High fliers join skills mission

Published on: 25 Nov 2014

What do a theatre director, teacher, joiner, journalist, student and merchant seaman have in common?

They are all volunteers in a pioneering scheme to hone in on dwindling traditional countryside skills to boost a new generation of rural workers.

Answering the Lake District National Park's call for over 18 year-olds to sign up to a mission to bring back and expand talents in a raft of actions, including dry stone walling, bridge building and path restoration, a team of 20 has been set-up.

Thanks to backing from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the volunteers will work alongside staff in the acclaimed Fell Futures apprenticeship project.

Park management volunteering co-ordinator, Dylan Jackman, said the whole ethos of the scheme was to revive traditional skills and provide bespoke, high-level training.

He explained: "We have been bowled-over by the calibre of our applicants, 80 in all. Twenty have now embarked on wide-ranging measures which will ultimately impact on our world renowned landscape.

"Volunteers are working with our level-three apprentices so they can learn together and support rangers in their extensive tasks.

"Alongside practical training, the new team can go for formal qualifications in a range of widely recognised certificated courses through the National Centre for the Uplands at Newton Rigg College, Penrith.

"This is an exceptional opening for those keen to gain experience and accreditation in practical countryside management, or anyone just wanting to be out in the national park doing seriously useful manual work."

Aged from 18 to 60, the recruits have extensive experience in a many different areas, ranging from telecoms engineering to gardening, bringing great benefit and expertise.

Dylan added: "The apprentices are actually managing and leading work parties, developing volunteer skills alongside their own. Recent tree planting at Caldbeck has been completely organised and orchestrated by our advanced level trainees.

"Being a Fell Futures' volunteer is a great way to learn about the Lake District and support our work. It's a very important role and will bring invaluable experience and new opportunities."

National Centre for the Uplands, part of Newton Rigg, has developed a training programme which fits national park needs.

Centre head, Douglas Phillips, explained bringing in external experts such as dry stone wallers and other specialists in their fields was crucial to the scheme's success.

He added: "We aim to deliver the very best training in rural skills. This has been made possible, in part, through funding from Cumbria's local enterprise project, The Edge.

"Protecting and preserving Lake District upland landscapes is an important part of what we do and we are pleased to be working with the national park to deliver this."

Share this page