Countryside Apprentices Learn Traditional Skils

News > Countryside Apprentices Learn Traditional Skils


Date of issue: 4 May 2012

Traditional rural skills have been passed on from one generation to the next as a group of five young countryside trainees spent a day at Gayle Mill near Hawes attending a gate-making master class.

Gayle Mill is a fully restored Victorian saw mill powered by water turbines. The mill produces traditional gates and fencing on a commercial basis as well as also being a popular visitor attraction and a centre for training and teaching.

The group of trainees who took advantage of this training opportunity are nearing the end of a 22 month development plan with the Dales Countryside Trainees Scheme, an initiative facilitated by Clapham-based charity the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (YDMT).

The scheme provides young people with the opportunity to train for a career in environmental and countryside management in the Yorkshire Dales, through a combination of workplace training alongside part-time attendance at Craven College and additional practical training courses such as this event.

Tony Routh, Volunteer Director at Gayle Mill and a former Gayle Mill apprentice, led the master class to share his skills and knowledge with the young countryside apprentices.

Tony commented, “Not only is Gayle Mill a unique setting in which to learn the heritage of gate making in the Dales, but also Gayle Mill gates have a unique design. With six rails, the bottom three of which are positioned close together to keep the lambs in, Gayle Mill gates are really distinctive and unique to this region. I hope that the experience and skills the trainees gained today will be useful in all kinds of rural management work.”

The trainees rose to the challenge, gaining experience of both modern and Victorian machinery, tools and techniques during the day. Working together, the team produced a traditional Gayle Mill-style gate which has been sold to raise money for the Gayle Mill charity – it will be used on agricultural land in Newbiggin in Wensleydale.

Becky Burton, a Trainee carrying out her placement at the National Trust site Fountains Abbey, said “I’ve found it really interesting to try my hand at both the traditional techniques and the modern alternatives of gate-making today. Overall I’ve found that the combination of work experience, college-based learning and master classes like this have made the YDMT Countryside Trainee scheme a really positive learning experience for me, and hopefully a strong start to a career in countryside management in the Dales.”

Jo Boulter, YDMT’s Dales Countryside Trainee Project Officer, commented, “It has been a fascinating day and a chance for the trainees to experience both old and new techniques in gate-making. It is so important that traditional rural skills like these that make up the heritage of the Yorkshire Dales are not lost, so it seemed very fitting that Tony, a former apprentice himself, was handing down his knowledge to the next generation of countryside apprentices. We’re very grateful to Tony and to Gayle Mill for making the event such a success.”

Both Gayle Mill and the Dales Countryside Trainee Scheme have received funding from the Yorkshire Dales LEADER programme. The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority via the Sustainable Development Fund, Yorkshire Agricultural Society, Natural England, Skills Funding Agency, NYCC, and Arco Clothing have also contributed to the Dales Countryside Trainee Scheme.

YDMT also receives financial support from individuals and business supporters as well as from the players of the People’s Postcode Lottery – a charity lottery whose players have raised over £78,000 in unrestricted funding for the Trust during 2011 to help support projects such as this.

Samantha Belcher, Heritage Education and Training Co-ordinator at Gayle Mill, added “This is a lovely example of how two LEADER-funded projects have come together to provide a wonderful learning experience for some of the future custodians of the Yorkshire Dales landscape. I hope that the trainees will find the skills they learnt today useful in their current work placements and their future careers.”

Picture: Josh Hull using traditional techniques and machinery.

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