Green Guardians learn the art of bushcraft

Sarah our Green Guardians Project Officer talks about her Easter adventures in bushcraft.

Green Guardians is all about getting young people outside to make connections to nature. Bushcraft can be a great way to do this. There’s something about spending time in the woods and sitting round a fire fettling that really brings people together.

Green guardians groups learn the art of bushcraft

Sorting sticks for the first bushcraft challenge!

I had a great couple of days out in the first week of the Easter holidays with two youth groups – Oxenhope Youth and Skipton Young Carers doing bushcraft activities. We were based up at Malham Tarn Field Centre and whilst the weather was somewhat bleak, spirits were high.

Each day began with an orienteering type quiz to collect items needed for the bushcraft session. This gave the young people time to explore the beautiful location on their own. They also found out a bit about what goes on at Malham Tarn and how the Field Studies Council work to benefit the environment.

Fire lighting challenge

Bushcraft began! Not surprisingly we started by collecting a lot of sticks and sorted them into size order, followed by a demonstration on how to light a fire without matches. The young people were then challenged to light their own fires. Given the rather wet weather, this was a pretty tricky task! But both groups succeeded without help and we made hot chocolate on the Kelly kettle to celebrate & warm up.

Green Guardians groups learn fire lighting and other bushcraft skills

Success in the fire lighting challenge!

Getting crafty

I’d designed the rest of the session to be quite informal with craft activities they could try on and round the fire. Some of the group decided they’d like to do some den building – which was great. When I work with young people I’m really keen to let them follow their own interests as much as possible. So long as it’s safe is my motto!

The group took part in some craft activities including:

  • making little clay creatures to bake in the fire
  • making charcoal to draw with and take home
  • making stick people from wire and Elder twigs
  • Pewter casting

Our favourite activity was pewter casting which produced some lovely results that the young people could take home.

Green Guardians groups learn pewter casting

Pewter casting – our favourite fireside craft activity.

Connecting with nature
The day concluded with a bit of reflection around the fire – with toasted marshmallows of course!

My favourite comments from the day were:

“That is was one of the best times I’ve had in a long time . It was just great to get outdoors and learning life saving skills and stuff.”

“That it’s a great way to re-connect with nature when you feel you are always stuck inside and want to have fun outdoors. Great time!”

Big thanks to all the young people for their enthusiasm and to the support staff who came along and to Malham Tarn Field Centre for letting us use their grounds (and come inside for lunch on the coldest day!).

Green Guardians is part of the YDMT’s Green Futures programme part of Our Bright Future, a £33 million programme funded by the Big Lottery Fund and run by a consortium of eight organisations which is led by The Wildlife Trusts. To find out more about Green Guardians visit our website.

YDMT Ambassador wins Gold!

We were delighted to hear that Chris Myers, our Ambassador and award-winning garden designer, struck gold once again with his latest leafy masterpiece at the RHS Cardiff Flower Show at the weekend… and scooped the highly prized award for Best Show Garden!


Chris’ pretty woodland and water garden tells the Welsh mythical story of Blodeuwedd, whilst drawing subtle inspiration from closer to home – the Yorkshire Dales, where Chris lives and works.

The woodland setting and wild flower planting was inspired by the woods seen by Chris around his home; specifically the Laund Oak woodland on the Bolton Abbey Estate which he passes most days, and which incidentally is one of YDMT’s supporter woods (you can read more here).

Chris said: “I love to see the way nature is working with the trees planted and forming a woodland. The beauty of nature, and the Yorkshire Dales in particular, is a real inspiration to me, making it a pleasure to be a YDMT Ambassador.”

The spring blooms used in the garden included our native daffodil (Narcissus pseudonarcissus) which Chris has admired in Farndale in the North York Moors, and a range of native meadow species, inspired by the wonderful wildflower hay meadows of the Yorkshire Dales.


