Learning Skills for the Hills

Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust
The Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust ran a Hill Skills Training Weekend to provide a practical introduction to the safety and navigation skills required for independent hill walking. Based at Malham Tarn Field Centre, the course followed the new Hill Skills course syllabus launched by Mountain Training in April this year.

Thanks to financial support from Mountain Training England, a group of eight people who work alongside disadvantaged community groups in urban areas attended the course. All the participants had previously enjoyed a visit to the Yorkshire Dales with YDMT through the charity’s People and the DALES outreach project, and this was a chance to build their confidence and learn the skills necessary to enjoy the countryside safely and independently in the future.

Learning to navigate
The delegates represented a variety of organisations supporting black, minority and ethnic (BME) groups: Sharing Voices (a mental health charity from Bradford working within the Asian community), Bradford NHS Stop Smoking Campaign, Keighley NHS Community, Frizinghall Primary School in Bradford and Blackburn YMCA.

The group were instructed by Cat Forster – a fully qualified Mountaineering Instructor who led the course thanks to funding from Mountain Training England. Under Cat’s guidance the group learnt about the importance of planning, walking skills, clothing and equipment, the impact of the weather, navigation skills, environmental knowledge, hazards and emergency procedures in the hills.

Cat said: “It was a huge pleasure to run the Hill Skills course with the group brought together by Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust. We covered all the elements of the new Hill Skills course, nationally accredited by Mountain Training, which aims to give people confidence in planning walks, navigating and understanding the equipment required to stay safe and enjoy a day in the hills. Everyone in the group showed a good understanding of all the different aspects of the course and I hope they all go on to enjoy more fantastic days out in the Yorkshire Dales and further afield.”

Andy Say from Mountain Training England said: “Mountain Training England (MTE), along with the British Mountaineering Council (BMC), have long recognised that there is a relatively low level of participation in hillwalking and climbing from the BME communities. There are a wide variety of factors at play but it is recognised that the lack of ‘social capital’ in the form of community experience and expertise of hillwalking may play a part. The BMC and MTE put in a bid to Sport England for funding to support a variety of initiatives and this course was a direct result of that funding being used to try to develop confidence and skills within the BME community. We are delighted by the success of the course and hope to see the participants out there on the hills using their new skills and knowledge.”

The YDMT Hill Skills Groups At the end of the two-day course, all the participants received a certificate from Mountain Training and guidance on how best to further their walking experience.

Judy Rogers, Community Worker at YDMT, added: “This is an excellent course, both for those who have already done some map work, and for those with no previous experience. Cat was a fabulous trainer and excellent at getting information over in a fun and engaging way, ensuring that everyone enjoyed the weekend and got a lot out of the course. It helped to build confidence and individual skills, and inspired many of the group to use maps in the future and put their new skills into practice to enable them to access and enjoy the countryside independently and safely in the future.”

The ‘People and the DALES’ project encourages people from disadvantaged and urban backgrounds to experience the natural environment of the Yorkshire Dales and enjoy activities such as walks, farm visits, conservation work and crafts.

Mountain Training England is currently offering 50% funding for potential BME leaders with an interest in becoming a walking leader or climbing supervisor. It's also open to people already part-way through some of our schemes.