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Wednesday, 20 June 2012

No small society, theatre and family beckon. Back in July

I feel a bit bereft today as I haven't gone to Coasties, but it's way up north, on a section of the Cleveland Way,, out of the National Park and we have theatre tickets in Scarborough for this evening, the timings are just wrong. It's a shame, as Coasties have all just been sent an email from a very satisfied walker about the Cleveland Way. However, as I've posted before, this is what volunteers do, something else beckons and off we go.

Next week is similiar, I have rented a beach hut in Scarborough, the family are coming; and, even if the weather is rather uncertain, in the best family tradition we shall make the most of it. My small society will have to fend for itself, back in July.

Imagine though if an essential public service was dependent on me! I've been there and done that when I worked full time.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Industrial past and what's a group of seals called?

At the beginning of this month I posted about the disused brick kilns at Ravenscar, a day of voicemails and then some old brick kilns, well here is a Ravenscar brick, and the sign to the kilns and the other local industrial heritage, the old alum works.
In the depths of the countryside
Still making up a path, about half a mile from the old kilns 

I was doing a voluntary ranger patrol on Sunday,, when I took these photos. Unfortunately my camera does not have a good enough zoom for the even more unusual sight (well for me) of at least ten grey seals way down below me on the beach at the southern end of Robin Hood's Bay. From the distance one was almost white, and at first, without my binoculars I thought some sheep had somehow got down onto the beach and were about to drown in the incoming tide! However the binoculars and the seals' ungainly movements on land prevented me from taking emergency action, and looking a complete fool. Within five minutes they had gone and I was left wondering if it had all been true? So what is the correct name for a group of seals?

Later on a I showed a family walking along the old railway where the disused brick kilns were, they had heard of them, but from the path they are quite hidden by vegetation. One day, I believe, the National Trust hopes to be able to have some signage explaining their history, but as usual finance needs to be found, There is a bit more about the old brick works here,, I think their picture is nearly as good as mine.

A couple of local people asked me what a voluntary ranger does, I explained as best I could and they seemed satisfied that I was doing something useful,but not interfering with their day to day lives. Some voluntary rangers concentrate on the country bit, I enjoy that, but I am always slightly disappointed if I haven't spoken to anyone whilst I'm doing a patrol. I love walking on my own, but part of being a VR, I think, is being the face of the Park to locals and visitors alike and to do that a bit of chatting is necessary.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Something everyday, it's like being back at work!

Sunday I was at the National Park's Mobile Display Unit at Saltergate., although it's the end of half term week the weather is very uncertain and we are not very busy. However it stays dry until we pack up, just in time, before the deluge. Earlier I had walked down into the Hole of Horcum and unfortunately met several of the kind of dog owners I met in Farndale, the illiterate ones. I also met some who clearly could read these signs on the gates and the boards.

I will say no more, colleagues at Coasties contributed to an article that one day I will write about 'Why MY Dog need not be on a lead'.

As I walk back I see some of the effects of Slow the flow,  this is a project to slow the flow of rain water off the hills and reduce the chance of flooding in towns like Pickering; these trees recently planted on the hillside are part of that project. It is a multiple benefit, as well as reducing flood risk it massively increases the tree cover and thereby the biodiversity on the moors.
Can you see the new trees, maybe just their support poles.

Monday is a flying visit to Leeds to see my asylum seeking friend, she has lots going on, but to say more would be to disclose too much at present. Then a talk to the York Justice and Peace group about the practical work I do with asylum seekers in Leeds. They are a lovely group of people, I have met some of them before when I helped my husband do a talk about his journey with a humanitarian convoy to Gaza. After my talk, a lot of chatting, and a cup of tea they give me a donation to LASSN,

Tuesday is an easy Short Stop day, two referrals, both from Pafras,; the case workers are in their office, so I can hear them easily, usually they are in the drop in, a church with a stone floor and lots of music being played! Both guests are placed quickly and then, ironically after last week, several more hosts ring back to say that they too are free.

