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Rebecca Carpenter, one of our Dales Volunteers, surveying rights of way

Volunteers make the difference

Monday 1 June, 2020, by Sally Robertshaw

This year, volunteers have played a crucial role in supporting communities in the Dales. In 2019, there was a huge voluntary effort to help communities get back on their feet following the devastating floods, and now, during the coronavirus pandemic, again we have seen a significant outpouring of support from those wanting to help those in need.

Usually 1 June marks the start of a national week of celebration for all that volunteers do and the difference they make.  Of course, this year there is no appetite for the celebration of anything, yet, strikingly, the contribution of volunteers is all the more apparent.

Dales Volunteers surveying the National Park’s monuments at risk

This pandemic has shone a spotlight on just how essential volunteers are to the functioning of our society. In many cases the roles undertaken are linked to the fundamentals of life – sewing PPE to keep people safe and running food banks to keep people fed. 

Almost overnight, community Covid support groups sprang up across the country, connecting willing volunteers with those in need.  The Government call for NHS volunteers was oversubscribed within days.

Alongside these initiatives, informal volunteering has soared. An army of citizens shopping for their self-isolating neighbours, collecting prescriptions, and making extra phone calls to those who may be feeling alone or vulnerable means it is truly a time for pride in the volunteer community.

At the National Park Authority, staff and volunteers have been getting involved too. YDNPA Young Ranger Rowan has been assisting with a new venture delivering food in a bus in the Eden Valley. Our Rangers have been delivering prescriptions to isolated residents in Swaledale, and staff have signed up to and supported other initiatives, including the NHS volunteers. 

Like many organisations, our regular volunteering programmes have been paused.

As part of the Malham Peregrine Project, volunteers help visitors discover these incredible birds at the public viewpoint

Usually at this time of the year the National Park would be full of Dales Volunteers up to all manner of activities. For instance, each year volunteers map the condition of the entirety of our rights of way network. A sunny day would have seen many volunteers assessing these routes whilst taking advantage of the weather. 

Popular sites, such as Malham, would have seen our ‘meet and greet’ and our access patrol volunteers out and about to welcome and support visitors.

Rangers would be working with our area team volunteers to develop and maintain rights of way and to continue to rebuild infrastructure following the recent floods.

Volunteers help maintain our busy rights of way network, such as this path at Gordale Scar

Learning and engagement volunteers would be leading a wide variety of guided walks and sharing their extensive knowledge of the Dales with the participants.

At the Dales Countryside Museum our volunteers would be preparing and caring for collections to share with visitors, and, in hidden corners of woodland and far-flung moor tops. Our conservation volunteers would be monitoring the National Park’s resident wildlife. 

And while for now they largely remain at home, our volunteers will, of course, return. 

Volunteers lead guided walks as part of our annual events programme

If you like the sound of joining them, do get in touch. We have a waiting list of people to whom we advertise all of our vacancies first – you can apply here.

In the meantime a huge and heartfelt thanks to all the volunteers in the Dales and beyond whom, in times of crisis but also in none, in the sunshine as well in the storms, tirelessly turn up to make a difference.

Read more about volunteering in the National Park

Picture of Sally Robertshaw

Sally Robertshaw

Sally is the Authority's Volunteers Development Officer


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