Aug 20 2021

In the Spotlight – An interview with volunteer, David Mason

It’s all about the trees… and so much more: staff and volunteers share their nature joys

Today we would like to introduce you to volunteer, David Mason.

David is a volunteer for Hackfall, near Grewlthorpe, North Yorks. and like all the Trust’s wardens he is the eyes and ears for the Site Manager. He was initially involved in practical conservation tasks at both Nidd Gorge and Hackfall, but with a background in teaching and training in the software industry, he was asked if he’d like to give a presentation about Hackfall

David delivered his first talk for the Trust in 2014 and hasn’t looked back since, going on to spread the word in large organisations such as the WI, the Rotary and Probus Clubs, and with many smaller groups. He obviously enjoys engaging people with nature: he was very happy to be back on the Trust’s stand at the Great Yorkshire Show this year after its cancellation in 2020 because of the pandemic. 

Nature photography is another love of David’s and he uses many of his own shots of Hackfall during his presentations.

“In my previous house, before I moved,” David told me, “I could see an oak tree out of my study window and decided to take a photograph of it every day for a year. I didn’t quite make the whole year, but it was a fascinating project.”

I asked David if the oak was his favourite tree, but he saves that place for pollarded willows: he remembers a group of them from his childhood which he’d often climb, and play in the streams nearby. Our interview wandered off down memory lane for a while then since David’s willows reminded me of my own childhood love of a hawthorn tree I’d regularly climb, sit in nibbling the leaves, and watching the world go by.

“And now, close to my new house” David added, “I have another favourite – a well established ash tree I’m keeping an eye on. And in Hackfall itself there’s a lime tree I like which is on the Trust’s Ancient Tree Inventory.” We both commented on the beautiful summer time fragrance of lime trees.

I asked David about his other nature favourites – birds, for example, but although he doesn’t dislike birds, similar to quite a few other people, he is not keen if they flap around him. He told me a story of having to hold on to a ladder for dear life when he was visiting bird boxes as a survey volunteer and a blue tit flew into his face! ‘Blue tit attacks man’ certainly makes an exciting change from the silly season’s usual ‘Seagull ate my Chihuahua’ media headlines.

On a happier note, David told me of his passion for red squirrels, and identified his best nature moment – best nature day – as the one when he spent five hours out with Whitfield Benson, a professional wildlife photographer, taking photographs of the squirrels in and around Snaizeholme. 

David clearly loves his northern landscapes, listing Malham Tarn, High Force, and High Cup Nick among some of his favourite nature places. And as for Snaizeholme, David is hoping there are going to be more volunteering opportunities once the Trust gets going with the flagship Woodland Project there.

For some of our volunteers – thank goodness – there just aren’t enough hours in the day, or projects to be involved in.

 

Daphne Pleace – Volunteer Whittle Reporter

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