The sculpture of Blodeuwedd as an owl was created by Michael Kusz – a sculptor living and working in Reeth in Swaledale. He cut each feather out of old copper hot water cylinders and then welded them together one at time to create the finished piece.

The Yorkshire connections continued with plants being supplied by Johnsons of Wicksley, and a living ivy screen supplied by Green Tech near Harrogate.

Huge congratulations Chris!

A Time For Welcome

Last weekend families in and around Skipton welcomed 22 refugees and asylum seekers into their homes.

Organised in partnership with Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust, the Bradford Immigration & Asylum Support & Advice Network (BIASAN), the Craven Refugee Support Network and various churches in Skipton, the weekend included an action packed programme: a climb up Holy Trinity tower where the bell ringers demonstrated their art, a trip on a canal barge and an African dance and drumming workshop. The Saturday evening was filled with laughter as we danced to the Batty Moss Ceilidh band which about 80 people enjoyed, and Sunday morning saw many of our visitors share in worship in various churches throughout the town.

As food is a big part of any holiday, meals were prepared and shared together, in and by various churches, helping to form new friendships and understanding. The generosity of the people of Skipton was enormous.


Paul Martin Emery was one of the hosts, and he has written this moving account of the weekend, which he’s kindly allowed us to share with you below…

The Visitor, a sharing by Paul Martin Emery                                                                                   

Dear Friends

This last weekend Ruth and I had the opportunity to open our home to a special visitor. Like many others our home became an open place of welcome for a refugee from a war torn country. In this case Syria and more pointedly, the city of Aleppo. At one time a beautiful city, the most populous in Syria, which served as the capital of the Aleppo Governorate.

A city now in ruins. Its heart and soul literally torn apart by the war. Its streets a maze of rubble with what counts for daily life being conducted underground.

What a glaring contrast with a simple little back bedroom, in a village called Silsden resting by the shadow of the far side of Ilkley Moor. The only rubble here being the repairing of the roadside walls after the floods of 2015. No bombs in the morning just the sweet sound of the birdsong greeting the coming day.

This visit was a learning curve in so many ways. As Friday arrival day dawned I busied myself preparing the room. Small touches. A face cloth and towels neatly arranged on a chair. Books about England and the countryside and seasons, on the bookcase. But an awareness also in myself of both anticipation, nervousness and emotion. What will this be like? How will it go? Will he feel welcome? The answer to that was his smiling response when I bid him Welcome in his native Arabic as he came up the steps to the front door.

“Ahlaan bik”   Welcome…His smile reassuring…and a simple thank you in response and as he settled into the lounge a gracious “you have a beautiful home”. A simple compliment but filled with the sense to me that at one time he had such a home. We responded by bidding him welcome again and inviting him to be at home and all we had was his too.

We sat up until midnight, our eyes heavy after such emotion of the day, talking and sharing his war experience and his journey. His voice not angry or bitter. More one of recognition that this is how it was, this is how it is. Later it struck me as I lay in bed that one hears the words of such an experience but the imagination takes much longer to register just what it was that brought this young man half way round the world to that simple little back bedroom of ours.

In truth the imagination can not recreate that all too personal experience of bombs and destruction and a boat on the high seas with water up to the knees. Nor can it do justice to the feeling that once you feel you have reached safety you find yourself in a caged compound grateful for any bit of half clean cardboard you can make a bed out off..

One simply can not put yourself in their place or fully appreciate that level of suffering or displacement. You do what you can do…you are here and you are welcome.

There were lighter moments to. Ones of simple domesticity. The choice of cereal at breakfast. The choice of jam etc on the toast. That quiet coming together over the first meal of the day. Later in the day as we sat in my recording studio, as promised a small selection of guitar tracks. What would you like me to play…The theme from the Lion King and Hotel California by the Eagles…Played with a sense of care and love. Appreciation from someone who clearly loves music and a moment of connection… Later his request that I record a music programme for him…

A simple request that spoke to me of someone feeling at home…Again an act of normal life…

Our home suddenly feeling empty after we said our goodbyes and he had left… A sense of tender sadness as I tidied away the books from his room and looked backed at the perfectly made bed. Not just a bed but a resting place in every sense of the word….

