Open Country – Guest Blog

25th April 2020

Harrogate-based charity, Open Country, gives people with a disability the chance to get out into the countryside by providing a variety of activities including walking, cycling, conservation, nature study and outings. With nearly 30 years of experience in countryside access, the charity also produces a number of directories to help people discover accessible places to visit, clubs to join and things to do. They also use their experience to provide information, training and advice to landowners, councils and outdoor organisations looking to improve disabled access.

James McMaster is a member of Open Country’s Conservation Group and goes out twice a week, come rain or shine, to help improve access and increase nature habitats across Yorkshire.

James McMaster, centre (photograph by Andrew Gallon)

Here he tells us a bit more about his volunteering and how being in nature makes him feel:

I’ve been coming out with Open Country for over 9 years and I love being part of a team that helps nature to flourish. I get to visit different places around the district and I love the variety of jobs we get to do. My favourites are tree planting, raking long grass and cutting back. It is really satisfying to get to the end of the day and see the difference we have made.

We go out in all weathers so sometimes I have to wear my waterproofs and eat my lunch in the minibus, but I prefer the warm days when we can enjoy the sunshine and eat outdoors. I love being in nature and always feel better after a day in the outdoors.

Sylvan – Removing tree guards

A good days work done!

I enjoyed working with Make It Wild at their Sylvan Nature Reserve near Kirk Hammerton. We took tree guards off lots of the trees they had planted a few years ago. We worked really hard and I think we removed nearly 1,000 guards!

Bank Woods – gorse management

Removing gorse with the group

We also spent a fun day at Bank Woods near Summerbridge cutting back gorse and helping rewild the site for nature.

Looking forward to getting out again!

When I’m not out with Open Country I also volunteer with Horticap so you could say that I’ve got very green fingers! I’m sad not to be getting out and about with Open Country or Horticap at the moment, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and all the restrictions. Instead, I have been enjoying walks in my local area. I’m lucky enough to live near the Stray in Harrogate, and we have been enjoying the cherry blossom and daffodils on our daily walks. I’m really looking forward to getting back #OutThereTogether with my friends at the Conservation Group. There’s going to be lots of work for us to do!

Thank you, James!

At Make it Wild, we love to inspire everyone to love nature as much as we do. It is wonderful to read how much James has enjoyed the days he spent with us last year. We are very much looking forward to welcoming back visitors from Open Country as soon as restrictions are lifted. We are very grateful for their help, and for all their jokes and the fun they bring to the task!

If you or your group would like to help us too, please get in touch via our contact form here.

There is more information about volunteering for Make it Wild here.

For more information about Open Country please see their website:

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