Community leaders go walking…

March 31, 2020

Our training weekend brings together community organisers from Bradford, Leeds and Blackburn to learn navigation skills and group leadership in the Yorkshire Dales.

The idea is that the participants will then have the knowledge needed to take their own groups out into this fantastic part of the world.

Rosie Russell-Cohen, Outreach, Youth Forum and Eco-Schools officer at YDMT, talks about her experience of the weekend which was held at the beginning of March.

The training weekend is a course designed and run by Ingleborough for All for community leaders and organisers who want to take their own groups out to the Yorkshire Dales.

A big part of this is about bringing people out for one day visits, but we also support groups to come back to the Dales independently, by providing training for key members of community groups on how to organise their own future visits, and building better links between rural and urban community groups.

Arriving at Broadrake Bunkhouse on a darkening evening in early Spring, the group of 11 community leaders and organisers, met for the first time. The weekend always starts with a shared meal, followed by an introductory talk about map reading – it sets the tone for a fantastic weekend of learning and development in the outdoors.

After settling in, we started the weekend with a five mile walk to Ribblehead Viaduct. Breaking into small groups, each participant led part of the way. For many this was their first time navigating and noticing the details of a drystone wall and the slight curvature of the ground can be both grounding and daunting.

It was an opportunity for people to test out their skills and build their confidence in leading a group.

After lunch back at Broadrake, we set of for Snaizeholme Red Squirrel Sanctuary. At Snaizeholme, the wind that whips over Batty Moss and under the arches of Ribblehead Viaduct is muffled by the trees; a stillness heightened as our group stood in silence waiting to catch a glimpse of a red squirrel.

Led by Green Guardians Project Officer, Fiona Busfield, the group took time to absorb the tranquillity of their surroundings. She gave everyone an activity to match paint swatches from paint catalogues with colours found in nature.

It is an activity that makes you look closely at the ground you’re walking on and one participant described it as: “Reconnecting with what’s around us. It made us look at the ground and the fallen leaves and the pine needles and it grounded us. Sometimes getting out into nature seems overwhelming when you live in a city, but Fiona’s activity brought us right back to earth.”

On Sunday, we set off for Southerscales Nature Reserve – with the winding paths up Ingleborough that can be seen from its foothills tempting our keen walkers to return. The group then explored Great Douk Cave’s entrance with its ferns, mosses, lichens, and fungi.

After returning to Broadrake, the weekend concluded with a final discussion on what the group plans to do in the future.

A participant described it exceeding his expectations: “There was a huge amount I learnt from yourselves over the weekend, as well as the opportunity to connect with everyone and a reminder of the importance of meeting and sharing experiences and knowledge with people from all backgrounds and situations.  It has already inspired me with some new ideas and groups we can work with in Blackburn.”

The training weekend is about discovering and rediscovering with people their sense of belonging and ownership of the story of the environment. It is about redefining who belongs and who has access to nature and the outdoors.

The Ingleborough Dales is an area that everyone can enjoy and get involved with. By building lasting connections, we are creating a lasting change in who feels welcome in our beautiful area.

The weekend forms part of the Ingleborough for All programme which provides opportunities for people from disadvantaged backgrounds and groups that are currently under-represented in the countryside to enable them to experience the Ingleborough Dales.

It is part of Stories in Stone, a scheme of conservation and community projects concentrated on the Ingleborough area. The scheme was developed by the Ingleborough Dales Landscape Partnership, led by Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust.

Thank you to Rachel and Mike Benson for their hospitality at Broadrake Bunkhouse and to National Lottery Heritage Fund for their continued support of this project.