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USDD Volunteers

Up Skill, Down Dale – Youth Volunteering Programme

Up Skill Down Dale is a programme for people aged 18 to 29 who want to learn new skills to help them begin a career in the environment.

Every April participants join a year-long supported programme with other like-minded people to explore a suite of exclusive volunteering and training opportunities with the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA).

The programme offers a variety of environmental action task days which develop nature and conservation awareness, skills and confidence. Participants also gain insight into different job roles, the people and organisations behind them, and make useful connections to support their routes to employment and other opportunities in the sector.

Aged 18-29? Do you enjoy being in nature and want to improve your knowledge and understanding of what you can do to help it? read on to find out if Up Skill, Down Dale is for you….

The USDD group meet one Saturday a month, in different areas of the Yorkshire Dales and carry out practical conservation tasks. You will have the opportunity to meet different professionals in the conservation and outdoor community and expand your knowledge in a wide variety of subjects. Previous years’ participants have had sessions on peat bog restoration, bee and wildlife surveys, conservation farming, tree planting and stonewalling. Have a look at the bottom of the page to see what previous Up Skill, Down Dale participants have got up to….

In addition to the monthly meet-ups there may also be opportunities for you to undertake an individual volunteer placement with the various teams in the Authority, such as Farming Conservation, Learning and Engagement, Trees and Woodlands, Wildlife and Conservation or the Rangers.


Plus! As well as these opportunities you will be supported by our specialist mentor Rachael who will work with you during the programme – as well as benefitting from expert tutorship from other specialist YDNPA staff depending on the opportunities chosen.

Eligibility to participate:

Up Skill Down Dale is open to all young people, aged 18 to 29 years at the start of the programme (April).

It is for anyone interested in starting or building up to a career in the environmental sector, though you do not need to have had any previous experience in voluntary activity or practical conversation tasks.

You need to be able to travel to the activities which will take place across the Yorkshire Dales National Park. We reimburse travel costs (up to an agreed maximum) and aim to support those who will be using public transport by offering lifts from some local transport links (where possible).

This is a year-long programme and so we are looking for people who can attend for the duration and are able to make a commitment to attend at least ten volunteer sessions over the year.

We aspire to have a diverse and inclusive programme and strongly encourage applicants from all backgrounds to apply and join us.

Programme duration:

The programme runs annually: we recruit in Spring, start in April and hold 12 monthly sessions before graduation the following March. The regular monthly sessions are typically on the third Saturday of every month (with some occasional additional sessions), and the optional placement times will be arranged individually.

How to apply:

Applications for 2024 USDD are now closed. If you are interested in hearing more about our 2025 opportunity please contact

A year of Up Skill, Down Dale….

Up Skill, Down Dale began at the YDNPA in May 2021, with 12 young people aged 18-29 embarking on a whirlwind journey of new knowledge and skills, friendships with like-minded people and gorgeous Dales vistas.

The group met one weekend a month in different parts of the Yorkshire Dales and volunteered on a wide variety of tasks. In some cases there was hard graft; bashing back bracken, tree planting or stonewalling. The sessions were also a great opportunity to learn new skills, such as finding out about invertebrate populations through e DNA surveys and learning about peatland bog restoration and upland conservation farming. Volunteers met lots of professionals working in the conservation community and got to explore routes into the green economy.

Teams in the Authority also supported volunteers for specific placements. Volunteers were mentored by staff in the Trees and Woodlands, Wildlife Conservation, Learning and Engagement and Farming Conservation Teams. There were opportunities for First Aid training, navigation practice and GIS training.


A snippet of life as a Youth Volunteer…

Here are some first-hand accounts from previous year’s volunteers;

“I found Caroline to be a great listener, who worked hard to plan days based on activities that members of the group had expressed an interest in trying. One of my favourite Saturday sessions was our trip to Kexwith Farm up on the moors in a remote part of the Dales. We were armed with waterproofs and bamboo sticks to bash back the invasive bracken on the farm. What I enjoyed most about this day was the freedom to move around and chat away with different people getting to know them as we worked. Along with learning the importance of bashing, we got to have a go at dry stone walling with a friendly group of local chaps that have many years of experience between them and great senses of humour.  

I’ve learned lots of useful nuggets of information such as not all bees are bumblebees, but all bumblebees are bees, this came from our Bee Survey Day with the YDNPA Tees-Swale Trainee, Rhiannon. I learned that there are over 250 species of bees in the UK and most tend to be solitary, unlike the familiar honey bee that lives and works in colonies.  

One of the reasons I believe USDD to be a valuable experience is due to the inclusivity, it has been great meeting like-minded individuals who share similar interests with whom I could be myself around. I have been able to develop new skills such as, how to kick sample a riverbed to collect eDNA, how to start and keep a fire going, and how to engage with people of different ages and backgrounds. I believe USDD played a large part in helping me get my current apprenticeship with Dorset Council as a Countryside Ranger and would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to develop themselves and make friends.”

Lydia Gill, USDD Volunteer

“I wanted to get involved with Up Skill, Down Dale because I found myself living at home as a result of the pandemic, completing my studies from my childhood bedroom. I wanted to meet people and give something back to the environment I grew up in and love. The Yorkshire Dales is such a special place, so it made sense to commit some of my time to volunteering in the Park before I might have to move away for employment.

Up Skill, Down Dale has been fantastic so far – not only am I able to get involved in the landscape, but I’ve met other like-minded young people from across the Park. It’s so lovely to chat to other people my age about why we love the National Park, and what we see as our future within it. I have also been involved in the National Park Management Plan Steering Group, as a Youth Representative which, in part, meant that I was offered the opportunity to meet Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak on Friday 12th November, at Grinton Lodge YHA. In our brief chat, I outlined why I wanted to be involved in the Park, and why USDD is a vital part of the life of young people in the area.”

Laura Day, USDD Volunteer

Photos taken this year….

Young person planting trees
Freya tree planting

Alice stone walling with the National Trust

Isla practising her fire lighting skills

Amy planting cotton grass with Yorkshire Peat Partnership

Aaron, Rhiannon and Charlotte bee surveying

Lydia bracken bashing at Kexwith Farm

Sufiyaan relaying the path at Linton