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


Teaching skills on the hills

Take seven amazing women, one son, two YDMT members of staff and one Instructor, put them in a hut in Selside with maps and compasses and you have all the ingredients for a fantastic weekend of fun and learning!

Hill Skills training in the Yorkshire Dales

Hill Skills training in the Yorkshire Dales

People and the DALES ran another successful two days of Hill Skills training last weekend, when an all-female group from predominantly black and minority ethnic backgrounds came to the Yorkshire Dales to learn how to map read.

Fun & laughter!

Map reading madness! 

These women all work alongside disadvantaged community groups in Bradford and Leeds and have previously enjoyed visits to the Dales through our People and the DALES outreach project. The weekend was a chance for them to learn how to plan walks, navigate and understand the equipment needed to safely enjoy a day in the hills.

Map reading & navigation.

Everyone went away with a Mountain Training England qualification and lots of memories of a weekend filled with laughter and enjoyment – not to mention the skills and confidence to enjoy the countryside safely and independently in the future.

Building the confidence & skills to use maps to access and enjoy the countryside independently.

Building the confidence & skills to use maps to access and enjoy the countryside independently.

A dose of Dales air!

Words and pictures by Judy Rogers, our People and the DALES community worker: 

“Earlier this week I took a group of refugees and asylum seekers for a walk around Swinsty reservoir. Living in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales I rarely visit this neck of the woods, but have often wondered what the reservoirs that are dissected by the A59 are like as I drive to Harrogate. Last week my son and I did a recce of the walk around the reservoirs and were thrilled to see a few cormorants resting on some tree trunks. And this week with the group we were not disappointed as we saw yet more cormorants, Canada geese, crested grebe and a mob of mallards.

The group included ten young men from Leeds who were mostly asylum seekers supported by a project called PAFRAS. Each of them came from a different African country and each of them are waiting for their applications for refugee status to be reviewed and are hoping for the right to remain in this country. Whilst waiting they receive no benefits and so have to live with support from projects like PAFRAS, friends or churches. Days out offered through our People and the DALES project allows them to get away from the city and forget about their problems for just one day.

PAFRAS members enjoy a day out in the Dales

The walk took us over the dam between Fewston and Swinsty and up to the newly built Heritage Centre next to Fewston church. Here Cheri the church warden and Anne the Centre manager welcomed us into the church and provided us with tea, biscuits and chat. Thank you Cheri and Anne for making us feel so welcome.

We continued on our walk past Swinsty Hall remarking at the dam at the end of the lake and the huge pipes taking water to Leeds. The trees have been fantastic this time of year. Some say it is because we haven’t had the high winds which so often strip the leaves off trees in October. As we walked the men asked about wild animals and were saddened to hear we have no big game, although they were surprised to hear about the adder – our only deadly snake!”

Lottery players raise £76,000 for YDMT!

This month we’ve had some amazing news. We’ve received a rather large cheque for £76,000 from People’s Postcode Lottery.

For every £2 People’s Postcode Lottery ticket sold 40p goes direct to good causes. The latest contribution means that players of the charity lottery have raised £301,332 for YDMT so far. This incredible level of support makes a huge difference to our charitable work in the Dales, and will benefit the region and its people in many ways.

This funding is more important than ever before. Demand for our work is growing at what is a very difficult time for charity funding. As our Director David Sharrod puts it, “Support from People’s Postcode Lottery players cannot be underestimated and we are so very thankful to everyone who plays for supporting our vital work, including woodland restoration, education and outreach, habitat conservation, and apprenticeship schemes for young people, to name just a few.”

And it’s not just the Yorkshire Dales region that has reason to celebrate as People’s Postcode Lottery has also announced that its players have raised over £20 million in total for good causes since its launch in 2008. From national charities to local good causes such as YDMT, the funding raised by players is making a huge difference to communities across the country.

£20million donated by players of People’s Postcode Lottery

Players also support grant giving body, People’s Postcode Trust, which awards project funding to community groups and charities across Great Britain. Over £4.4 million has been awarded to over 850 projects so far. The application process for awards up to £10,000 is currently open and Trustees are encouraging all eligible groups in Scotland, Wales and the Midlands to apply. Visit for all the details.

If you’re already a People’s Postcode Lottery player thank you from all of us here at YDMT for your support. And if you’d like to join in the celebration visit and start playing now!

Are you feeling murderous?

The Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust is holding a Murder Mystery Dinner to raise vital funds for a variety of projects that will benefit the landscape and communities of the Yorkshire Dales. Are you brave enough to come?

We’re inviting all wannabe sleuths to an evening at the The Devonshire Arms Country House Hotel at Bolton Abbey, where you can witness the evidence as an Agatha Christie-style parody unfolds before you. There will also be an opportunity for you to interrogate suspects in order to get to the bottom of the murderous crime that has occurred. After a hot buffet and some final detective work the evening will end with the killer being revealed and trophies awarded to the top sleuths.

We’ll also be holding a raffle, with prizes including an overnight stay at The Devonshire Arms County House Hotel, kindly donated free of charge by the hotel. The prize includes dinner in the Michelin-starred Burlington restaurant and a bottle of wine chosen by the Cellar Master to accompany the meal. In addition there will be the rare opportunity for guests to bid in a mini fundraising auction for one of only six places on an exclusive tour of the Duke of Devonshire’s Bolton Abbey Estate. Telephone bids for this special auction are also welcome in advance.

David Sharrod, YDMT Director says, “We’re very grateful to The Devonshire Arms and to the After Dark murder mystery company for making this event possible. This promises to be an unforgettable evening with delicious food, singing, dancing, an array of madcap suspects and a confounding crime to solve. So join us to see if you can solve the deadly mystery, and maybe even be crowned Super Sleuth! Places are limited, so please get in touch to book your tickets soon.”

The event will take place at The Devonshire Arms Country House Hotel, Bolton Abbey on Thursday 15th March, starting at 7pm.  Tables and individual tickets are available to book now. Tickets cost £25 per person including a hot buffet. For ticket sales, auction bids and more information please contact Sarah at Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust on 015242 51002 or email

All money raised will help YDMT to continue work such as restoring wildflower meadows, planting new native woodlands, supporting local businesses, education and outreach work, and providing training programmes for young local people to learn countryside management skills.