A tender and humbling experience. A weekend that touched both Ruth and I. A weekend of sharing and joy and yes at times, sadness and near tears. But more than that this was a weekend of giving and sharing from his side as much as ours. Two worlds, very different, two cultures and faiths coming together in a profound act of trust.

My thoughts in the quiet after his leaving…..

The way we open our doors, hearts and minds to the refugee is a measure of our humanity. To close the door, our hearts and our minds is to diminish ourselves and our humanity as we deny to ourselves that richness of cultural experience and opportunity of learning and sharing that the simple act of saying ….you are welcome brings into all our lives..

We sent our visitor off with a book on our landscapes and wildlife…we inscribed the inside cover with the following..

Lord…Allah…there is a terrible war in Syria and many are suffering. Please grant peace in that place. We ask you this in love and humanity…

     For our brother in humanity…

May love be your guide and peace be at your side…

His eyes moved and again that simple phrase. “Thank you”

We wish him well and as he said an Angel by his side…

Thank you to him for enriching our lives and thank you friends.

Paul IMG_5749

Highlights of 2016

We’d like to say a big ‘thank you’ to the many individuals, businesses and partner organisations who have supported our charitable work over the last twelve months – we couldn’t have achieved so much without you!


2016 got off to a flying start with the launch of several exciting new projects, including Stories in Stone; a four year programme of community and heritage projects based around the Ingleborough area. The £2.6 million scheme is mainly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund thanks to National Lottery players, and has already seen us deliver lots of education, outreach and training opportunities, as well as distributing around £50,000 in grants to support local initiatives.

To celebrate the tenth anniversary of our work restoring wildflower hay meadows, we launched Meadow Links – a project that aims to empower communities to conserve their local wildlife. Working together we’ll create species-rich meadows and wildlife patches across the Dales and Forest of Bowland to support bumblebees, butterflies, birds and small mammals.

Hay meadows, a haven for wildlife

Green Futures also began this year, bringing opportunities for 4,000 young people aged 11-24 to connect with their local environment over five years. We’re sharing the skills and knowledge to help make real environmental improvements and raise awareness. It’s part of Our Bright Future – a movement of 31 youth-led projects across the UK, funded by the National Lottery through the Big Lottery Fund.

The launch of the Roger Stott Community Grant Fund was another highlight of 2016. We awarded £30,000 in small grants to community groups in and around the Yorkshire Dales to support a wide variety of local projects, including new playground equipment, village hall improvements and craft workshops to name just a few. Thanks to ongoing support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, a further £45,000 has been added to the fund, and we’re looking forward to supporting many more community projects that will make a big difference to local people.

Environmental conservation continues to be a key focus, and we’d particularly like to thank our friends at The Fuelcard Company for their vital support in this area. Working with landowners and partners including Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and the Forestry Commission, we have planted around 1.3 million new native trees since 1996, with several more new woodlands being planted this winter.

2017 looks set to be another exciting year, not least because we will be celebrating the Trust’s 20th birthday. We plan to mark the occasion by distributing 20 special awards to support a range of initiatives across the region – we’ll look forward to sharing details in due course.

We’d like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all at YDMT.


First summit for our young green champions!

Sian is one of our Green Futures Environmental Trainees based at Cumbria Wildlife Trust. In this blog Sian tells us all about her experience at the very first Green Futures Youth Environment Summit this October.

The scheme mine and Isaac’s apprenticeship has come from is called Green Futures, a project run by Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust as part of the Our Bright Future programme. Green Futures consists of four environmental youth orientated groups: Eco Schools, Young Rangers, Green Guardians and finally the Environmental Trainee Scheme that our apprenticeships come under.

This year, Green Futures, piloted their idea of a Youth Summit, through which all four branches of the Green Futures project could meet. The three day residential was held in the gorgeous setting of the field studies centre at Malham Tarn – a suitably inspiring backdrop for such an inspiring weekend!

