Help to maintain access to the countryside and support nature conservation, look after rights of way in beautiful landscapes.
North Yorkshire lays claim to some of the most beautiful landscape in the country, and its footpaths, bridleways and views are enjoyed by visitors from around the world. We work with a team of about 100 volunteers, who help look after 6,000km of public rights of way in a variety of ways, and play an instrumental role in preserving access to the countryside so that it can be enjoyed for years to come.
How you can help
Volunteers help in two different parts of the service; helping to maintain public rights of way, and helping the Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with conservation tasks. Volunteers can sign up for one or several roles.
- Public rights of way inspections and general maintenance - The main bulk of the work is in inspections; the volunteers are our 'eyes and ears' on the footpaths and bridleways that we look after. Volunteers help by inspecting reported problems on paths and photographing what they see. If the problem can be addressed there and then, e.g. by cutting back overgrowth around a sign, nailing down a decking board or tightening a gate hinge, we ask the volunteers to do this while they are there. Otherwise, the volunteers will report back what they have found. Volunteers might also help by putting up notices e.g. for a diversion or a temporary closure and then removing them once they are no longer needed.
- Public rights of way waymarking - This involves adding new waymarks or replacing faded or broken existing ones.
- Public rights of way surveys - Once or twice per year we run large scale surveys of paths, or sections of paths. This may include bridge surveys, checking regrowth after strimming, or surveying the general condition of promoted walks. We usually need you to fill in a short survey form and take photos.
- Public rights of way volunteer buddy - You can be a volunteer buddy for our field officers, who are out and about each day doing practical maintenance work. If they need an extra pair of hands they can call on a buddy to go out with them for the day or a half day.
- Conservation tasks with the Howardian Hills AONB - These task days only run in the area covered by the Howardian Hills project (roughly, between Easingwold, Helmsley, Malton and Sheriff Hutton). They are group tasks clearing invasive plants such as Himalayan balsam, rhododendron, bracken, and scrub to allow native species to flourish or to protect scheduled monument sites e.g. round barrows.
The benefits to you
There are many benefits to be gained from volunteering with us:
- you get to give back to the community by helping to maintain the footpaths and bridleways for all to enjoy;
- the physical exercise and fresh air, as well as being out in nature, is great for your own mental and physical wellbeing;
- the conservation tasks provide opportunity to meet other volunteers and enjoy the social aspect of group work;
- you can use existing skills and learn new ones, and gain knowledge of countryside management and maintenance;
- you gain practical experience in the environmental sector; and
- volunteering looks great on your CV!
The activities are outside in all weathers and often in remote locations away from public transport routes, so you will need your own transport to get to the tasks. No experience or qualifications are necessary, as training is provided. Tools, protective equipment and reasonable travel expenses are also provided.
Please note: volunteers are not permitted to take dogs with them when carrying out activities for the countryside volunteers.
You don’t need particular skills, although map reading is useful. There is usually quite a lot of walking involved, sometimes on rough or uneven ground. Most of the rights of way tasks are sent to you by email and we do ask you to take digital photos and then upload them to our online server so some access to the internet and familiarity with digital cameras or smart phones will be needed.
The rights of way tasks can be done at a time to suit you, including weekends and summer evening. Occasionally we may ask for a volunteer who is available at short notices, but usually you will have a couple of weeks to complete a task.
Rights of way tasks come at irregular intervals - there may be lots to do one month and then nothing the next. It’s also difficult to predict where volunteers will be needed, so it may be a little while before something near you comes up.
Conservation tasks with the Howardian Hills AONB are usually on Thursdays and are mostly fortnightly, around 10am to 3.30pm. There is less activity in April and May when birds are nesting and more, often weekly, in summer when we tackle Himalayan balsam.
You will be invited to an induction session which will cover all the basic information to get you started, including health and safety. After that, full instructions will be given as new tasks come up. The volunteer coordinator is available for ongoing support and will also arrange occasional volunteer meetings.
No disclosure and barring service or other checks are required for this role. You must be 18 years or over to be a countryside volunteer.