Over 60 ‘Rusland Horizons’ volunteers and staff aged from 6 to 70+ took advantage of the sunshine on Sunday 9th Dec and ventured out into the Rusland Valley and surrounding fells to take care of the landscape. Rusland Horizons is one of the first community-led Landscape Partnership Schemes to be funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The RH ‘Big Christmas Bash’ saw groups improving paths, building boardwalks and footpath steps, clearing paths, repairing dry stone walls, making and siting bird nesting boxes and planting 290 trees to establish a new wood.
Liz Skinner, a resident of Ulverston and regular volunteer at RH work parties, said that it was great to be part of such a positive community that was coming together to protect this special area of South Lakeland. Liz was helping rebuild a drystone wall and clear a footpath in Oxen Park that had become badly overgrown. Mike Thwaites, local dry-stone walling expert was on hand to oversee proceedings and pass on his extensive knowledge.
The Rusland Horizons Scheme has sponsored 12 young apprenticeships in environmental conservation and in woodworking skills, through its work with the Lake District National Park and the Bill Hogarth Memorial Apprenticeship Trust (BHMAT). For BHMAT apprentice, Helen Clark, who was leading the coppicing work party near Ickenthwaite, the Scheme has enabled her to pursue a lifelong passion for green-wood working. Helen has just completed the purchase of a small woodland in the area and will now be following in her ancestors footsteps: unbeknown to Helen until recently, her great-great grandad actually worked the woods in this area producing hoops for barrel makers.
Many volunteers have also been trained on the traditional skills required to maintain the landscape. Following a RH event at the Stott Park Bobbin Mill in 2017, Jim Doherty, a 24 year old University of Cumbria student, has developed a real passion for drystone walling and is now spending most of his free time working alongside Mike Thwaites to learn his trade.
290 trees proved to be child’s play for the small group who were planting a new wood at Dave and Anne Robinson’s farm at Crosslands. Dave is a great supporter of the Scheme and commented on the difference it was making to the land and how he would like to see it carry on into the future. One of the volunteers said that his experiences with Rusland Horizons were life changing – there was not better medicinal quality than working in the outdoors.
Judith, a volunteer, was getting stuck in to repairing the steps on a very steep path near Oxen Park, doing her bit to look after and conserve the countryside and make sure it was accessible for all who want to enjoy it.
The working day was followed by a warming stew, mulled wine and mince pies at the White Hart in Bouth. At the end of the event, Steve Tatlock of the Lake District National Park, presented 100 Lake District pounds to volunteer Elspeth Cooper. Elspeth was winner of the prize draw for completing the questionnaire about the future of the Scheme after the Heritage Lottery funding finishes in June 2018. The results of the questionnaire were very encouraging, with 92% of respondents seeing a future for Rusland Horizons, and 78% wanting to be closely involved!