IN the first of a series of articles, Simon Robinson, a newly appointed trustee of the Craven Trust, spent a week learning how the charity helps Craven’s good causes.

Despite having lived in Craven for almost 20 years, a few months ago I had never heard of the Craven Trust. I’m sure, I’m far from alone. Yet here in our midst, is a grant-making charity dedicated to supporting local groups that help make Craven a special place to live. Last year, 40 good causes received grants.

Having recently turned 50, I’ve been looking for something to do to ‘give back’ to an area that has given me so much pleasure. And so, when I heard a local charity was looking for trustees, I was pleased to volunteer.

Before committing, I asked if I could spend a week learning about the Craven Trust’s work, including visiting some groups who have received grants, to see what difference the money has made. It proved to be a truly inspiring experience!

First, Chairman of the Trust, Caroline Schwaller, explained a little history. Early plans for a trust supporting local projects and people in need were made in 1994 at an event welcoming Malcolm Grundy as new Archdeacon of Craven. This is important, because the Trust makes grants across the historic Archdeaconry of Craven, which stretches south to Keighley, north beyond Sedbergh and west to Slaidburn.

The idea captured the imagination of several prominent figures, including Dr Brian Fisher, a retired Skipton GP; Ilkley-based philanthropist, Peter Marshall OBE; and John Sheard, Estate Manager of Bolton Abbey. Along with others, they worked hard to raise funds through donations and gifts left in people’s wills to bring the dream to reality. These donations, large and small, have grown into an investment pot of over £400,000, which helps fund today’s grant making programme.

Their fundraising skills were called on again during the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001, when the Craven Trust raised and distributed over £1.5 million to support communities affected by the crisis.

At much the same time, the Charity Commission authorised the trustees to take over the Beamsley Trust, making another £400,000 available to support local people. These funds have formed the bedrock of more than 500 grants made to local good causes in the last 23 years.

For example, when Clapham village shop closed in 2014, residents got together to set up a community-owned business. Chairman, Sue Mann, explained that the shop’s closure left an “enormous hole in village life, particularly for older residents and those without cars”.

Over 200 people got involved, as shareholders or volunteers, and Clapham Village Store reopened less than a year later. The Craven Trust provided funds to buy a fridge, freezer and an oven, which are used every day to make freshly baked bread and rolls for hungry villagers and walkers. Sue told me our grant was “absolutely essential” and Store Manager, Helen Rollinson, explained that the store has become a real “hub and focal point” for village life.

To the south of our patch is St Ives Riding for the Disabled. Run by Barbara Chuter, the group teaches people with disabilities to horse ride and compete in national and international competitions. When I visited, I was lucky enough to meet Stephen Whiteside and Barbara’s son, Ben, both of whom have represented England at the Special Olympics.

The Craven Trust has paid for training for volunteers and horse transport to competitions. Barbara told me it wouldn’t have been possible for the riders to compete without the Craven Trust’s support. “Riding is a great equaliser for people with disabilities”, she explained, “it builds confidence, helps with movement for those who can’t walk and allows people to feel an equal part of the world around them”.

Next, I visited Jill Webster and Katie Birks who recently set up a new Guides group in Skipton to cope with growing demand from local girls eager for a taste of outdoor adventure. But the group, the 7th Skipton St Stephen’s, had no money to buy tents for their camping trips. Jill and Katie secured a grant from the Tarn Moor Estate, but only if they could match the money from elsewhere. The Craven Trust was pleased to oblige - and now the Guides have three lovely new tents and a gazebo to cook under.

Jill explained that some of the girls had never been camping before and the tents are “everything we wanted” to help Guides develop a love for the outdoors. Katie, whose daughter attends the group, added that our grant allowed the girls to focus their own fundraising on other good causes as “it is important that they learn to support the wider community, and not just themselves”. The tents are expected to last 10 years or more, providing adventures for 200 Skipton girls over that time.

These three local groups, all run by volunteers, show the wonderful diversity of life and generosity of spirit of people here in Craven. And the Craven Trust is delighted to support them.

Perhaps, like me, you would like to get involved to support or benefit from the Craven Trust’s work. If you are a local group needing funding, you can learn more by visiting the Trust’s website at:, or you could contact the Trust’s friendly Administrator, Rowena at or on 01535 665258. Typical grants range from £100 to £1,500.

You can use the same contact details if you’d like to learn more about the Craven Trust’s work, or make a donation so that we can help even more local projects. Any contribution would be welcome - and you can be sure every penny will be spent right here in Craven.