Countryside quiz champions rural life
Stephen Tomlin is a professional actor. He combined his love of quizzes and the countryside to run a fun awareness-raising event for CPRE Northumberland.
I’ve always had an affinity for the countryside, having grown up on the edge of Dartmoor. We didn’t have a car but didn’t need one to explore the countryside. It was such a gift to be able to walk or cycle out on to the moors. I think of this as what Wordsworth calls the seed time of my soul, a formative experience starting a passion which would last a lifetime.
I was lucky enough to get a grant to go to drama school at the age of 18, and when I took that step I began a metropolitan life that was to last up until my 50s. But I never lost my fondness for the great outdoors. For the last three years, I’ve kept an online country diary, documenting all aspects of rural life in our remote corner of rural Northumberland. I’m also a member of CPRE, the countryside charity.
Another interest of mine is quizzes. I was the Mastermind champion in 1991, answering questions on Sir Francis Drake, Henry VII and, of course, Dartmoor. Since moving north I’ve become very involved in quizzes, so I came up with the idea of running one to raise funds for the local CPRE. I approached Annie and Colin at CPRE Northumberland and they were keen to give it a go! This would be the first quiz the group had run, and I wanted to make sure it was perfect for them. I was a little nervous that people might think I’d be interrogating them with Mastermind-level questions, so had to make sure it was clear this would be a fun evening.
It took several months to put the quiz together. I’d dip in and out of writing questions on a mix of subjects, as they occurred to me, and tested them out on friends to make sure they were pitched at the right level. When you’re putting a quiz together remember that people want to have fun, and not feel stupid!
We had to make sure the event ran at the right time of year so that it was easy for people to get to: weather can have quite an impact on transport around here.
A successful night
On the night, around 30 people attended, and I was very happy with how it went. I’d got the level just right: people said that the answers were guessable, even if they didn’t know them for sure. In fact the scoring between teams was very close! I was really impressed with the raffle the local group ran on the same night too, which had some fabulous prizes.
The group have said that it was a great way to spread the word about CPRE, highlighting the charity’s role in championing rural life as well as raising funds on the night. The questions I chose also helped remind everyone why they care so much about the English countryside.
We’ll definitely do more of these, perhaps one a year in different parts of the county, and CPRE Northumberland would definitely recommend similar events to other local groups.
Why I volunteer
I get a lot out of volunteering. Firstly, straightforward enjoyment. I loved putting together and running the quiz and look forward to doing more. Then there’s excitement, sometimes tinged with fear because you want everything to work well! You also get a sense of belonging, being part of a CPRE local group. And of course it makes you happy to think that you’re contributing towards something worthwhile.
My advice for others considering volunteering with CPRE is: be brave. Once you’ve made the initial step, others will help you. It’s like being at the beach preparing to go into the sea. The water looks chilly, but once you dive in it can be marvellous!
Could you spare some time to volunteer for your local CPRE and stand with the countryside that you love? Learn more about the experience of volunteering for CPRE, the countryside charity, or drop us a line: email@example.com.