Making bird boxes at the Green Futures Youth Environment Summit.

Sian & other young people from across the North West came together to explore environmental issues at the Green Futures Youth Environment Summit.

With an age range of 12 – 21, it would be easy to assume that activities to suit everybody were hard to come by, but as everyone had one very big shared passion no such problem occurred – in fact the weekend flew by with the amount of things we had to do! Activities included a trail around the grounds of Malham Tarn Field Studies Centre, a talk on using your own personal strengths to get involved in the environment from Grainne, who is on the national Our Bright Future steering group, making a bird box, and the ‘recycle Olympics’. On the Sunday we had a series of incredibly informative workshops on food waste, packaging waste, and water waste.

Everybody who attended was so open minded and uniquely knowledgeable, the weekend was a huge success. Having spoken to YDMT staff after they’d received the feedback forms, I learned that the only suggestion for improvement from attendees – including myself – was that the residential was longer… which is always a good sign!

Making bird boxes - one of the many activities in offer at the Youth Summit.

Making bird boxes – one of the many activities in offer at this years Youth Summit.

Green Futures

Our Green Futures project aims to empower and support the ambitious and capable young people of Yorkshire and Lancashire to become more involved, aware and connected to the fantastic natural environment that’s right on their doorstep. Find out more on our website

You can also find out about the Our Bright Future programme Green Futures is part of here.


Refugees find sanctuary in Malham

This September the small community of Malhamdale in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales opened their homes to a group of refugee and asylum seeking women and children for a weekend of fun and friendship.

The group of refugee and asylum seeking women and children & their Malhamdale hosts.

The group of refugee and asylum seeking women and children & their Malhamdale hosts.

This was our second ‘hosting weekend’ which grew out of previous day visits made by women and children from the City of Sanctuary’s Maternity Stream to the Dale, organised as part of our ‘People and the DALES’ project. Participants enjoyed these visits so much that they often didn’t want to go home and asked if there might be the chance to stay for a weekend.

This year built on the huge success of our first hosting weekend in 2015. Seven families opened their homes to welcome 35 refugee and asylum seeking women and children to experience a weekend of Dales hospitality. Among the group was Olympic athlete Muna, who represented Sudan in Beijing as a long jumper – a lawyer, doctor, midwife and various other amazing women and children from countries including Eritrea, Iran, Pakistan, Albania, South Africa and Bolivia.

Farms, raft building & bell-ringing!

The weekend began on Friday evening with a delicious meal at Airton Quaker Meeting House. On Saturday morning we visited Dykelands Farm in Airton where farmer Janet Bolland showed the group around her dairy herd. It was then up to Malham Tarn Field Centre for a picnic lunch and a session of raft building whilst our resident artist Katharine Holmes (also a host) made small portraits of people to take home. That evening entertainment included a ceilidh, singing, dancing and an impromptu demonstration of South Asian dancing.

A visit to Dykelands Farm in Airton.

A visit to Dykelands Farm in Airton.

On Sunday morning we were all invited to join the church service at St Michael’s where women talked about their experiences as asylum seekers . Some of the young people were even given the chance to turn their hand at bell ringing.

A weekend filled with hope

Mirander from Albania said of the weekend:

I’m an asylum seeker which makes me feel tired, and divorced from the world, but this weekend has filled me with hope. I am very happy because people I don’t know have opened their home and this makes me feel like I am at home. My host even made breakfast like my mum does.

Diako said:

I feel ecstatic. The weekend made me feel valued and important. We felt like we are back to life instead of just existing. We felt love around us and the important thing is we are one big family.

The hardest part of the weekend was saying goodbye. One host noticed that her young visitor was very upset to be leaving and everyone wanted to return again next year.

