Apprentices go all-a-Broad

Lisa Till – Coast Area Apprentice Ranger

At the end of May, six of us North York Moors National Park Authority’s Apprentices got the fantastic opportunity to take part in an Apprentice Exchange in the beautiful Broads. After a long drive down to the village of Coltishall, we received a lovely welcome at the Girl Guiding Lodge we were staying in from the Broads Apprentices who were hosting us. After a lot of introductions to the apprentices from the South Downs, Yorkshire Dales, and the Broads, the evening was filled with presentations from each National Park along with a plentiful BBQ arranged by Graeme and Polly, the Broads Rangers who had organised the whole trip.

On the next morning we all headed out first thing to Geldeston, where we met up with more Rangers from the Broads and went on a canoe trail along the River Waveney to Beccles. Out in the canoes for an hour and a half, we found that the best way to experience the Broads is definitely by boat. Our trail took us along a lovely tranquil stretch of river, showing us just a glimpse of the great scenery and wildlife there is on offer. The trip on the water also gave us chance to learn about the responsibility the Broads Authority has to maintain the navigation, along with stories of speeding boats and the inevitable accidents that occur. Back on dry land, and with only one canoe having capsized, we headed back to the minibus and on to our next adventure.

After a lunch break, where we were lucky enough to spot a Long-Eared Bat, we were taken on a guided walk by Ranger Stephen Fairbrass around part of Hickling Broad. Hickling Broad, like most of the Broads, is a result of peat digging in the 12th to 14th centuries where the area then flooded due to sea-level rise, an issue the Broads are continually facing. We were shown the last working Eel Sett in the east of England at Candle Dyke, and we spotted a Chinese Water Deer and saw the Konik ponies; both species graze the area.

After a fantastic home-made lasagne for tea back at the base, we were out again onto the waterways for a trip on the solar powered boat ‘Ra’ on the Whitlingham Great Broad at Whitlingham Country Park. We had a fantastic hour trip, and Captain Mark told us all about the fascinating history of the area and its wildlife. ‘Ra’ was Britain’s first solar-powered passenger boat, and with the City of Norwich so close if offers a great chance to view wildlife of the Broads so near to the city.  We all ended up in Norwich for a brilliant end to the day for a pub quiz at the Fat Cat Pub. Other employees of the Broads Authority joined us for additional brain power, but unfortunately even with around 20 of us we still didn’t manage to beat the locals.

Thursday began bright and early and we were all straight out to meet Volunteer Pete Morgan at St Benet’s Abbey, which 1000 years ago was a prosperous monastery. Pete gave us a brilliant guided tour of the Abbey remains and the setting. Back in Tudor times when King Henry VIII closed down monasteries across the country, St Benet’s remained the only one never officially shut down.

We left the Abbey on foot and walked towards How Hill along the River Ant – what with the sun shining, an ice cream stop was definitely in order. At How Hill we looked around Toad Hole Cottage, a traditional Marshman’s Cottage. There used to be plenty of Marshmen in the Broads, working across vast areas cutting and collecting reeds whilst managing the land with drainage and cattle. However, the growth of machinery has meant this way of life has slowly died out; the cottage at How Hill still shows how these families used to live and work.

As no trip is complete without a trip to the beach, so next we headed out to the coast. The beach at Horsey Gap gave us a chance for a paddle (even a dip for some). It is well known for its grey seal colony and we spotted some friendly seals popping their heads above the water. We soon had to head off again this time to Brandeston Village Hall to see a local theatre production called ‘Tide Jetty’. The play was a dramatic love story reflecting life growing up in the Broads, which was a perfect way to end our time spent together.

As Friday morning came we all said our goodbyes over our final breakfast together, before heading back to our own National Parks. The trip was a great experience to see another National Park whose landscapes and challenges are different to the North York Moors. As our National Park Authority has had apprentices for many years, the Apprentices and Rangers at the Broads were interested in how our programme runs and we all learnt a lot about the range of apprenticeships on offer. Our North York Moors group had apprentices from planning, tourism, and the ranger services which shows the diverse apprenticeship opportunities available. A big focus of the trip was to remind us all that although we work all over the country, we’re all part of one ‘National Park Family’ and it is always good to discuss ideas and to praise and support each other whenever possible. Huge thanks to Graeme, Polly, and everyone else who helped from the Broads Authority for being such brilliant hosts and showing us all the best bits that the Broads has to offer.

Apprentice on the Beach.Added Footnote
‘I can’t speak highly enough of the apprentices, the National Parks will be in safe hands and you should be very proud’.
Graeme Hewitt, Broads Authority Senior Ranger who organised and hosted the trip.

 

Shoulders to the wheel

Kelsey Williamson – Business Administration Apprentice

I decided to look for an apprenticeship after completing my A-levels as university wasn’t for me. I wanted to be out working however I had limited experience after only working part time while studying, at hotels, cafes and Sainsburys – so this wasn’t the experience I needed or the type of career I wanted to pursue.

I wasn’t certain what I wanted to do but after studying Business Studies at GCSE and A-Level I thought a Business Administration Apprenticeship was a good start; it would allow me to get the experience I was lacking, gain more qualifications and hopefully provide direction for a career. So I decided to join the North York Moors National Park Authority’s apprenticeship scheme.

