Ah, New Year. The time of fireworks, Auld Lang Syne, and resolutions that tend to last a day and a half. Instead of vowing abstinence from all the unhealthiest (and best) things in life, why not start off 2019 by taking part in something that actually interests you, and that provides a benefit to your community, by checking out some of these volunteering opportunities.
Modern living has brought many great joys in recent generations – ease of travel, the rise of the internet and the prevalence of mass media has meant that we can now experience cultures from distant countries such as China, India and Brazil without even leaving town. This has, of course, been a wonderful way of introducing us to fantastic culture, food and personalities from all over the world, but has also contributed to a sort of community amnesia that has been experienced up and down the country. We no longer talk to our neighbours, often choosing social media contact instead. We prefer to take a plane to Spain than discover our immediate surroundings. There is a sense in which communities are losing their identity, and are becoming more and more just a base for the locals to explore further afield.
But one community is trying to reverse that shift. Thanks to a considerable grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, as well as donations from other charities and partners, the Stories in Stone scheme, which has been developed by the Ingleborough Dales Landscape Partnership and led by the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust, has embarked on a project to conserve the culture, heritage and environment of the Ingleborough Dales area. We spoke to Hannah Rose, part of the project team overseeing the scheme, about what it has achieved so far, and what more it can do to ensure that Ingleborough and the surrounding area is celebrated now and in the future.
‘I’ve got the job of thinking how to thank the volunteers who’ve been involved in all these projects!’ Hannah says as we talk about all the work members of the public have already accomplished in the Stories in Stone scheme. She rattles off projects that have been completed, listing the hundreds of volunteer days that went into every one, which makes it clear that this scheme is something that has caught the public’s imagination. The entire programme is split into four main areas – history, nature, discovery and skills – each of which have their own aims, but which all fall under the broad umbrella of protecting the local environment.
Learning about the history of the region has been a particular hit: ‘The archaeology projects have been phenomenal in terms of volunteer time,’ says Hannah, ‘it just goes to show that people want to know more about the history of their area.’ The archaeology projects so far have involved learning more about Thorns, a beautiful hamlet abandoned in Victorian times, and the ancient settlement of Southerscales, which has been dated at anywhere from the Iron Age to late medieval times. The history programme has also begun to dovetail with their commission to provide the community with the skills to care for their environment, as David Johnson, who headed up the digs at Thorns and Southerscales, is looking to provide an archaeology course in 2019 for locals to be able to interpret the history of their own landscape, as well as learning to use tools such as LiDAR to perhaps discover even more history in the area. The projects are not only about discovering history, but also about restoring some of the historical buildings that are in use around the area. The stunning Ribblehead Viaduct covers the northernmost tip of the scheme’s area, and a lot of great restoration work has been done to the nearby Ribblehead Station, including a superb digital installation with information about the Viaduct – ‘the digital project has been amazing – they have an interactive 3D feature where you can move all around the viaduct,’ Hannah tells us.
Stories in Stone does not just protect man-made structures, they have also done considerable conservation work – with plenty still to do – on preserving the unique and beautiful natural landscape of the area. ‘We’ve got a stunning representation of a karst landscape here,’ explains Hannah, ‘so part of the project is making sure that we conserve the limestone pavements that we’ve got.’ Although their work hasn’t been without some surprising problems – ‘One of our trainees was working on the limestone, and discovered an internationally endangered fungus, which meant we had to stop work in that area for it to continue to flourish – you can’t plan for that!’ The scheme are also working with the Council of Northern Caving Clubs, who are in the process of trying to clear out as many caves in the area as possible. The caves have been used in eras past by farmers as dumps for their farmyard waste, and experienced cavers have volunteered to make the caves look more presentable, and ensure they’re as safe as possible for walkers and livestock who might have been at risk of falling in.
