During much of the last 16 months the dramatic views and serene sounds of the North York Moors have been out of reach for most. National lockdowns restricted everybody’s ability to travel beyond their local area and those considered particularly clinically vulnerable were asked to shield completely. At the same time however, some of the most iconic and cherished walking routes of the National Park have become more accessible than ever before, thanks to modern technology and the work of impassioned volunteers.
Davy Major and Jim Hall are two members of a small group of North York Moors volunteers who, when the pandemic began, sprang into action to deliver virtual walks via Zoom to people in their own homes. Collaborations with Revival North Yorkshire and Ryedale Carers Support meant that help was also available for people who needed assistance setting up the technology or using Zoom for the first time. Davy said:
“I do the chosen walk myself about two weeks beforehand and capture as much detail as I can in photographs and short video clips. It might be a fresh babbling spring up on Spaunton Moor, the call of a curlew flying up on Sleddale or ducklings on a farm in Rosedale. These sights and sounds often trigger memories for people and provoke conversations for us as we continue on our virtual walk.”
In addition to the mental health benefits, the project has allowed people to become more familiar with their computers and modern video conference technology, opening up new avenues for them to correspond with loved ones during lockdowns.
Debbie Swales, Managing Director of Revival North Yorkshire, said:
“As a community support organisation, our aim is to prevent loneliness, improve well-being and provide assistance to communities in the North York Moors. Although our role has been particularly important during the Covid-19 pandemic, many of the individuals we work with are unable to get out and about even during more normal times, so helping them build connections in their local area and join group events is always extremely valuable.
“When Davy delivers the virtual walks, our own volunteers are available both online and over the phone and can offer technical support should anyone hit any difficulties. They also help encourage conversation between participants, which is really important as the walks are community activities, not presentations, and we really want it to feel that way.”
In recently months the groups have ‘walked’ from Lastingham to Rosedale while discussing the area’s ironstone mining history, admired the spectacular daffodils of Farndale and studied wild orchids in Levisham. The project also works with residential care homes and community groups, each of which interact with the walks in their own way and can put forward suggestions for future walks.
The project is supported by North Yorkshire County Council’s Stronger Communities team.
For more information, or to enquire about taking part in virtual walks in the North York Moors National Park, please contact Sophie Lyth, Partnership and Development Officer, on 01439 772 700, or S.Lyth@northyorkmoors,org.uk.