A Yorkshire-based project has received national recognition as one of the key initiatives succeeding in the field of ‘Access to Nature’ for disadvantaged groups.
Currently a diverse range of groups such as the elderly, youth groups, people with health problems, and urban disadvantaged communities are missing out on the benefits of the natural environment.
The Access to Nature Early Findings report regarding Minority Ethnic Communities and the Natural Environment, produced recently by Natural England, has identified the ‘People and the DALES’ project as a particularly high achieving venture.
Run by Clapham-based charity Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (YDMT), People and the DALES has been highlighted nationally as a project that successfully works with groups from minority ethnic communities in the natural environment. People and the DALES helps a range of people with limited previous experience of the countryside to discover the fantastic environment of the Dales. People learn about its unique qualities through interesting and fun activities which develop confidence in being in the great outdoors. These group visits can often inspire and encourage individuals to return to the countryside independently with family and friends in the future.
Over 3,500 people have taken part in 267 events across the southern Yorkshire Dales through People and the DALES so far. The project encourages people from disadvantaged backgrounds to come to the countryside to take part in practical activities such as walks, farm visits, conservation work and crafts for health and well-being benefits.
The group reach the summit of Ingleborough
Dave Tayler, Deputy Director at YDMT commented:
I believe that this really is very important work. The incredible natural environment of the Yorkshire Dales is there for everyone to enjoy, yet I know through People and the DALES that many people have never been out of the nearby urban areas of Bradford, Leeds and West Yorkshire. The experiences we have provided through this project have been very powerful and even life-changing for some people.
People and the DALES was awarded £197,000 in 2009 by Natural England as part of its Access to Nature programme, funded by the Big Lottery Fund.
Recently People and the DALES delivered a weekend training event based around Selside in the Yorkshire Dales for community group leaders from Leeds, Bradford and Keighley. The group walked up Ingleborough on the Saturday and headed underground to explore Long Churn Cave on the Sunday, overcoming the physical and mental challenges of the activities. By the end of the weekend the group had gained the skills, experience and confidence necessary to lead their own groups on activities in the countryside in the future. One participant commented, “I felt such a sense of achievement (being) … in the cave. The challenge will help me in other areas of my life which I find difficult. What a truly amazing weekend in so many ways”.
Elizabeth Holdsworth, Access to Nature Grants Adviser, said:
It’s great to see the ‘People and The Dales’ project working to create long term benefits for the natural environment and creating this opportunity for people from all backgrounds to get involved. We are delighted that the People and the DALES project is creating such positive experiences for a variety of community groups.
The Access to Nature Early Findings report concluded that overcoming barriers to access for disadvantaged groups is complex and time-consuming. The report identified that it is particularly important to spend time making links with communities to build a group of skilled and empowered Community Champions who will be invaluable in gaining the participation of the community. Events such as the People and the Dales group leader training weekend are working hard to do just that.