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 judy.rogers@ydmt.org or Gail Smith gail.smith@ydmt.org on 015242 51002 www.ydmt.org 

City of Sanctuary Maternity Stream www.cityofsanctuary.org

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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.

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.

How to restore a meadow – creating vital habitat for pollinators.

Right now it’s Hay Time in the Yorkshire Dales & Forest of Bowland. It’s a busy time for the Hay Time team at YDMT, and the farmers and contractors involved in meadow restoration schemes this summer. It’s also the start of another cycle of hay meadow creation – which is vital for our pollinators and other wildlife.

How to mow a meadow?

The process of meadow restoration can sound like a cross between a surgical procedure and a military operation! So we asked our Hay Time officers Tanya and Sarah to give us a step-by-step guide to green hay transfer – which is a common method used to harvest and spread seed.

Step 1 First off we start with a ‘Donor’ meadow and a ‘Receptor’ meadow  

A species-rich donor meadow

Donor Meadow A species-rich, traditionally managed meadow, where seed can be harvested from  

Receptor meadow, where species numbers have declined

Receptor meadow A more intensively managed meadow where species numbers have declined

Step 2 The receptor meadow is cut, cleared and harrowed.

Step 3 Shortly afterwards a specified area of the donor meadow is cut and the green hay is loaded onto a trailer to be taken to the receptor site.

Collecting green hay from the donor meadow

Step 2: Green hay is cut from the donor meadow

Spreading green hay

Step 3: Green hay is spread on the receptor meadow

Step 4 The green hay is loaded onto a spreader and spread on the receptor meadow.

Green hay is the preferred method of restoration as it collects a large quantity of seed from the widest range of plants, and is least affected by wet weather – a crucial factor in our part of the world! Other methods of harvesting and spreading are also used depending on the location and nature of the donor and receptor meadows.

Step 5 Next summer the restored (receptor) meadows will be surveyed, where we hope to see new species like yellow rattle, eyebright, red clover and meadow vetchling have been introduced, which are often the first colonisers.

Step 6 With time and traditional management treated meadows show significant increases in species richness, diversity and composition – great news for bumblebees and other pollinators, as well as a host of other wildlife species.

Hay meadows, a haven for wildlife

Step 5: In time treated meadows will become a vital habitat for pollinators and other wildlife 

School children explain why hay meadows are so important   

As well as the practical meadow restoration work, this year we’ve helped over 300 school children to visit and learn about the importance of hay meadows. In this great video find out why hay meadows are so important from the children and TV’s Chris Myers.

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Save our precious meadows

The Hay Time project is made possible thanks to players of the People’s Postcode Lottery and everyone who supports our Hay Time Appeal. Thank you.

Find out how you can help save our precious meadows.

People and the DALES turns 10!

People and the DALES rocks!

People and the DALES rocks!

People and the DALES stands for Diversity, Access, Learning, Education and Sustainability. We think that about sums up what we do – to enable people from diverse backgrounds to access, understand and benefit from the Yorkshire Dales – but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

To us at YDMT the project also has an alternative strapline ‘People and the DALES – It makes people cry’. That’s because we’re regularly reduced to tears when Judy or Gail – our dedicated community workers – recount the heart-warming, inspirational and uplifting stories of the people they meet.

It’s getting to know the people and hearing their stories that make us realise just why this project is so important. Like the new mums who live with the day-to-day stresses of being a refugee or asylum seeker in Leeds. For them a day out in the countryside can be a life-changing experience. It helps them leave their troubles behind, compare life in the English countryside with life back home, and smile. It gives them hope that life can be better.

Mums and toddlers from Choto Moni childrens centre at Malham Cove

Mums and toddlers from Choto Moni childrens centre at Malham Cove

In the last 10 years People and the DALES has benefited 7,000 disadvantaged children and adults, many of whom had never visited the countryside before.

This year we’re delivering 30 days out in the Dales. Visit the People and the DALES Facebook page and you’ll see the variety of things we do and the diversity of people who are involved. Recently we brought together a Refugee Women’s Choir from Leeds and a local choir in Settle for some walking and singing in the rain. School children from Bradford have helped a Dales farmer with lambing and sheep shearing. A weekend of activities brought together refugees from City of Sanctuary Leeds with the community in Malhamdale

Through this work we hope to inspire people to spend more time in the countryside and give them the confidence to come back. But it’s much more than that, it’s about giving people the opportunity to get away from it all and have fun, meet new people, get some exercise, try something new and often remember something from their past.

A day out with People and the DALES is a hugely positive experience and one that helps people feel like they belong. In the words of one young asylum seeker, “It’s been the best time of my life…I want to stay here forever”.

Choto Moni at Malham Cove

Volunteers help keep meadows blooming

Last weekend a team of volunteers from Dales Holiday Cottages donned their boots and donated their time (even the birthday girl Caroline!) to help us with the important task of restoring wildflower hay meadows in the Dales and the Forest of Bowland.

The volunteers helped to collect ripe seeds from a variety of wildflowers to propagate seedlings for nearby meadows that have lost some of their botanical diversity and wildlife value.

