A banging start

The Tomorrow’s Natural Leader’s programme began with a bang this September, rolling on its third year. Liberty Anstead, one of this year's cohort, tells us all about it...

We were thrown into Outdoor First Aid training on our first day, after a long ride to Doncaster pumping the van with seventies tunes and flasks of steaming coffee. This two-day training was a full-on 9-5 schedule of interactive play-acting and important theoretical knowledge, covering everything from the Heimlich manoeuvre to dusty eyes. Brian, the session-leader, blasted our brains with brave behaviours during these days, and we were able to intermingle with our fellow TNLs across the Yorkshire globe. A lovely life-saving ice-breaker to kick start a year of discovery within the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust!

Being part of the team from Appleton Mill Farm is a real treat. Set in a lush wooded valley, the farm’s mile-long driveway is well worth the wonder. Our Monday farm-days are an opportunity to explore a world far removed from the blaring lights and contaminated air of the bustling rustling society we live in. We learn the rituals our farm-hands perform to support the livestock and other bits and bobs, such as the life-cycle of a hay-bale. Growing up in a town leaves me constantly amazed by the beautiful contrast of this farm-life; I have found the beauty in brushing the back of a cow, watching its hairs line up like flowing waterfalls, and the excitement in leading the cows from the fields into the barn, shouting a ‘Come oooon’ in response to the great beasts’ guttural moo.

Lorna calming the cows for haltering

With a change of venue every day, this programme could never get boring! During the week, we have visited natural spaces near and far, such as Chafer Wood and Staveley nature reserve. A highlight for me was building a fence in Low Carr Farm, just a stone’s throw from our base in Appleton. The temperature transported us to the Middle East as we pummeled posts into the ground and prepped timber for the build. During this session, I learned the small glory in releasing a nail from an old pallet with a hammer, as well as the meditative rhythm of hammering in the new. I also formed a strong soul connection with a piece of equipment called a ‘spirit leveller’. Now, although this may sound like an esoteric ceremonial ritual to ward off evil spirits, you’ll be happy to hear that it’s the next best thing: it ensures that the item you’re working with is standing straight, measured by a liquid that falls to the centre when the position is correct. Perfect for hopeless perfectionists like me!

Liberty during a sunny fencing day at Low Car Farm

Our recent project was installing bird boxes, feeds and identification information in a local primary school. This was a project pioneered by last year’s 'TNLs', handed over to us in a ‘pass-the-baton’ style. I really enjoyed this link with last year’s group, making us feel part of a bigger picture of good work. These boxes were a joy to make, and although there are members in my team who are twelve years ahead of me in terms of bird-box-making, I was supported and empowered, particularly in the sawing arena. Installing the boxes in the primary school made us realise the well-received fruits of a small amount of our labour, through the wide-eyed excitement of the school-kids and the gratitude of the teachers. We left the site feeling like Father Christmas, trailing gifts and happiness in our wake.

Liberty and fellow Tomorrow's Natural Leaders at the local school

I’m very lucky to be part of this placement. I’ve already made some beautiful connections and am learning more each time I step out the door. And all of this beautiful work will help me shape my career to quench my desire for nature, and for the Green Future that’s within our grasp!