Voluntary hours soar to keep national park in prime condition

The number of volunteer days has soared in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
The number of volunteer days has soared in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
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Goodwill runs deep when it comes to preserving some of Yorkshire’s most cherished landscapes, new figures show, and national parks expect to be increasingly reliant on voluntary help in the future.

After major cost cutting measures by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority in 2011 which saw 40 staff out of 140 employees lose their jobs, the Authority has revealed that volunteers collectively spent 6,129 days’ working in the national park over the last 12 months; an increase from 5,076 days in the previous 12 months and 400 more days than in 2011/12.

Meanwhile, the North York Moors National Park Authority meets next month to make a final decision on how to cut its spending by £300,000 as a consequence of the Government’s austerity measures. Ahead of that meeting, park chiefs have admitted that they will look to rely more heavily on external funding, volunteers, apprentices and graduates to save money. Volunteers already contribute 9,000 days per year.

Kate Hilditch, who is volunteers co-ordinator for the Yorkshire Dales, said much of the voluntary work in the national park was through the Dales Volunteering scheme: “Volunteers get involved in everything from path repairs and historic building surveys to leading guided walks and drystone walling.

“Our fantastic Dales Volunteers bring their expertise, enthusiasm and dedication to a huge range of tasks to support the work of the National Park Authority. In fact, we couldn’t achieve half of what we do without the hours of time and energy they contribute to helping to look after the National Park.”

Nick Cotton, the Authority’s member champion for recreation management, added: “The volunteers in general – and the Dales Volunteers in particular – are absolutely vital if we are to carry on with our main jobs of promoting the understanding and enjoyment this very special place and conserving and enhancing its natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage.”