Apprentices at the North York Moors National Park Authority currently make up about 14% of the workforce and compared to the other 15 National Parks in the UK we are the biggest employer of apprentices (the second place Park employs 9 behind our 17!) Our apprenticeships cover three different areas: Business Administration, Countryside Conservation and Tourism, and we offer Levels 2 (intermediate), 3 (advanced) and 4 (higher). The Apprentices range in age between 16 and 28.

Our Business Administration Apprentices normally do a two year apprenticeship with one year in the Corporate Services team assisting with office works such as phone cover, sorting the pool vehicles/room bookings and organising the post. The other year is helping the Planning Admin team, booking in and requesting payment for enquires, plotting applications and doing background searches. At the moment I’m working at a Level 4 role, alongside the Ranger Service team, undertaking project work such as selling off our old National Park boundary signs and looking at easy access routes within the Park.

The Countryside Workers and Apprentice Rangers are split into two teams – the Northern Area Team cover the north and coast areas of the Park and are based at Danby, and the Southern Area Team cover the south and west areas of the Park and are based at Helmsley.

Both teams have four Level 2 Apprentices and two Level 3s. The Level 2 Apprentices work together with their Supervisor doing jobs such as tree felling, fencing, path resurfacing and controlling vegetation. The Level 3s work under the Senior Ranger (North, Coast, South or West) taking on more responsibility including working on their own,  planning  jobs themselves, liaising with landowners and farmers, as well as working with our Volunteer Task Day Leaders and volunteer teams.

Our Tourism Apprentices are based at our Visitor Centres. In this role the Apprentices are dealing with customers, sorting and restocking displays and helping with events.  In the winter months when the Centres are closed during the week the Apprentices work in the offices. The Moors National Park Centre Apprentice assists with the education administration, sorting post, processing school bookings and arranging timetables for the week ahead. The Sutton Bank Centre Apprentice helps in our Park Services Team based in our Helmsley headquarters updating the events system, helping the social media officer and organising events.

Last year the Authority started an ‘Apprentice Forum’ to be run by ourselves. It is managed mainly by me, I coordinate the meetings and find out what the others would like to do and organise the trips. At present the Forum is meeting bi-monthly, it’s an excellent opportunity to do a bit of team building. We’ve had an initial meeting, a meeting to discuss one another’s roles, a tour of the new features at the Moors National Park Centre, and visited the Seated Man figure on Castleton Rigg to discuss the planning process undertaken and our opinions. We’re aiming to have a talk from past Apprentices about what we could do after our apprenticeships and also to visit the Lake District National Park and the Yorkshire Dales National Park to meet up with their Apprentices.

Apprenticeship Forum - first official meetingDoing my apprenticeship has helped me gain a lot and not just in experience and qualifications. I have gained confidence, done things I never thought I would and learnt so many new skills from leading the Apprentice Forum to juggling workloads and deadlines.

I hope this won’t be the end of my learning I would like to go on and train more in a position that still has a link to the outdoors either with National Park Authorities or in the agricultural sector.

People, Places and Projects

Amy Thomas – North York Moors, Coast and Hills LEADER Programme Manager

After five years of work we’ve made it to the end of the 2008-2013 North York Moors, Coast and Hills LEADER Programme.

For those of you that aren’t familiar with our fantastic LEADER Programme (shame on you) it’s been a tale of projects and people, places and the other dreaded ‘p’ – paperwork! Basically, the Programme provided funding for innovative and sustainable rural development projects under three themes: Basic Services, Village Renewal & Tourism, Conservation & Heritage.

With memories of the last Programme already beginning to fade, I thought this would be the ideal opportunity to share some of the highlights and at the same time to keep the idea of LEADER alive as we move rather quickly towards our next Programme.

Back in 2008 with five years stretching ahead of us, we started out on our LEADER adventure full of enthusiasm and high hopes. It has to be said that the end result was everything we’d hoped it would be and more. It’s been a journey which has not only had the pleasure and privilege in making a small contribution to so many projects and communities, but has provided me (and my colleagues I’m sure!) with enormous job satisfaction.

Over the years a huge number of people have been involved in the LEADER Programme delivering projects in their village or as a member of our Local Action Group and/or Executive Group.

The Executive Group have played a vital role making decisions on many aspects of the Programme. Many of the Executive were local volunteers who gave their time and skills freely, and acquitted themselves exceptionally well to the task at hand.

Esk Pearl Mussel VisitAlong with the hard work of assessing and approving project applications, the Executive got stuck in to days negotiating the muddy banks of the River Esk to see some of the work done by the Esk Pearl Mussel & Salmon Recovery Project, trying their hand at a spot of dowsing with the Mulgrave Community Research Project, and inspecting the orchards and production unit of Husthwaite’s now famous apple juice and cider. These visits brought individual projects to life and gave us all the chance to really see the positive contributions being made to local life through LEADER funding.