Perhaps the most long-lasting aspect of the scheme is their work with both locals – imparting the skills and techniques required to take better care of the landscape – and with children and people from further afield – teaching them about the area and working to impart some of the volunteers’ passion to a new demographic.
One of the most interesting and celebrated parts of the scheme has been the work Judy Rogers has done with the Ingleborough For All project. She has worked with asylum seekers, who have immigrated to Yorkshire, helping them to get to know their new community by meeting and working with local farmers and other craftsmen. ‘A lot of the asylum seekers have left careers behind in their home countries,’ Hannah explains, ‘and quite often there are connections to be made with the locals, because some of these guys used to be farmers before they moved.’ Judy’s work in making connections between asylum seekers and the people of Ingleborough has earned her plaudits far and wide – she was recently the winner of the Sheikh Abdullah Award for Intercultural Dialogue – and is a shining example of what this project is all about; bringing the concept of community back to the forefront of the minds of local individuals.
Volunteers are still needed for a wealth of the projects that Stories in Stone are running – from introducing kids to their local environment and helping refugees, to cleaning up caves and archaeological archiving – so if you live around the Ingleborough Dales area, and want to do more to contribute to your local environment, then consider volunteering.
Find out more at www.storiesinstone.org.uk
Volunteer at the Yorkshire Arboretum
The Yorkshire Arboretum, near Castle Howard, is an idyllic setting, which houses a varied collection of trees and plants of a wild origin, providing a hugely important role in maintaining the genetic diversity of the global plant population. It also functions as a refuge for all sorts of local plants and wildlife, who prefer the Arboretum’s wild meadows and woodland to the farm land surrounding it. Volunteering opportunities at the Arboretum are as varied as its collection, ranging from joining the tree team in looking after the 51 hectare site and maintaining the tree database, to supporting the education officer in teaching 2000 youngsters a year about the Arboretum and the plants and wildlife they can find. All of these roles will have you working as part of a team, with the opportunity to learn new skills and enjoy the picturesque surroundings. Volunteers report feeling that they’re helping at a special place, where their input is genuinely valued and they’re made to feel part of the team, whatever their time commitment.
Yorkie at Yorkshire County Cricket Club
Fans of cricket, rejoice – you can use your time to help out at Headingley for both domestic and international fixtures. The Yorkshire Cricket Foundation, the charity and community arm of Yorkshire CCC, recruit each year for their major match day support team – the Yorkies. Roles centre around creating an excellent experience for all visitors, with Yorkies working in and around the ground to give visitors a true Yorkshire welcome, providing information as well as giving out a few freebies. The Yorkies have received special recognition from the likes of Jonny Bairstow and coach Andrew Gale, who appreciate their help in creating such a great atmosphere. Next year is a big year for Headingley, with the addition of the Ashes and the World Cup to their existing domestic and international fixtures, which is great news for Yorkies, because they get to watch the matches after their duties are complete.
Police Support Volunteer with the West Yorkshire Police
The police are a superb force for good, providing security and peace of mind for the local community. If you have ever wanted to help the force continue their fine work, or indeed perform a small part of that work yourself, then consider becoming a Police Support Volunteer. PSVs perform all sorts of services for the local police force ranging from administrative work, to caring for police horses, to even assisting with minor investigative work. Volunteering for this role supports one of Britain’s great national institutions, and gives you an amazing experience in assisting the great work the police do in the local area.
Volunteer on the Yorkshire Coast with the National Trust
There are a wealth of reasons for people to volunteer, but some of the most common are to give back to the community, to stay active and to meet new people. By volunteering on the Yorkshire Coast with the National Trust, you can fulfil all three of those desires in some stunning surroundings. Perform vital work conserving the area’s flora and fauna in locations such as Hayburn Wyke, a Site of Special Scientific Interest. If you don’t have any experience of conservation, don’t let that put you off – the National Trust give on-site training for all their volunteer tasks, which vary from performing biological surveys of the wildlife in the area to dry stone walling.