MALHAMDALE welcomed refugee and asylum seeking women and children into the community for the fourth year running.

The weekend event, organised by the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust charity, saw about 40 women and children invited into homes and taken on walks in the Dales for a couple of days of fun and friendship.

Run in partnership with the City of Sanctuary’s Maternity Stream in Leeds, and with people in Malhamdale, the weekend has become an annual highlight in the relationship that has developed between the two communities.

The women and children, coming from Eritrea, Iran, Pakistan, India, Sudan and Bolivia, enjoyed walking, ceilidh dancing and singing, as well as nature-based arts and crafts, and shared meals.

Many sections of the community helped out, including the church, the Quakers, the Malham Tarn Field Centre, and individuals, welcoming them into their homes and hearts.

Diako, from Zimbabwe, said meeting other people they had not seen in ages made them appreciate the purpose of life.“Walking was so great, seeing the Dales makes us think of life. It made us feel loved, my spirit was so lifted,” she said.

On the Sunday of the weekend, everyone was invited to the service at St Michael’s in Kirkby Malham, when the women talked about their experiences and shared in the service of Holy Communion.

Rose McCarthy, from the City of Sanctuary, said it was one of her favourite weekends of the year.

“I love to see the difference it makes in the lives of the women I support, and it really helps to build a sense of community with the people in Leeds and those from the Dales,” she said.

The weekend is part of the millennium trust’s award winning community outreach, lottery funded, project, People and the Dales, which brings people from urban areas on visits to the Dales.

Since 2005 more than 10,000 people have visited the Dales, gaining skills and confidence while at the same time enjoying the health and well-being benefits of spending time in the countryside.

Rosie Russell-Cohen, trainee outreach worker at the millennium trust. said: “It was an incredible privilege to see what becoming part of the Yorkshire Dales really means. It was a reminder that the Dales isn’t just for those who own a pair of good walking boots, or who know all the different types of wild flowers – but for everyone, and it has been great to see how the lives of refugee and asylum seeking women have become part of the Yorkshire Dales landscape.”

Will Humpington, climate change and environmental programmes advisor at People’s Postcode Lottery, said it was good to see people being brought together, to relax and to enjoy the Dales.

“We know instinctively that being outdoors helps us feel happier and healthier, so it is great to see these opportunities being made accessible to a new audience.”

A millennium trust spokesman said the weekend would not have been possible without many people, especially the congregation of St Michaels for organising accommodation and meals, and to Simon Watkins and Airton Quakers for Sunday lunch. Malham Tarn Field Centre provided accommodation, and Batty Moss ceilidh band provided the entertainment at Malham Village Hall, at the Quaker Meeting House, and at the field centre.