Yorkshire Dales ranger Ian Broadwith has set off on a four-day road trip to Romania where he will help villagers clear an overgrown Communist-era orchard.
Accompanied by his wife, Pauline, he’ll drive a van packed with strimmers 1,659 miles through four countries to get to Girbovita in the heart of Transylvania.
There he will be met by five fellow Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) staff and four other volunteers, who are travelling to Romania by air on Saturday.
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YDNPA officers first visited Girbovita in August last year, on the invitation of Satul Verde, an organisation which promotes Romanian culture and traditions.
See http://www.satulverde.ro/en/ for more details.
All the staff have taken time off for the trip and paid for their journeys. They’ll be staying in the villagers’ homes.
On Monday, they will start removing brambles and weeds from the 200 acre former orchard site.
One of those on the trip, visitor centre manager Cathy Bergs, from Worton, said: “Each house has a cow for milk, cheese and cream. In the morning, the cows gather as a communal herd and go up to grazing land. In the evening they walk back, each peeling off to their own home.
“Unfortunately, due to various issues, the rights to the grazing land have been reduced. The over-grown former orchard, if cleared, could make an area for the communal herd to graze.”
Many of the Girbovita villagers are elderly and the volunteers have been told by the director of Satul Verde, Monica Oprean, that their labour will be greatly appreciated.
Cathy, who was part of the group which visited in August, added: “Monica hosts a lot of trips and told us that many groups say they will go back, but none ever has. So we wanted the Yorkshire Dales National Park to buck the trend.
“I was amazed and entranced by Romania. In rural areas the farming is largely subsistence and there is little or no chemical or pesticide use. People eat what they grow and the fruit and vegetables are wonderful.
“The flora and fauna are like nothing I’ve ever seen. It was like something out of Enid Blyton, like how my grandparents told me hedgerows used to be in the 1940s, with flowers, bees and clouds of butterflies.
“The people are really welcoming and to stay with the farmers is going to be a real privilege. Farmers are the same the world over; we met Monica’s great uncle and he stood there in his flat cap and didn’t say much. We could have been in the Dales! They are fattening a pig for our visit and it’ll be really tasty.”
Ian Broadwith said he was a bit apprehensive about his long journey in the van, but that he intended to enjoy the culture on the way.
He said: “The National Park has kindly lent us most of the equipment. I’m taking my own tools and chainsaws as well, and hopefully we can make a reasonable impact when we get there. If we can clear three or four acres, it’ll be a start. Then as soon as you start grazing stock on it, the undergrowth won’t stand a chance of coming back.”
Another member of the team is Head of HR and Communications Hannah Clarke, from Askrigg.
She said: “Staff were quick to volunteer their time, money and energy to return to Romania to take part in this work for the village. Volunteering in this way is great for personal development. And getting to know colleagues from a different perspective is also fun, interesting and great for working relationships back in the ‘day job’.
“We are hoping to keep going back twice a year in September and April.There are many National Park staff and volunteers who would like to visit Girbovita and work with the villagers.”
The team members on the trip are: YDNPA staff Hannah Clarke, Cathy Bergs, Catherine Kemp, Paul Sheehan, Richard Mainman and Ian Broadwith; Paul and Ian’s wives, Jane Sheehan and Pauline Broadwith; YDNPA Dales Volunteer, David Preston; and former YDNPA Senior Historic Environment Officer, Robert White.
They will arrive in Romania on Saturday 1 April and return on Saturday 8 April.