Volunteering is about people – and we have some amazing people here in Yorkshire Dales National Park. In the time I have been here it has been a pleasure to get to know our volunteers and understand all that they get up to.
Despite the people focus we do of course look at numbers and, recently, in tallying up volunteer days for last year, my eye was caught by two particular individuals who had between them clocked up a staggering 190 days and 1,330 hours volunteering last year. That’s 190 days, 1,330 hours! To put it another way, for more than half the year one of them could always be found, in various corners of the Park, freely giving their time and skill in order to make a difference. That’s quite amazing.
I contacted Dick Laidler, member of the north area team of Dales Volunteers, and Barbara Throup, member of the south area team of Dales Volunteers, to ask if I could write about them volunteering more hours than anyone else last year, and requested a few words from them. I was not surprised when only the briefest of responses came back; so many of our volunteers are modest to the core and opt to keep their contributions quiet.
Nevertheless, I took their response as a “yes” so… please meet Dick. Dick has volunteered with us for over 19 years. In all weathers he will be found, predominantly in the northern area of the Park, often alongside the Ragged Robins group, a conservation team, but in other guises too. As a ‘Master Waller’ he will have almost certainly improved many of the walls along the Public Rights of Way though Wensleydale and Swaledale, and if you have walked these routes, you may well have encountered him and his team. He loves nothing better than a chat with passers-by.
As well as undertaking lots of physical ranger-led activities, Dick also co-ordinates the other volunteers in the northern team in an endlessly unflappable way. He certainly leads by example, notching up more days than any other this year, an amazing 110 days. Dick, we think you’re great, a heartfelt thank you!
Please also meet Barbara. Another long term volunteer, Barbara has worked with us for over 21 years, and surely clocked up an impressive 80 days last year. When asked what she likes about it – Barbara told me:
“I enjoy volunteering because of the variety of activities and the comradery that goes with it. When out and about, carrying out my duties, it is good to talk to members of the public and explain the work that we are doing, why it is so important, and what the National Park is about”.
She, like Dick, co-ordinates a team in addition to practical activities, overseeing the survey of all the parish paths in the south area of the National Park. A complex task: last year our Dales Volunteers spent over 1,800 days surveying and maintain our Public Rights of Way throughout the National Park. Barbara – a huge thank you, too, for all you do. You’ll never shout about it so we have instead!
Although this post is about numbers – big numbers – long-term volunteering, notching up many, many hours’ contribution and celebrating that – it is also about the people. Our dedicated Dales Volunteers, like Barbara and Dick, are the backbone of all we do. We have over 300 regular Dales Volunteers just like them, carrying out over 200 distinct activities across the Park, clocking up nearly 7,000 days of volunteering between them.
But, please do not let that put you off. If you are interested in volunteering with us, you do not need to be able to commit long-term or for a fixed or significant number of days per year. Increasingly, many of the roles we have to offer are flexible with no or low time commitments. Equally, they don’t all involve being outside, although of course a good many do. We are a National Park after all!.
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