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.

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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.”

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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