VOICES from Herriot Country are being broadcast worldwide to help cheer people up during lockdown and raise money for the NHS.

York residents Helen Leavey and Simon Collins recorded the stories of fascinating people living in the Thirsk area made famous by author and vet Alf Wight, aka James Herriot.

Those stories and reflections on rural life have been put together in a podcast which in its first few days was listened to more than 1,000 times around the world, including in America, Australia, Italy and Sweden.

The idea came about last summer when Ms Leavey and Mr Collins decided to mark the 50th anniversary of the first James Herriot book being published with a related podcast.

They then set out to find, record and photograph Yorkshire characters who could have stepped from the pages of a Herriot book.

Several of their interviewees personally knew Alf Wight, who lived and worked in and around Thirsk for more than five decades after arriving there in 1940.

Ms Leavey, a former BBC journalist and ghostwriter for Channel 5 Yorkshire Vet Peter Wright, said: “Voices from Herriot Country has been a lovely project to work on, chatting to fascinating people in magical places with, naturally, lots of cups of tea and a fair few scones.

"Herriot lives on. It’s clear there are still plenty of ‘characters’ around and we’re looking forward to meeting many more.”

Ms Leavey and Mr Collins have regularly worked together since meeting three years ago as Yorkshire Wildlife Trust media volunteers.

Ms Leavey said: “When we realised last year that in April 2020 it would be 50 years since the first Herriot book was published, we decided to get cracking,”

The pair had originally planned to release all of the podcast a little later on, but with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, they decided to release three early episodes to 'put some smiles on some faces'.

They hope UK listeners will make a donation to the NHS while those abroad will donate to a medical facility of their choice.

Episode one features 85-year-old farmer Chris Greensit whose family’s vets were Alf Wight and Donald Sinclair, James Herriot and Siegfried Farnon in the Herriot books.

Mr Greensit has never been abroad and only been to London once.

In episode two listeners meet Rose Dawson, a pensioner with a passion for helping injured and sick owls; she now has more than 50 in her garden.

She was first introduced to the bird by the Herriot vets in the 1980s. Episode three features retired butcher Ray Ballard who talks about Alf Wight and Donald Sinclair as well as his wealthy customer Marjorie Warner.

Millions of readers and viewers knew her as 'Mrs Pumphrey', the popular Herriot character who spoiled her Pekingese dog Tricki Woo. The podcast is now available on Itunes, Spotify and Soundcloud.