If you had asked me only a couple of months ago, can you see yourself planting trees in the Yorkshire Dales in the near future? I would have quite honestly said no.
Not because I have any kind of aversion to trees, or getting hands on and dirty in the outdoors – it’s simply because I never saw the opportunity being presented to me.
Well, on Tuesday 26 November, I came along to one of the Youth Forum activity days set up by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, during which, I got the opportunity to proudly plant my first tree! This was the first Youth Forum activity day I’d ever attended as I have just recently started my position as Communications Apprentice with the National Park Authority.
The concept of the Youth Forum is quite simple; it gives us, young staff of the National Park Authority, a voice to let our opinions be heard. Every year there are two annual Youth Forum activity days. These provide the opportunity for young people within the National Park to meet up so that we can enjoy a day filled with learning, stimulation, bonding, and of course fun.
This is exactly how I would describe the second Youth Forum activity day, which involved tree planting in Freeholders’ Wood.
The day began bright and early. I swapped my usual office attire for waterproofs and a woolly hat and, despite my precautions, I was hopeful that the weather would remain dry.
Myself and the other members of the Youth Forum (fifteen in total) all made our way to Aysgarth Falls National Park Centre. We gathered to meet up and distribute equipment to be carried down to the site. For myself and some others, this was our first time meeting the other members of the Youth Forum. There were a lot of new faces (mine included) and it was great to socialise!
Shovels in hand, we then made our way down to the planting area in Freeholders’ Wood where we had a fascinating talk by one of the woodland team specialists – Senior Trees and Woodlands Officer Geoff Garrett, who could talk all day about trees – and his very appropriately named dog, Ash. The first to plant a tree was the National Park Authority’s Deputy Chairman – Neil Heseltine. He did a fantastic job, after which myself and the others began to plant our own hazel trees…
We grouped into pairs – this made sure the planting process was done as efficiently as possible. We were instructed to ensure that saplings were not planted too closely together. All of the trees had to have a protective shelter secured tightly around them. Having a shelter is very important as it shields the tree from browsing animals. Shelters also encourage strong tree growth, in a safe environment.
My partner Claire and myself planted three trees altogether. We took our time, making sure the holes we dug were deep enough to support the sapling. The Youth Forum planted fifty hazel trees in total! We recorded our planting by making a pledge with the Woodland Trust, who have confirmed that they received 250,000 pledges to plant. I would urge you to do the same if you are considering planting your own trees.
The day finished off with some bushcraft activities with Forest School teacher Kirsten Civil… and if we weren’t already covered head to toe in mud, this made sure we were. This session included making our own wooden mallets, searching for hazelnuts that weren’t already nibbled, and hopefully not stealing squirrels’ stash. Apparently they only remember where one third of nuts they stash are – not the only mammal that’s forgetful! We also made a fire pit with a tripod to hang our cauldron of vegetable soup. The weather thankfully held out, therefore we were able to light a fire successfully. We used the fire to cook hazelnut bread and cakes. I have to say the food was absolutely delicious; whether you’re a believer in, ‘everything tastes better outside‘ or not. The orange cakes (cakes made inside an orange) were delicious.
One of my favourite parts of the day, closely followed by ‘getting dirty’, was the last activity before we packed up. This was sharing with the group your favourite bit whilst pouring a cup of water over the fire to extinguish it. At this moment, I thought about how much my day had differed to that of my peers who went to university. One thing I really appreciate about the Youth Forum is how I can still socialise and make friends with other young people, meaning I’m not isolated. This was one of my concerns about staying behind in a rural area, instead of going to university like my friends. Days like this make it all worthwhile, and I am proud to be a young person working in the Dales.
My day ended with a muddy appearance back at the office with the knowledge that I had done something to help our environment – albeit something small.
Every tree counts
Learn about this year’s other Youth Forum activity day here.
Learn more about Neil Heseltine’s involvement here.