An insight into lambing in the Dales and volunteering
May 8, 2015
Spring has got to be one of the most exciting times of year, full of new life and the promise of things to come.
It is the time of year when our outreach work begins again in earnest, and already this year more than 70 people have taken part in our People and the DALES project through a series of eight lambing events held at Ribblehead.
Refugees, asylum seekers, adults with learning difficulties, and hard to reach youngsters from socially deprived backgrounds all spent an unforgettable day our with us helping on the upland hill farm of Rodney Beresford.
In total we’ve lent a hand checking and marking 450 lambs, and many of the groups actually witnessed the birth of a lamb, as well as having the opportunity to help with bottle feeding and herding.
Jonathan is a volunteer with one of the groups that took part, and he’s very kindly agreed to share his thoughts about the day with us…
For the last 6 months or so I’ve been volunteering in Leeds at a charity called St Vincent’s Support Centre. They do lots of things to support people, but one of the main things they do is provide free English classes to speakers of other languages. And that’s the area that I help with. I’ve always loved language and English in particular, so I thought I might like to try and explain what I like about it to other people.
Yesterday I was trying to explain to a group of young people what the point of voluntary work is. It can be a shocking concept to some people the idea of working without getting paid, but that doesn’t take account of the accidental good things that happen through volunteering that you can’t measure in money.
I get so many of these ‘unquantifiable in terms of money’ good feelings from the people I meet at St Vincent’s, and the lambing trip was just an extra layer on top of that.
The first thing to mention is that I was amazed at the Jedi like calmness of the farmer. At first I didn’t understand why he was Baa-ing at them, but when one answered that had fallen down a ditch, and then when a mother went to look for her lamb because he told her to, I started to get it. He was so in tune with the work he was doing, and so expert at it without being a show-off, there’s a lesson there for all of us.
And I thought in advance that it might put me off eating meat, seeing lambs been born, but it didn’t because of the care with which they were being treated, and even if it’s a short life, it’s still a good life out there in the Dales. And if I had to be born as a sheep, there are worse places for it to happen. All of us have short lifespans, that we don’t know the when and the where of the ending of, so we’re not all that different from sheep anyway.
The weather certainly helped, in that it was a beautiful day, and we saw the Dales at their best, but the highlight for me had to be delivering a lamb, at the end of the day, just before we got back in the bus. The farmer offered to let one of us pull the lamb out of its mother, and no-one else volunteered, and I thought ‘Why not?, I may never get the chance again’. It didn’t actually need all that much pulling, because it was pretty slimy and it came out easily. I found I didn’t mind the slime, because I was on a high just from being there at a new birth, and when the new lamb tried to walk after only a couple of minutes I really wanted it to succeed, as if it really was my own child, but then like other real-life fathers who’ve done the easy bit, I went off in a minibus and let the mum get on with bringing it up.
I think that ‘high’ has lasted all week, and for a whole week I’ve told anyone who’ll listen about how I delivered a baby lamb. And so that’s the point of voluntary work I think. Not only are you doing something useful to help others, but sometimes alongside the thing that you’re volunteering at, really amazing and accidental things can happen, which make you feel really, really good.
If you would like to read more about Jonathan’s experience with us, and his thoughts on other matters, please take a look at his own blog here – it’s well worth a read 😉
You can also keep up to to date with the inspirational work of our People and the DALES project on their dedicated Facebook page.