This bit yet to do, but after lunch..
The Rail Trail is a disused railway track in the Esk Valley, it is being promoted by the National Park as being wheelchair and pushchair friendly, so Coasties must make it so. It needs to be cleared to two metres so that cinder can be laid and people who are less active can enjoy the Park too.
We did this bit by lunch

There is lots of joking as the three of us who measure and mark the areas to be cleared are accused of variously wobbling about and making it wider and wider, as you can see neither is true! We do have to make sure though that there is a 'layby' at the bench, so a slight deviation from dead straight is necessary! The sun, mostly, shines and we have a lovely day; not for the first time I realise how lucky I am. Sunshine, lovely scenery, good company, keeping fit, and a mileage (very small) allowance. I even feel that I have done something very useful. If only my friend in Leeds could get leave to stay.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

My small society is a year old

Well, so busy, I had missed that it is now over a year since I started blogging. My first blog was May 25th 2011. Much has happened in the big world outside, as far as the title of my blog is concerned, I think it may have lasted longer than the Big Society! Probably more need for volunteers and yet as the cuts bite on the voluntary sector there are fewer paid staff to back us up and less money to train new volunteers and keep us going generally, expenses, equipment, etc. As for me, I have kept up a life outside the blog, travelling, family and friends. The biggest thing for the blog though is being added to the Guardian's Northerner. I have been a Guardian reader since the News Chronicle folded and my father switched papers, so to be even a small part of it makes me very proud indeed.

My main message is still the same, volunteering is the extra stuff, it is not and should never be a substitute for well funded public services, available to all members of society.

A day of voicemails and then some old brick kilns

The end of May was a trying time as a Short Stop coordinator. It started quite well, computer set up and some tidying up in the garden almost completed, this kind of volunteering is good I thought, doing something useful and the gardening! Then five referrals in quick succession, Pafras, the Refugee Council and the Red Cross As I took all the details my heart sank, I already knew that we were short of hosts, leaky roofs, holidays and long term destitute people had reduced the number of short stop beds. I warned the case workers and set to work. To make it harder every call went to voicemail, was it my phone I wondered? Don't be silly how could it be!

Finally, several hours later and the gardening still not completed, I had placed three people, then one of the case workers rang me back, her client could sleep on a friend's floor. Only one unplaced, I rang the agency back, at least it was a warm, dry evening, if it had to be the park. I remembered what LASSN, who organise the short stop system, had told me when I started coordinating, that I must switch off when I finish and on no account to blame myself. Fortunately I trained myself to do just that when I was teaching in a very deprived part of east London, I had done what I could, I could do no more.

It helped that I jumped on my bike and off to have my hair cut, concentrating on the traffic took my mind off anything else, not much point in having an accident, I wouldn't be of any use to anyone then.

The next day was Coasties, the last Wednesday of the month so we were  working with the National Trust When I got to Ravenscar it was misty and cold, however it soon cleared a little and we set to work in the old brick kilns next to the now disused railway line that used to run from Scarborough to Whitby and beyond. At present it is hard to tell that these were brick kilns, but one day that might change and the area cleared so that the industrial past of this now peaceful area will be revealed. It was mostly clearing invasive trees and shrubs and laying wood chippings on the paths. Other paths were consolidated with shale, like the wood chippings all sourced locally. The brick kilns, like most other local kilns, apparently used local materials to make the bricks, I forgot to ask whether they brought in coal or used local heather or bracken for the fuel. Below us we can see the old alum works, another part of Ravenscar's industrial

Moving the wood chippings in wheel barrows was easy work, compared to moving the shale, I had only one go at that and almost lost the barrow! Back to the wood chippings for me. Shovelling, tipping and raking was quiet and peaceful, a good antidote to yesterday's problems. Perhaps everyone who does potentially stressful volunteering should have another quite opposite task to keep them calm and sane.

As we cleared up, large branches were pulled across the entrance to the site, motor cyclists have been using if for off road racing, their bikes and fuel are expensive, why can't they go to legitimate sites and pay for their noisy and polluting habits?

the entrance to one of the old kilns

a wood chipped path

Two days and two such different worlds, I am pleased that I can be involved in both, one is pay back for the other.