Field Notes: North West England members gather in Glenridding

Engagement officer Ross Brannigan reports on a lively weekend spent discussing community, conservation and collaboration in the Lakes

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Despite the slowly darkening sky beyond the walls of the Glenridding Public Hall as Storm Jorge closed in, the conversation inside was lively and warm at the latest North West England Members' Gathering.

From 29 February to 1 March, members from far and wide got a chance to hear fascinating talks on conservation, land management, parnterships and research from an array of speakers.

Community has always been at the core of the Trust. As a membership organisation, we are conscious of our own community of members, as well as those which surround our properties. These gatherings are a fantastic way of engaging everyone, with a rich variety of staff and invited speakers providing a packed itinerary for the weekend.

Our Glenridding Common team - Pete Barron and Isaac Johnston - spoke of how they seek to engage with the community around common to ensure the work the Trust carries out is in everyone's best interest.

Daniel Teasdale, of the Ullswater Catchment Management CIC, added to this theme and told members how the organisation has been working to plant trees and aid in the construction of flood defences to protect local homes and businesses, but also improve the natural environment.

David Balharry, newly-appointed chief executive of the John Muir Trust, introduced himself to members and told of the source of his passion for working with communities to find solutions that work for people and nature. 

The Trust's property manager at Glenlude, Karen Purvis, gave an update on the valuable forestry work being done there, which is helping to bring people together to tackle issues for the climate and biodiversity. She spoke about how organisations like Phoenix Futures are working closely with the team at Glenlude to help people rehabilitate from drug- and alcohol-related problems. 

NW Gathering 2020

^Members and staff geared up for the conservation work party. Credit: Dominick Spracklin

In the Lake District, the North West England group has been helping John Hodgson and Forestry England in their own work to reintroduce native trees to the Hardknott Forest. John recently wrote a blog post for us about the work going on there.

As well as our regular work party volunteers, a number of those who are helping at Glenlude are working towards their John Muir Award. Emma Reed, the John Muir Award and Engagement Manager, updated members on what makes the Award programme so unique, its relevance for connecting people to nature and recent research in this area. She talked about developing a fundraising campaign to continue to support our Award this year, and welcomed participants to our new Junior Ranger programme.

Finally, members heard about the valuable work being done by PhD student Felicity Monger about the differences in surface run-off during storm events of different types of land, such as forestry or grazing.

After a packed and inspiring speaker line-up, conversations continued at the local pub over dinner to fuel those staying for the second day to take part in excursions: a guided walk up Glenridding Dodd and a work party on Glenridding Common.

Events like these are important to bring members and those simply interested in what the Trust does to come together and discover more about wild places. If you want to see an event like this in your area, find a Members' Group near you, or get in touch to start one!

Header image by David Balharry