The projects we have been able to support have provided us with many great stories to share. Our first training project, the Yorkshire Moors Agricultural Apprenticeship Scheme (YMAAS) took on their first group of seven apprentices in 2009. Following the successful completion of their apprenticeships, all seven young people moved on to further education or employment. YMAAS has continued and are now beginning to work with their third set of apprentices, and are frequently held up nationally as a model of good practice.YMAAS

More than 20 communities were supported by the LEADER funded Community Access Project and Martyn Williams (the Project Officer) to create or improve footpaths around their villages. These new circular or linear routes are providing safe new routes to school for children, creating local visitor amenities and have meant the upgrading of a number of footpaths to multi-user routes at some of the National Park’s most popular locations.  

Following the identification of a new circular route around Coxwold, residents rolled up their sleeves and got stuck in, helping with everything from installing gates to improving surfacing.Community Access Project in Coxwold

Many of the smallest projects assisted (usually through the LEADER funded Small Scale Enhancement Schemes) have been located in some of the most beautiful parts of our area and have given us an insight into some fascinating hidden gems. To name just a few, the conservation work at Castle Howard’s Exclamation Gates, at Howsham Mill and at Handale Abbey, along with the new interpretation panels at Egton Mortuary Chapel and Warren Moor Mine, Kildale are all well worth a visit.Egton Mortuary Chapel

The people who made each project happen are often the lynch pin within communities and so were crucial to the Programme. Without them we would never have been able to have achieved all we have. The people behind the projects never failed to amaze me with their dedication and commitment. I’ve seen them do everything from making tea and scones for fundraising to digging up concrete village hall floors. The same people have also been the ones filling in the forms and I’m sure the paperwork has been tedious but it is unfortunately always an essential part of funding. However despite the difficulties and the highs and lows that some projects go through, I’d like to think that the pride of opening the doors of their newly refurbished village hall, selling their first bottle of apple juice or seeing their village come together to celebrate centuries of traditions reminded them of why they got involved, and in doing so how they became a part of the local LEADER story. Gilling East VH Opening

So…the five years have flown by in the blink of an eye and some tremendous projects have emerged, but instead of mourning the end of our LEADER Programme, I’d much rather see this as an opportunity to embark on our next exciting chapter. We’re going to take all we’ve learnt and use this to build our next Programme. Although it is likely to be fundamentally different in terms of the projects we’ll be able to support, it will still hold at its core the traditional LEADER principles of co-operation, networking and innovation achieved through bottom up local development.

We shall relish the challenge of developing our new Programme and the more people who get involved, the better the end result will undoubtedly be! If this all sounds like something you’d like to know more about or would like to know how you can get involved, please get in touch 

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We will apply to Defra in September to have a new LEADER Programme for our area and will hear by the end of the year if we have been successful.

Building chainsaw skills, dry-stone walls and a career!

Gregor Stuart, one of our former Apprentices and now a Field Assistant, has blogged about his experiences on the Not Going To Uni Blog, have a read!

Practical learning

Clair Shields – Planning Officer (Building Conservation)

Work has started on the Borobeck Store in Helmsley, giving the TECAP apprentices a real-life project to work on from start to finish.

The apprentices have been charged with overseeing the restoration of a vernacular building within the historic core of Helmsley town. Vernacular buildings reflect the locality in design (or rather non design), materials, and adaptation; rather than any particular architectural ‘style’.

An accredited architect has produced a specification for repairs, and the apprentices have produced the programme of works and bill of quantities, and arranged procurement of materials and the disposal of waste, so gaining invaluable experience of project management.

Along the way the apprentices will be advised by expert conservationists to assist them with the more specialist work needed when working on traditionally built buildings – e.g. a local lime specialist will oversee ‘hot mixing’ and supervise the apprentices when they ‘torch’ the roof thus promulgating vernacular, traditional building skills.

Borobeck Store - Architect's Plans

The works are anticipated to take six weeks. There was a quick start to the project with the apprentices stripping half the roof by lunchtime on the first day. Now decisions need to be taken on the quality of the timberwork and the potential for splicing in new sections of timbers.

This is just one of the work tasks the apprentices have been involved with. If you’re wondering what a TECAP apprentice might be …..

Since 2011 a partnership comprising of this National Park, local Estates (Castle Howard, Duncombe Park, Mexborough, Dawnay, and Hackness), English Heritage, York College and the University of York have been working together to address local skills shortages through the implementation of a two-year craft skills apprenticeship project offering ‘on the job’ training and NVQ level 2 qualifications. This is the Traditional Estate Conservation Apprenticeship Project: TECAP for short.

The aim is to train apprentices in traditional craft skills to a level of good practice in the sustainable conservation of vernacular buildings and nationally important archaeological monuments. The Estates provide the practical experience maintaining and conserving the region’s heritage, and the apprentices also attend College on a block release basis to achieve a nationally recognised qualification by the end of their apprenticeship. There are three apprentices at the moment, all from the local area.

The project is currently being funded through the North York Moors, Coast and Hills LEADER Programme, English Heritage, the Ernest Cook Trust, the Radcliffe Trust, Historic Houses Association (Yorkshire), NHTG Heritage Skills for the Future and the North York Moors National Park Authority. The current apprenticeship scheme ends in 2014.