He is one of the happiest people I’ve ever met and I think that, and the acceptance of people for whoever they are embodies the spirit of the Yorkshire Dales.
Anything else you'd like to tell us that we probably don't know!
Stop and look long enough in Masham and you might be lucky enough to find some "guerilla art", all sorts has been found over the last few years from tiny carved animals in conker shells, to painted twigs or stones.
More Yorkshire Dales insider views