After months of planning, Let’s Learn Moor began yesterday morning.
The day started with a 20-minute drive up the road from home into the North York Moors. From there the familiar moorland view appeared, marking the location of the first ever Let’s Learn Moor venue, where it all began back in 2017.
On arrival, a quick homemade sausage sandwich for nourishment followed; got to keep our strength up for the week ahead!
The marquee was almost erected when the gamekeepers rolled in, pulling through the gateway with tractors, quad bikes, fire fighting equipment and fogging water sprayers.
Organising the largest upland education project across ten venues, involving more than 50 partner organisations, and accommodating 2,500 children, has its challenges.
To add to this, we were all a bit ring-rusty after the event was cancelled last year due to Covid.
The last week unfortunately saw a few cancellations from schools as terms like “isolating” resurfaced as part of our daily lives.
However, with a sensible approach and a few more toilets to allow for ‘bubbles’, not to mention lots of sanitiser, we were once again ready to welcome children en-mass to this free educational event courtesy of BASC legacy funding.
Let’s Learn Moor events are all hosted by the shooting community, and in particular the regional moorland groups. The pride they take in welcoming the children on the day is palpable, standing alongside the people and organisations who protect and enhance these landscapes.
By 11am yesterday morning the moor was filled with little smiling faces.
Let’s Learn Moor offers the chance for the children to learn about moorlands, not to mention the opportunity to put the last year, and the restrictions of Covid, behind them.
Its pretty difficult to pick a highlight from what was a fantastic first day. However, a group of children strapping their teacher to a spinal board and calling in the air ambulance as members of the local mountain rescue proudly looked on, was right up there.
Similarly, meeting a friendly and now rather famous ferret, then a less friendly tick while learning how the hardy Swaledale sheep help reduce tick numbers across the moor also features in the highlights reel.
Listening to the National Park authority to hear why amazing birds like the iconic curlew call this area home also clearly captured the childrens’ imagination.
Watching the gamekeepers using the fogging sprayer and learning how they tackle devastating wildfires clearly struck a chord with the children too.
Before packing up for the day, I spoke to some of the fantastic people we had there with us to find out what they thought about Let’s Learn Moor 2021.
Shepherd, Luke Doughty, enjoyed his time educating the children about the role of livestock on the moor: “We’ve been doing this for five years now, since it started. It’s really good. Some of the kids who have been here didn’t know that the sheep were sheep – they thought they were goats.
“Others had never touched a sheep, or couldn’t understand why the moors were not fenced. They were amazed that sheep could roam across the roads. And the notion of ticks was completely new. One little girl had never had the opportunity to get close to a dog. They really enjoyed meeting the sheep dog.”
Jonathan Green, education officer for North York Moors National park, said: “Many of the children here can identify a blackbird or a sparrow. However, they leave today having learned what curlew, golden plover, lapwing and red grouse look like, the sounds they make, and how they live.”
Adam White from Scarborough and Ryedale Mountain Rescue, expressed what a valuable platform Let’s Learn Moor is for them: “I’ve been surprised by some of the pertinent questions asked. They particularly enjoy strapping their teachers into the stretchers!
“It’s a great initiative, a great platform to explain what we’re all about, and the groups were just the right size. There’s all sorts here to keep the children intrigued.”
Robbie Farrier, teacher at Handale Primary School in Loftus, said the gamekeepers were a hit with his group of children: “This our first year here. It’s something very different and gives the children a chance to learn about what happens on the moors. Some of them have never been on the moors, despite living locally.
“The children were particularly interested in the station where the gamekeepers showed them the various types of trap they use, explained how they work and why they are used. And they loved the gundogs.”
I am off to Nidderdale this morning and leave the North York Moors in the capable hands of our joint co-ordinators at Countryside Learning and the North York Moors Moorland Organisation. Let’s Learn Moor simply would not happen without the whole team and the commitment of the grouse moors to host these events.
One day down, four to go.