 I have been very moved by the way simple hospitality was viewed by the members of the group and the impact it had. We were warned that Tabitha had a bad stammer and that communication might be difficult. Amazingly she felt so comfortable with us she didn’t stammer at all and was really quite a chatterbox! As the weekend progressed she opened up and shared some of her story with us. It felt good to have gained her trust so readily.

The final comment comes from a host, and sums up why the hosting weekend is so important.

If only this project could be replicated in many more places we would live in a society where there is greater tolerance and understanding of asylum seekers and refugees.

Raft building at Malham Tarn.

Raft building at Malham Tarn.

The people involved

Our thanks go to the many people involved in making the weekend possible – in particularly to Rose McCarthy of City of Sanctuary Maternity Stream, Rev Michael Jackson and the congregation of St Michaels in Kirkby Malham for organising accommodation and providing meals, to Floe Shakespeare and Airton Quakers for a quiet space and great food, Jim Wright and Abby Forrest from Malham Tarn Field Centre for providing accommodation and activities, Janet Bolland for showing us around her farm, to all the hosts for taking our visitors into their homes and hearts and Richard Hargreaves for playing at the ceilidh. A big thanks also to the Morrisons Foundation for funding towards this and other similar initiatives.

To find out more about People & the Dales outreach project contact:

Judy Rogers or Gail Smith on 015242 51002 

City of Sanctuary Maternity Stream

Welcome to Malhamdale

Earlier this month the small community of Malhamdale, in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales, opened their homes for the second year running to a group of refugee and asylum seeking women and children, for a weekend of fun and friendship.

It was the latest event in an ongoing partnership between YDMT and the Leeds-based City of Sanctuary Maternity Stream – an organisation providing vital support to pregnant women and new mums who are seeking asylum.

35 women, children and toddlers living in Leeds came to the Dales. Amongst them were an Olympic athlete – Muna represented Sudan in Beijing as a long jumper – a lawyer, doctor, midwife and various other amazing women and children from a variety of countries including Eritrea, Iran, Pakistan, Albania, South Africa and Bolivia.


The group visited Dykelands Farm, constructed small rafts from natural materials found in the woods which they floated on Malham Tarn (each complete with a plastic duck captain!), enjoyed meals in the Quaker Meeting House, and a ceilidh party in the local village hall.

Malham hosts Linda and Kevin said they were “Very moved by the way simple hospitality was viewed by the members of the group and the impact it had. We were warned that our visitor had a bad stammer and that communication might be difficult. Amazingly she felt so comfortable with us she didn’t stammer at all and was really quite a chatterbox! As the weekend progressed she opened up and shared some of her story with us. It felt good to have gained her trust so readily. Afterwards she texted me saying she felt empty when she had arrived on Friday but that she left on Sunday full of good memories. If only this project could be replicated in many more places we would live in a society where there is greater tolerance and understanding of asylum seekers and refugees.”

Emily, a former detainee at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre, said: “People and the DALES and the City of Sanctuary are my most unsung heroes for what you have done, not only for me but other women too. When we go out there in the Dales we transform and become different individuals than our real self because we forget about our problems and who we really are, just enjoy being around people who show us love and care.”


This weekend could not have taken place without the hard work and support of many special people and organisations, including:

Rev Michael Jackson and the congregation of St Michael the Archangel Church in Kirkby Malham, Rose McCarthy of City of Sanctuary Maternity Stream, everyone at Airton Quaker Meeting House (especially Floe Shakespeare), Jim Wright and Abby Forrest from Malham Tarn Field Study Centre, Janet Bolland of Dykelands Farm in Airton, all the hosts who provided such a warm welcome, visitors and Richard Hargreaves and Eric who played at the ceilidh.

This event was part of YDMT’s ‘People and the DALES’ community outreach project which enables disadvantaged urban groups to take part in a wide range of fun, active and thought provoking activities in the Yorkshire Dales countryside. The aim is to provide people with the knowledge, skills and confidence to return independently and improve health and well-being. Since 2005 over 8,000 people have had life changing opportunities to get out and about in the Dales.

Thank you everyone!