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!

My work experience at YDMT

For the month of August I have been working alongside the lovely staff at YDMT as part of my summer of work experience (I’ve also been spending time working with PBA Applied Ecology, who are based in Settle).

After graduating in June with a degree in Geography, my time so far at YDMT has enabled me to utilise and apply the skills I’ve learnt… so I won’t be out of practice for starting my master’s degree in Biodiversity and Conservation in September!

My first week here consisted of getting to know everybody around the office and being introduced to all the great work that YDMT does on a daily basis.

My ‘activities’ have been varied and have allowed me to get an excellent overview of all the different projects and events that YDMT does.

I have been helping out Hannah and Chris with some administration work on the Stories in Stone project, whilst also doing some more outdoors-based work. These have included;

    • Getting involved in the Hay Time project at The Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes, where I assisted Tanya and Shona putting on a drop-in workshop for children. I helped run educational activities about the special hay meadow habitats of the Yorkshire Dales by helping the kids plant wildflower seeds, and crafting some bumblebees and flowers!

      Seed planting

      Seed planting

    • I attended a LEADER workshop in Masham with project co-ordinator Rima, aimed at helping people through the application process to request funding for a range of innovative community-driven projects across the Dales. LEADER funding is made available through the Rural Development Programme for England, which is jointly funded by Defra and the European Union.
    • ‘Woodland Day’ with Sarah D – an activity day at Malham Tarn put on for children involved in Barnardo’s Willow Project , which provides support for children and young people in the Leeds area who care for a family member affected by a physical or mental health illness, disability or substance misuse problem. Activities for the day here included making bird boxes and setting mammal traps (not harming any of them!!), with the aim of engaging the youngsters with the environment. This event was part of the Green Futures project.

      Malham Tarn Field Centre

      Malham Tarn Field Centre

    • Creative Writing Walk with Sarah P where Jean Harrison, a local writer, took a small group of us around Clapham and up the Nature Trail and taught us how to use all our senses to observe the natural environment on this scenic stroll. We then used this inspiration from the walk as the basis for a creative writing workshop. Having not done any creative writing since I was at school, I was surprised at how much I thoroughly enjoyed this!
Collecting inspiration

Collecting inspiration!

  • A walk around Clapham with a Dementia group from Ilkley with Gail as part of the Green Futures project. The Rotary Club from Ilkley had organised this as a way to get the group out and about, and Gail gave an excellent guided tour to the group (on a very rainy day!!)

A big thanks to everyone at YDMT for making me feel so welcome here over the past two weeks and I’m looking forward to seeing what the next two weeks bring!!

Fiona Scott

Alleluia! £1.5k raised for YDMT

A glowing review of last week’s hugely successful fundraising concert, courtesy of Andrew Campbell – a YDMT Trustee and one of the 140+ people in the audience on the night…

Last Saturday evening (14th May) my wife and I, together with an almost packed audience, very much enjoyed the choral and instrumental concert entitled ‘Alleluia’ staged at Bolton Abbey Priory Church in aid of Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust.

The choir, Cantores Salicium, conducted by director Lindy Williams, was quite superb and together with five young instrumentalists, reached extraordinary heights of professionalism in performing a very stimulating and diverse programme.


It included pieces from William Byrd, Henry Purcell and Georg Handel, more modern Japanese and Brazilian works played on a marimba, and a setting of Psalm 121 by the choir’s president Nicholas O’Neill. Entitled ‘Levavi oculos’, this new composition is the first work to be specially commissioned for the choir. The length of the applause at the conclusion was a testament to their skill.

Surely there can be few more beautiful venues than the Priory for such an event with its magnificent acoustics and inspiring architecture. I urge that all who have the chance, go and see Cantores Salicium perform, they were fabulous!

Cantores Salicium, by Steve Finch

Cantores Salicium. Photo by Steve Finch Photography.


Almost £1500 was raised for YDMT to support a range of projects that care for the landscape, environment, economy and communities of the Yorkshire Dales.

We would like to thank the very talented choir members and musicians, Bolton Abbey Priory Church and everyone in the audience who helped to make the event such a success.

Cantores Salicium’s future performance dates:

Sunday 16 October 2016 – Concert, venue to be confirmed.
Sunday 11 December 2016 – Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, Settle Parish Church.
Sunday 9 April 2017 – Palm Sunday service of music and readings, Bolton Abbey Priory Church.

Find out more at: www.cantores‐

Down on the Farm

Agriculture students from across the world – including Malaysia, Russia, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Botswana, Spain, Finland and the UK – joined us to learn about farming techniques in the Yorkshire Dales.

45 under-graduates from Reading University spent time with farmer Rodney Beresford and his flock of sheep, getting hands-on experience assisting with herding, tagging and marking new-born lambs at the foot of Ingleborough.


The students also met Colin Newlands of Natural England and learnt about the re-wilding of the Ingleborough National Nature Reserve and the challenges of managing the land responsibly to achieve a sustainable balance between people, biodiversity and profitable farming.


Melanie, a PhD student from Manchester Uni who is conducting trials on the Reserve, told the group about her research into the impact of different types of livestock grazing on soil quality and carbon sequestration. This led to an interesting discussion about the possible implications for farming in the future.

