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Visit the Dales


DCM and Dales Volunteer, Tony Keates

How long have you been a volunteer?

12 years.

Why did you want to become a volunteer?

I had taken early retirement a few years previously and had moved up to the Dales so I was looking for something to occupy my time in a useful and fulfilling way. When the opportunity arose to become a DCM Volunteer to help out with the new Local Studies Room, I decided that, with my interests in family and local history, it seemed a good project in which to be involved.

What do you do as a volunteer?

I spend one or two days a month in the Open Access Room, looking after the collection of material there and being available should any visitor who is doing family or local history research require help or assistance using the material that we have. I also spend one day a week building and/or repairing drystone walls within the National Park along with a regular group of volunteers.

What do you enjoy about being a volunteer?

In the case of the Open Access Room at the Museum, I find the work there always interesting. It is really satisfying if I can help somebody to make an exciting discovery about their ancestors in the Dales or their interests in the local history of the Dales.

As regards drystone walling, the drystone walls of the Dales are such a major feature of the landscape, and have so much history attached to them, that I feel I should do everything that I can to help preserve them. Walling is also an incredibly satisfying and rewarding occupation. It gets me out into new, sometimes remote, areas of the National Park. I feel that I am putting something back into the Dales as a 'thank you' for everything that living here has given to me.

What’s been your greatest achievement as a volunteer?

A difficult one! I am very proud of the part I have played, and continue to play, in the development of the Open Access Room. If I had to choose, it would probably be the project to rebuild a historic drystone walled pony enclosure on Malham Moor. This project took the best part of a year, often in inclement weather. It involved us taking down and rebuilding approximately 250 tons of stone, around the 250 metre perimeter of the enclosure. Now every time I drive past it I feel an immense sense of satisfaction and pride in a job well done.

Where is your favourite place in the Yorkshire Dales National Park?

Another difficult one! There are so many wonderful places in the National Park – Coverdale, where I now live, the magnificent Malham Cove and Gordale Scar, and lonely and wild Upper Wharfedale, to name only a few. My ultimate favourite would probably be the Three Peaks area, with its amazing variety of landscape features and scenery.

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Three Peaks

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