Catherine Smith from Dales Holiday Cottages hand collects seed that will be used to restore native wildflower species to degraded meadows

Hand collecting seed, which will be used to help re-establish certain species of wildflowers in degraded meadows

Sarah Robinson, our ‘Bowland Hay Time’ project officer said: “It was wonderful to receive a helping hand from the enthusiastic volunteers from Dales Holiday Cottages and their families when it came to collecting seed from areas unsuitable for machine harvesting. We are very grateful to Dales Holiday Cottages for their financial support which allows us to continue vital work like this to protect and enhance the countryside for people and wildlife.”

Dales Holiday Cottages, part of Wyndham Vacation Rentals UK, has been a business partner of ours since 2006 and has given a total of £12,400 to date to support our work, as well as volunteering to help with projects like hay time and woodland restoration.

Managing director of Wyndham Vacation Rentals UK, Geoff Cowley, said: “As a business we have strong roots in the Dales – it’s where we live and work, and every day we promote the area to others, so it’s important to protect the natural environment around us. The YDMT is carrying out vital conservation activities and the work they do in the area is invaluable.”

Seed Spotters: The dedicated team from Dales Holiday Cottages

Seed Spotters: The dedicated team from Dales Holiday Cottages

Locally sourced wildflower seed has already been added to more than 300 hectares of degraded meadows to reintroduce wildflower species and restore this important wildlife habitat.

Support from businesses is essential for projects like hay meadow restoration to continue. If you are interested in getting involved please read our website for more information www.ydmt.org/business-supporters & please get in touch.

Hay Time a hit at Gardener’s World Live!

We’re back home today after taking our little piece of the Yorkshire Dales to Birmingham NEC for BBC Gardener’s World Live last week.

What a week! On Tuesday, before the show opened to the public, our Hay Time garden – with its wildflower hay meadow, natural woodland, dry stone wall and iconic field barn – was awarded a silver gilt medal.

Hay Time awarded Silver Gilt medal

Hay Time awarded Silver Gilt medal

We thought the Hay Time garden, designed and created by our friend Chris Myers, was a masterpiece. It turns out that hundreds of people we talked to during the week agreed. In fact Gardener’s World presenter Carol Klein declared it a travesty that we didn’t get a gold medal!

Chris Myers and BBC's Carol Klein in front of the Hay Time garden

Carol Klein said the Hay Time garden deserved gold!

The Hay Time garden was a tranquil haven amongst the busy and buzzing atmosphere of the exhibition. Standing at the gate of the garden you were instantly transported to a beautifully wild Dales meadow with ox-eye daisies gently waving in the breeze, ancient moss-clad dry stone walls, hay bales peeking out from the iconic Dales field barn. The back drop was natural broadleaf woodland, complete with woodland plants, foxgloves and nettles.

Many people said the garden looked like it had been there forever, and others that it took them back to their childhood.

 The Hay Time garden - a tranquil haven in the midst of buzzing Birmingham NEC

The Hay Time garden – a tranquil haven in the midst of buzzing Birmingham NEC

The garden also proved a hit with the local wildlife. Tanya (our bee expert) spotted six different species of bee within 10 minutes of arriving at the garden – including lots of red tailed bumble bees. The reason for this was the meadow, brimming with wildflowers and grasses typical of a species-rich upland meadow in the Yorkshire Dales. Among the 30+ species of meadow flora in the garden were ragged robin, wood crane’s bill, yellow rattle, bird’s-foot-trefoil and crested dog’s tail. … a perfect habitat for pollinators.

Bumblebee feeding on wood crane's-bill

Red tailed bumblebee feeding on wood crane’s-bill

Of course there was a serious message we were trying to get across by taking the Hay Time garden to Birmingham. The vibrant wildflower hay meadows that were the source of inspiration for the garden are also in grave danger of disappearing from our countryside. 97% of UK meadows have been lost since the 1940’s, making them one of the most threatened habitats in the UK and Europe.

To continue our work to protect the precious few meadows remaining and restore degraded meadows in the Yorkshire Dales we need the public to support our Hay Time appeal by making a donation, buying wildflower seed or simply by spreading the word about hay meadows.

So far locally-harvested wildflower seed has been added to more than 300 hectares and traditional low-intensity management has been reinstated to help bring back native wildflowers and provide a vital habitat for the many rare species of wildlife they support. It’s an important first step, but more still needs to be done to safeguard these beautiful places for future generations.

Species-rich hay meadows are at risk of disappearing in the UK a threat to the hundreds of species of wildlife they support

Species-rich hay meadows are at risk of disappearing in the UK – threatening the hundreds of species of wildlife they support

As YDMT’s Hay Time project manager Don Gamble put it:

Chris and the team have captured the essence of the Yorkshire Dales in this naturalistic garden, and I think it just goes to show that you don’t need to spend a fortune on exotic plants to achieve a beautiful display in your garden. A packet of native wildflower seeds can create stunning results, with the added bonus of being great for pollinators and other wildlife. I hope this garden encourages people to give wildflowers a go at home and to help us restore more meadows in the Dales.

Our Hay Time garden at BBC Gardeners' World Live

Our Hay Time garden at BBC Gardeners’ World Live

Please help save meadows in the Yorkshire Dales by donating to the Hay Time Appeal. Visit www.ydmt.org/haytimeappeal or call 015242 51002.  Native wildflower seeds sourced sustainably from meadows in the North of England are also available from the YDMT website at www.ydmt.org/shop priced at £2.50 per pack including P&P.