A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE WITH OPEN COUNTRY


*Advertisement feature with the Aviva Community Fund.

I recently had the pleasure of spending the day with a local charity, Open Country, as part of my work with the Aviva Community Fund.

Based in Harrogate, Open Country is a local group that helps those who are disabled or vulnerable access the countryside around Yorkshire. I was able to join their Friday group tending to Askham Bog, a Yorkshire Wildlife Trust site situated just outside of York.

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Prior to attending, I was told to bring along some waterproof boots/wellies and, by my own admission, I am not that accustomed to the great outdoors! The day arrived and as I waited for the members of Open Country to arrive, I was introduced to some volunteers who attend each week alongside a member of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. They told me a little about what they do, and how not only do the members of Open Country love attending these sessions, but how the volunteers do too. A brightly coloured blue minibus pulled up, which I was told had been named ‘The Blue Calypso’, allowing Open Country to transport both members and volunteers around the countryside easily.

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In total, there were 13 of us including myself, 4 volunteers, 6 members of Open Country, Kate (Countryside Activities Coordinator) and Joe from the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. The day was to be split into two parts; the first part of the morning involved resurfacing and covering up potholes within the Askham Bog car park, and the second part in the afternoon involved heading into Askham Bog to see the growth of previously planted wildlife and plants!

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As we were resurfacing the potholes, I could see the members around me getting stuck in and looking as though they were enjoying themselves and getting a real sense of achievement by admiring their own handiwork! I myself was enjoying it too, although it did make me think I needed to rejoin the gym as it highlighted how unfit I was! Anyway… I got to talking to Kate, the Activities Coordinator, who was overlooking the day and asked her how winning the Aviva Community Fund Award earlier this year had benefitted the charity. She began by telling me that it allowed them to gain more resources for their projects with Churchyards such as tools, building materials and extra members to join the charity.

Alongside looking after Wildlife Trust areas, Open Country are currently involved in a project that looks after churchyards around Yorkshire which helps to either improve the wildflower meadows or maintain their current state. Having this ongoing project allows the members of Open Country to reap the rewards of being outside in the fresh air and getting stuck into the work. By being a part of Open Country, this allows them to access the countryside which they may not have managed to do, had it not been for Open Country’s help. Through securing funding from the Aviva Community Fund, both the members of Open Country and the local church communities’ benefit, helping to build stronger and more future-proof communities in York. Open Country’s win provided them with the much-needed resources to assist their work in keeping churchyards wildlife-rich and wildlife-friendly!

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Once all the potholes had been filled and resurfaced, we then took a short break further into Askham Bog - as we walked through, I hadn’t realised we were surrounding a golf course! There were many different paths within Askham Bog and we eventually came to a mini pond and had our lunch. During the lunch, it was interesting to hear how long the volunteers had been attending and the police check and background checks they must undergo in order to qualify as a volunteer. Of course, this seems like common sense to be able to work with the disabled and vulnerable, but I hadn’t appreciated the process prior to becoming a volunteer for Open Country. This only reiterates the fact that the charity members are in the best hands!

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We then made our way deep into a vast wetland which honestly seemed as though it was in a whole different world, despite being near a motorway. The members love the serene, peacefulness of the surroundings and they showed me some of the plants that had begun to grow; some of the areas within the wetland had been scaled back in order to maintain grow and allow new trees and plants to flourish. Upon finishing our walk through the wetland, I made a move home feeling a real sense of calmness.

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The whole day was lovely, and I felt very privileged to have been able to spend the day with Open Country, getting a better understanding of their charity and how their Aviva Community Fund funding and support has benefited them. For more information on Open Country, click here.

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The Aviva Community Fund enables local groups to enter for the chance to secure funding which ranges from up to £1,000 to £25,000 in one of three categories; Health & Wellbeing, Environment or Skills for Life. You can then have your say by voting for the groups you feel really deserve this great boost towards their projects!

The fund also offers ‘more than money’ support consisting of a range of toolkits, encouraging groups to shout about what they are doing on social media and in the press! Through offering extensive grass roots support, Aviva help to build stronger communities together – championing the local groups we all know and love!

Why not check out the 2018 Winners!? The winners of the 2018 Aviva Community Fund have been announced –why not pop over to the Aviva website to see which great groups near you secured funding this year! Visit https://at.aviva.uk/celebrate

#StrongerCommunities


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