Friends of the Dales recently launched its new volunteer network, Creative Campaigners, for people aged 20-30 who live locally and are interested in actively and creatively contributing to its environmental campaigns.




THROUGH the creation of a close working relationship with younger people, the charity hopes to better understand that age group's viewpoints and bring more diverse voices to its campaigning work − which includes being one of the first environmental organisations to lobby against the devastating legacy of plastic tree guards.

Friends of the Dales trustee, Mohammed Dhalech who supported the launch day said: “The busy day included a tour around Hill Top Farm, Malham, a traditional livestock farm embracing biodiversity and sustainability, as featured in Saving our Wild Isles (WWF, RSPB, NT, Silverback Films) with Neil Heseltine and Leigh Weston.

"What came through in conversations I had during the day was the diversity and the different lifestyles the Creative Campaigners came from, and the passion that young people had for this work. After a shared lunch, we all participated in a creative session led by one of the Creative Campaigners, Bess Holt. This enabled the group to reflect on the day by creating a Zine (mini magazine).”

Research undertaken by Campaign for National Parks (CNP) indicates that young people who are not involved within their own local National Park or rural community, tend not to stay there − a dissociation that can also lead to disengagement from accessing nature and the countryside. With several of its own youth engagement programmes, including New Perspectives and its National Park Youth Ambassador scheme, the national charity also supported the event, with Harriet Gardener, Senior Communications Officer for CNP joining the day as a guest.

“I couldn’t have asked for better company on my first trip to the Yorkshire Dales,” said Harriet.

"It was such a pleasure to meet every single participant and chat about the future of campaigning and the future they’d like to see. The visit to Hill Top Farm inspired genuine, insightful conversation, and there was a real buzz in the air – and not just from the thriving nature that calls the farm home. I thoroughly enjoyed the day and can’t wait to see the contributions from the cohort.”

One of the new Creative Campaigners, Charlotte Mudd who has grown up within a farming family in the Yorkshire Dales was complimentary of the impact the event had on her, saying: “The key message I took away from the Creative Campaigners visit to Hill Top Farm is that there is no right way to farm − each farm is individual due to the land it sits on and the person it’s farmed by and their values. Farming doesn't have to be high input – in terms of time, labour or money, to be profitable. Animals can be farmed in a hands-off, low-input way, that lets the animals display their natural behaviours and live in a semi-wild and natural existence. Biodiversity change and improvement can happen quite quickly. After visiting Hill Top Farm a couple of times now, my eyes have been opened to another way of farming that I would be interested in. This has given me hope for the future.”

Another young environmentalist and Creative Campaigner, Esther Abramson from Ilkley added: “Caring about the wellbeing of the planet can sometimes feel like a lonely endeavour, so connection and community are really important.”

Friends of the Dales Creative Campaigners, in addition to receiving planned environmental experiences, will also get the opportunity to contribute to its press and media campaigns, create written and artistic contributions for its quarterly magazine, Yorkshire Dales Review and work alongside its staff and trustees to gain hands on knowledge and experience of how the campaigning charity operates.

“This is the beginning of a new journey for Friends of the Dales,” added Mohammed Dhalech. “Effective youth engagement needs to be a priority for the charity, working with young people going into the future. Creative Campaigners can help empower young people to become a positive voice for change in their communities and for Friends of the Dales.”

The main photograph by Harriet Gardiner shows, from the left: Trustee Mohammed Dhalech, Jonny Cunningham, Ruth Garrett, Bess Holt, Josh Burge, Neil Heseltine, Esther Abramson, Leigh Weston, Charlotte Mudd and Steph Carr.