Everyone helped each other… the experience was immersive and friendly. The Yorkshire Dales team ensured the people who were visually and hearing impaired were able to experience their surroundings through touch, feel and smell… it was a multi-sensory experience!Hafeezah Soni, Yorkshire Programme Manager at The Jo Cox Foundation
In many ways, Wensley, in the rural Yorkshire Dales, and Batley in urban Kirklees seem like very different versions of Yorkshire; but both are built around a strong sense of community and commonality.
That’s why, for this year’s Great Get Together, The Jo Cox Foundation and the Yorkshire Dales National Park teamed up to bring the two communities together. The Great Get Together is all about bringing people together and bridging divides, and this seemed a perfect opportunity to do that, in line with the Yorkshire Dales National Park’s longstanding aim to reach out to more diverse communities.
The plan was simple; to bring together people from Batley with those from Wensley for a walk, a chat and a bit of cheese!
And so, at 9 am on the Saturday of the Great Get Together weekend in June, a small, diverse crowd of people gathered in Batley’s main square to get a minibus to Wensley. Among them were people from a wide range of backgrounds and mixed ages and abilities, including those who were visually and hearing impaired.
After a smooth bus ride, they were dropped off in Wensley, the small village which gives its name to the wider valley of Wensleydale, and were met by local people and volunteers from the National Park. After initial introductions, the group started their guided walk from Wensley to Leyburn, supported by the Yorkshire Dales National Park staff.
This rural walk was planned to be as accessible as possible so that people of all walking abilities could enjoy it. The group leader made sure there were plenty of opportunities for people to stop and enjoy their surroundings, introducing specific plants and locations – particularly so those on the walk who were visually impaired could enjoy it too.
One of the main aims of this Great Get Together was to be as inclusive to people of all backgrounds and abilities as possible, as well as to provide an opportunity for people to explore, learn and connect in a different way in an unfamiliar setting.
After the guided walk, the group reached the local community hall for lunch before heading onto the final activity – a visit to the ‘Curlew Dairy’ a small, family-owned dairy famous for its raw milk Wensleydale cheese. A dairy tour showed both locals and visitors the traditional methods used to make the cheese before giving everyone the chance to sample the cheese and relax together to properly connect with new acquaintances. The young people, in particular, were curious about how the ingredients were sourced as well as how the cheese was produced in a small room next to a family home.
“Everyone helped each other, and we couldn’t have done this or enjoyed ourselves as much as we did without the wonderful, friendly and kind staff and volunteers from the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Everyone was kept safe and supported and engaged in the experience, including learning about different trees, plants and wildlife as well as spotting a rare fossil in a wall. The experience was immersive and friendly – the team answered all the questions anyone had and ensured the people who were visually and hearing impaired were able to experience the surroundings through touch, feel and smell,” says Hafeezah Soni, our Yorkshire Programme Manager.
Hafeezah continued; “from the brief conversations I had during the walk and at the end of the day, everyone is keen to explore and visit more green spaces across the Dales. For some, this was the first time they’d experienced a trip of this nature. I hope this gives individuals the confidence to explore and visit places outside of their comfort zone and enjoy green spaces across Yorkshire. The friendly reception from the villagers we bumped into, and the accessibility provided throughout will hopefully also help ease people’s fears about trips like this. It was a real multi-sensory experience!”
Overall, the day was a huge success, bringing together two different communities and forging new friendships and connections. We hope this event and many more to come can help people feel a greater sense of belonging to place and space. It showed, once again, that we truly do have more in common and we look forward to future collaborations bringing different communities together.