Community celebrates lockdown triumphs

This story was published 28 July 2020

A community is coming together to celebrate their own triumphs over the Covid-19 pandemic – virtually.

Jim, his wife Denise and family dog

People who live in the Esk Valley have been keeping their spirits up and staying connected in innovative ways and the Esk Valley Virtual Rurality Event, taking place on Friday, (31), is bringing residents together to mark how they have risen to the challenge of the pandemic to support each other.

The day has various virtual activities in place which reflect on how the community has coped with Coronavirus together.

Starting with an icebreaker, the morning includes a talk and “warm up” from North Yorkshire Sport on keeping active through lockdown.

Then Ruth and Neil Hannah of Musical Memories discuss how they’ve stayed connected to their audience during lockdown and provide their “tune a day” live.

North Yorkshire Moors National Park volunteer Jim Hall will take viewers on a virtual walk in the national park before lunch, something he did at residential homes before lockdown which will also be streamed into care homes he visited pre-Covid. Below, Jim has explained the importance of the walks and how the idea came about.

National charity Camphill Village Trust, which works with adults with learning and other disabilities, supports people through its 10 communities and services, one of which is Botton Village in the NYMNP. They will be showing how they’ve used video calling through lockdown and are treating participants to a live, fun, interactive session.

There will also be a viewing a first draft of an Esk Valley Together film which is being made to document the community response to lockdown and the pandemic, and a discussion on the future post-Covid and how the community will continue to thrive.

Revd Sally Wilson will also talk about how the church will stay connected, before a musical finale with local musician Dave Crabtree and brother Mikey.

Community Catalysts, Stronger Communities, and NYMNP with existing community and VCS partners in the Esk Valley have brought the event together to showcase innovation and community response. 

Stronger Communities Delivery Manager Paddy Chandler said: “This event emerged from a collaboration of community and voluntary sector representatives from the Esk Valley during the depths of the initial pandemic. 

“It was clear that in the Esk Valley, as with many communities countrywide, that the response, commitment, and innovation of local volunteers & groups was something very special despite the vast challenges. 

“We wanted to celebrate and showcase these activities and look at how these positives may provide some legacy for the future.”

All welcome including resident, young people, professionals and can tap into different elements through the day.  To register please email Debbie John

Case study

Jim Hall joined the National Park as a Volunteer Ranger more than 22 years ago, before becoming an Assistant Ranger, a paid position.

About 12 years ago, he started running “health walks” ranging in distance and difficulty which would be themed around local history, types of birds or types of trees, for example.

The scheme became popular and successful and so it was extended – teamwork in North Yorkshire with the care homes Jim visits and Jim himself made it happen.

Then, two years ago the idea to do virtual walks in old people’s homes was conceived by two of Jim’s colleagues.  When they left the service, Jim picked up the baton and has done 30 talks in four care homes to date.

Jim decides on a walk – often inspired by his audience and their personal memories of the area – and then does the route a couple of times with his wife Denise and dog Vista.

He then puts the route onto slides, featuring pictures of landmarks, maps and even sounds to help connect the residents to the location.

He has three care homes he visits regularly, and on Tuesday he attempted his first ever virtual walk virtually – over video call.

Jim said: “I took over the idea when the two people who were originally running it had to leave.

“I decided that I wanted to tailor walks to spark memories for people, particularly dementia patients in the care homes I visit.

“My wife has worked as a care home worker for 20 years, so I knew what the audience might enjoy.

“I wanted to do the ‘walks’ that would bring back memories for people, even just little snapshots.  I decided to start somewhere significant and finish somewhere significant and by doing this, I got a few people remembering visiting the places.

“Next I started adding in animals, like a cow. A while ago in one home I was presenting to an ex-farmer and I had a picture of a rare sheep in there, and he remembered the breed straight away.

“I might put in pictures of flowers or trees or birds, like a robin. This started working and so I had a structure for my walks.

“We start in a town, I show them pictures of the pubs, shops, hotels in that area, then onto the countryside with animals, trees and their sound, then through to another town.”

To cater for residents with a visual impairment, Jim also started using sounds associated with the walks he was doing.

He said: “We did a walk from Ampleforth once which is famous for beagle hunts, so I used a picture of the beagles and a barking noise. That woke some of the residents up who were dozing.

“If there’s a picture of a church we use snippets of bells and hymns, and if there’s a train station it’s a train whistle.”

Jim tailors his walks for care home residents, residential home residents and those who live in sheltered accommodation.

Each walk lasts half an hour and he’s always keen to incorporate elements of their lives and memories into the walks he does.

The Virtual Rurality event is the first time Jim will conduct a walk over video call – and he hopes it might open up opportunities for other volunteers who want to do the same and get involved in the tours.

He said: “I’m looking for more people to get involved in the walks and do them virtually. I think they are hugely beneficial to people – the North Yorkshire Moors is an enormous area too, so it would be wonderful to have people who could cover the areas I couldn’t.

“By doing it over video call too it might mean people who can’t go into care homes to do the walks there can do them in this format.”