THERE can be few people with a greater passion for this green and pleasant land than Arnold Sanderson.

“We have lots to be proud of, but instead of being proud, people run it down and knock it,” he says when I catch up with him at home in Spennymoor, County Durham.

The 83-year-old loves the stunning landscapes of the Lake District, Peak District and Pennines, and the character and history of towns such as Richmond and Durham City.

“You don’t have to venture out of England to see nice landscapes and towns, we have got everything here.

“Simply being English makes me happy,” he adds.

He is proud to be Spennymoor through-andthrough, born to bricklayer Clement William and Doggart’s dressmaker Rose Hannah and educated at North Road County School before serving a seven-year carpentry apprenticeship with Weardale Steel, Coal and Coke Company.

Now there is an official flag of County Durham, registered last year, Mr Sanderson can make a public display of his county and national pride by flying it alongside the St George’s Cross today.

“I am just about the only person who does it here now.

“The Scots, Irish and Welsh are quite rightly very proud of their heritage, but as soon as the English mention it, they call it racism.

For the last few years, our flag has been taken over by a political party, but it still belongs to every man and woman in this country.

“They go out on St Patrick’s Day and eat Haggis for Burns Night, I would like everyone in England to buy a flag and fly it.”

One of the things Mr Sanderson admires most about his country is its Armed Forces.

As part of his national service, he was posted to the Suez Canal as a Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers armourer, and he works hard to pay tribute to its men and women, past and present.

For 18 years, he has been the parade marshal for Spennymoor’s Remembrance Parade and he organises a drumhead service at the town’s Jubilee Park on Armed Forces Day.

He says: “I am passionate about it, it is so important to remember and look after our service personnel.”

He has no greater respect than for the Gurkhas serving with the British Army.

When he retired 20 years ago, from the building company he set up in 1961, he began handcrafting walking sticks and shepherd’s crooks and ended up with a stall in Richmond Market Hall.

It was there he met a Gurkha officer and an incredible friendship with the Gurkhas was born.

Later that year, a small contingent of Gurkha soldiers took part in the Remembrance Parade, in Spennymoor, which they did in 2005 and 2006, and Mr Sanderson got to know Colour Sergeant Jai Bahadua Dura Gurung.

As Arnold and his wife, Margaret, got to know Jai and his family, they learnt of the everyday struggles retired gurkhas and children face in Nepal.

After being educated in India, Jai had returned to his home village of Lamjung and taught in a timber-framed school before joining the British Gurkhas.

When he shared his dream of building a stone school back home, Mr Sanderson was immediately on board, and with his fundraising, the school was built within three years.

For his 80th birthday, Mr Sanderson asked for donations for the Friends Academy School in Lamjung, and £500 was collected to add finishing touches, including sports equipment.

“Since starting, we have raised over £20,000 for the school and Gurkha Welfare Trust, which looks after retired gurkhas from the Second World War and their widows,” he said.

“I have a massive respect for them; they are lovely people, very, kind, respectful and polite and always have a smile on their face.”

Money is not the only thing Mr Sanderson has gifted to Ghurkas.

Dozens of the decorative sticks he made have ended up in Nepal.

For every passing-out ceremony at the Gurkha Company Infantry Training Centre at Catterick, North Yorkshire, he makes sticks and decorates them with a Gurkha badge for the finest young recruits.

They then send them back to their parents in Nepal as a memento, and he often receives a ceremonial kukri sword as a thank you.

He says: “It makes me very proud to know they are out there. They are a functional item for the mams and dads, who often live in remote hills, and it makes me feel great that I can do something for them. I think they are such great people.”