A GROUP of around 20 refugees and asylum seekers from across the world spent a fun weekend visiting Skipton and the Dales.

It was the third annual visit organised by the Clapham based charity, the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (YDMT) and saw the men, women and children visit Skipton and Broughton Hall, and also go on walks, including to Skipton Castle woods, enjoy shared meals with the community, and take part in a ceilidh.

Organised with help from people and churches in Skipton, and also the Bradford Immigration and Asylum Seekers Support and Advice Network (BIASAN), the Skipton Weekend has become the foundation of a relationship that has grown and developed between the two communities.

It is seen as a chance for groups of refugees and asylum seekers, which this year included families from China, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan and Sudan, to relax, build friendships and get to know each other.

The refugees and asylum seekers joined the Skipton community to take part in activities such as gardening and making bird feeders with the new Incredible Edible group, ceilidh dancing and singing and felt-making and mosaics.

On arrival, they were welcomed into the town by Skipton Mayor, Cllr Alan Hickman, who celebrated the diverse group’s common humanity in one of his last official engagements before ending his year in office later this month.

Huda, originally from Iraq, said about Skipton that she ‘really liked the houses’ and that she felt ‘relaxed when seeing houses and scenery. She added: “I’m happy that I got the opportunity to see everything”.

With food accepted as a great way of celebrating new friendship, meals were also prepared and shared together.

On the Sunday afternoon, the group were invited to explore the Broughton Hall Estate by owner Roger Tempest where they were given a tour of the new Avalon Wellbeing Centre and the beautiful, historic Broughton Hall.

Mostafa, originally from Eritrea, said that the visit to Broughton was the most enjoyable part of her visit.

She said: “It was an amazing place; I have never seen anything like it before in my life.”

This initiative formed part of YDMT’s award-winning People and the Dales project and was made possible thanks to the support of the People’s Postcode Lottery.

Will Humpington from the charities team at People’s Postcode Lottery said: “This is a fantastic community event bringing people together to enjoy all that the Yorkshire Dales has to offer.

“We’re really pleased that players of People’s Postcode Lottery are supporting this project and to date they have raised more than £2 million for YDMT, which is incredible.”

Rosie Russell-Cohen, trainee outreach worker at YDMT, added: “It was an incredible privilege to see what becoming part of the Yorkshire Dales really means, and it was a great way to celebrate diverse communities coming together and having fun.

“The impact that it has on everyone’s lives is brilliant and it was a reminder that the Dales isn’t just for those who own a pair of good walking – but for everyone.

“We’d like to thank everyone who was involved in making the weekend a huge success. In particular, St Stephen’s Catholic Church, Skipton Soroptimist International, Jette and Skipton Quaker Meeting, St Andrews Church and Skipton Baptist Church for all the hard work in hosting, organising accommodation and providing meals.

“We’d also like to thank all the hosts for welcoming visitors into their homes and hearts, Batty Moss ceilidh band for playing at the party in St Michael’s Hall, Mayor Alan Hickman for his welcome, Phil Lawler, Catherine Mercer and Incredible Edible Skipton, Sarah Hodgson, Fiona Protheroe, Floe Shakespeare for their help with workshops and welcomes and Roger Tempest and all at Broughton Hall Estate.”

So far, YDMT has helped deliver projects totalling around £28 million in the Dales and surrounding area. Projects include countryside apprenticeships, supporting local communities, education and outreach, restoring woodlands and wildlife habitats, and improving access and understanding of the area, with organised visits, such as the Skipton weekend.

People and the DALES is a community outreach project which enables disadvantaged groups from urban areas to the south of the Yorkshire Dales to take part in a wide range of fun, active and thought provoking activities in the countryside with the aim of providing people with the knowledge, skills and confidence to return independently and improve health and well-being.

Since 2005, more than 10,000 people have had life changing opportunities to get out and about in the Dales.