Their Yorkshire Dales visit was rounded off with a trip to Keasden Head farm near Clapham, where the students heard about the embryo transfer and artificial insemination programme that Sheila Mason runs on the farm.

This is the second year that YDMT have arranged a study visit for Reading University students. Lecturer Yiorgos Gadanakis said “It has been fantastic again – it is one of the best visits of the year as the students can get stuck in and actually do something practical. It is useful to walk around the farms and to see the impact of the land and the local environment on farming.”


Judy Rogers, YDMT’s ‘Ingleborough for All’ project officer, arranged the study visit with the aim of showcasing some of the different farming systems found in the Yorkshire Dales. Judy said: “It has been an opportunity to show the next generation of our land custodians some different farming techniques that ensuring a positive impact on the landscape. We also had some really interesting discussions, from biodiversity, diversification and subsidies, to EU membership and managing pests and diseases.”


Ingleborough for All is part of Stories in Stone, a four-year programme of community and heritage projects that has been developed by the Ingleborough Dales Landscape Partnership with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Thanks to National Lottery players, the programme will enable people from all backgrounds and of all ages to learn about, enjoy and help manage the stunning limestone landscape around Ingleborough, both above and below ground.

Meadows on More4!

Last summer Sarah Robinson, our Bowland Hay Time Officer, was filmed for a new TV programme, talking about species-rich hay meadows and the work we do to protect them. And this week we’ll get our first glimpse of her in action on More4’s Discovering Britain programme. Catch the meadows on More4 tonight, Wednesday 10th Feb, at 9pm!

Larry Lamb talks meadows with YDMT's Sarah Robinson for More4's Discovering Britain

Larry Lamb talks meadows with YDMT’s Sarah Robinson on More4’s Discovering Britain Wed 10th Feb 9pm

Discovering Britain is described as a celebration of Britain’s outdoors, its history, culture & tradition. So, what better place to be than a romantic, wildflower strewn hay meadow?

On a remarkably beautiful day last summer Sarah and I met with the film crew and presenter Larry Lamb (who you’ll recognise from EastEnders and Gavin & Stacey) and off we went in convoy to Bell Sykes Farm near Slaidburn. The ancient hay meadows here are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) because of the wide variety of meadow species they contain. Major loss, fragmentation and deterioration of these habitats means that usually only small isolated areas remain. What makes Bell Sykes particularly special is that here it’s still possible to be entirely surrounded by one of the rarest habitats in England.

Sarah is obviously a regular at Bell Sykes, but like the rest of the party it was my first visit there. It will be fantastic to see the breath-taking site of these stunning meadows on TV. However you do need to visit a wildflower meadow yourself to get the full sensory experience – including the delicate wildflower scents and amazing surround-sound of humming insects. We’ve got some great meadow walk guides to help you.

Back to the business of making a TV programme! Larry Lamb was the complete professional, and seemed genuinely fascinated by the whole hay meadow experience. Sarah explained how the richest meadows, like the ones at Bell Sykes, are of international importance – as they can support hundreds of plant species and provide vital food and nesting sites for a wide range of invertebrates, mammals and birds. It turned out that Sarah was a natural in front of the camera too. So with the glorious weather, a great crew and presenter and our own media star, we’re expecting some great TV tonight!

The SSSI meadows at Bell Sykes Farm near Slaidburn

The SSSI meadows at Bell Sykes Farm – where you can be entirely surrounded by one of the rarest habitats in England.

We hope tonight’s programme will open some more eyes to the beauty of our species-rich meadows, and help people to understand why we need to protect and restore the few remaining meadows. You can find out more about how we’re helping to protect threatened hay meadow habitats through the Hay Time project.

Highlights of 2015

I’d like to say a big Thank You to the many individuals, businesses and partner organisations that have provided expertise, enthusiasm and financial support to help make our work possible over the last twelve months.

The landscape, environment and communities of the Yorkshire Dales are at the heart of our work, and I am delighted to say that we’ll be launching a new community grant fund in 2016 to support local people, organisations and initiatives, as well as continuing our existing work.

2015 saw the tenth anniversary of our ‘People and the DALES’ project, which provides life-changing opportunities for disadvantaged community groups. Over the last decade we have brought more than 7600 people to the Yorkshire Dales to experience the health and well-being benefits of spending time in the countryside, often for the first time.

10 yr cake 

More than 7400 people took part in our annual Flowers of the Dales Festival, which this year brought together 100+ events led by experts and enthusiasts across the region. Over 30,000 people have now taken part in fun and educational events inspired by nature and wildflowers since the first Festival in 2009, and I’d like to say a big thank you to players of People’s Postcode Lottery for supporting this project, and many others.


Children amongst buttercups, by Anne Challis

Photo courtesy of Anne Challis

Environmental conservation has been another key focus, and with support from landowners and partners including the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, Forestry Commission and The Fuelcard Company, we have continued to restore native broadleaf woodlands across the region. More than 1.2 million new trees have been planted to date, and we are looking forward to supporting other like-minded landowners with grants for tree planting in the coming year.

And 2016 looks set to be another exciting year here at the Trust, with the tenth anniversary of wildflower hay meadow restoration through the ‘Hay Time’ project on the horizon, and several ambitious new projects in the pipeline – we’ll look forward to sharing details in due course.

Thank you.


David Sharrod
Director, Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust