A really interesting afternoon.  I hosted a public meeting this afternoon at the Holiday Inn in Harrogate.  The meeting was organised by Alzheimers Research UK and was to present the latest findings on dementia research.

It was a packed meeting with around 100 people present.  We were very honoured to have a particularly distinguished panel who were:

  • Katy Schneider, Public Affiars and Policy Manager, Alzheimers Research UK
  • Professor Christopher Morris, Scientific Director of the Newcastle Brain Tissue Resource (NBTR) at Newcastle University
  • Stuart Pickering-Brown, Professor of Neurogenetics and also serves on the Scientific Advisory Board for Alzheimer’s Research UK.
  • Michelle Widdrington, autopsy liaison nurse.

Research into Alzheimers is underfunded compared with many other areas of clinical research and we desperately need to look at ways of increasing the money that goes into this area.  We also know that Alzheimers in under-diagnosed.  About half those living with Alzheimers are undiagnosed.

We had great presentations on the scientific advances being made, and then an opportunity for questions from the floor. There were loads. We had far more questions than there was time available, but that just showed how interested people are in this issue. At the end of the meeting several people asked Alzheimers Research UK how they could get involved to help. I think this is very positive, and I hope that the result is some local fundraising to support top British scientists in work which is making a difference.



Another outdoor volunteer activity today and that was ‘Walk Out Well’ with Age UK.

Walk Out Well is a social walking group for people who just want to have a walk or perhaps need someone to walk with them for assistance or company.  The group do short and long distance walks and afterwards have a coffee and chat session.  Many who do the walks told me that they are widowed and how through the walks had met new friends.

The walks are on Thursday mornings and today’s walk started at Harrogate Library and went over to Tewit Well Stray and back.  There were about 15 people walking.

It was a very cheerful event.  The volunteers were there to ensure the walkers were OK and to ensure the walk went at a pace at which everyone was comfortable.  The event combined the therapeutic effect of walking with the ability to chat, renew old acquaintances and make new friends.

Afterwards, we had coffee at the United Reform Church on West Park.  I chatted to other participants and it was clear to see just how much they valued Walk Out Well.

I enjoyed the event too because it brings people together, it helps form bonds and it is those friendships that make communities cohesive.  It showed me that volunteering has a much wider impact than just on the individuals doing the volunteering and the groups for which they volunteer.  Volunteering can provide the forum in which new friends are found and helps combat isolation and loneliness.  A most worthwhile group with which to volunteer.


One of the biggest challenges our country faces now is caring for the older members of our community, and that challenge will only grow in the future as our population ages.

Supporting Older People, based at Community House on East Parade in Harrogate, has for over 20 years been helping older people with the challenges of loneliness and social isolation. With a team of 4 professionals and over 70 volunteers they do great work supporting what they call clients, but I think quickly become friends.

The support takes many forms, from home visits to social outings and events. The theme is tackling loneliness, and bringing people together is what happens.

There were two elements to my time with them – a coffee morning to meet the team and some clients to hear first hand of the challenges they are facing and then to join a volunteer on a home visit. Joining volunteer Alice and client Inga, we chatted about the different things that Supporting Older People do and how it makes a difference to Inga. That was really clear, Alice helped with some practical things like going to the shops but it was the social side that shone through. Inga and Alice had become good friends. It was a great match of volunteer and client. I could have stayed talking with and listening to Inga for days.

This was a really valuable insight into work being done to help a vulnerable group. The key thought on leaving them was how rewarding it was for both volunteer and client.

There are many ways to volunteer with Supporting Older People, and the more volunteers they have the more older people in our community can be supported. They can be contacted on 01423 531490, and for more information go to

Harrogate Gateway FC

An evening engagement for volunteer week.  Harrogate Gateways FC meets at St Aidan’s School and runs football development and competition for disabled people.  There are a small group of dedicated volunteers and coaches – about six were present last night.

Gateway has three different ability groups and encourages participation by all.  Many family also attend to spectate and the attendance was high – there must have been around 30 players last night.

The teams play competitively across the region and also take part in tournaments.

My duties were to be a general help, to aid some of the players to get involved and assisting with the training drills.

I was with the group for the whole 90 minute session and I have to say it was both moving and inspirational too.

We all have challenges in our lives but it is difficult to appreciate the challenge facing people who live with disabilities especially when those are severe.  Those things that most take for granted – having a kick about; participating in sport – are simply less available.

That is why Harrogate Gateway deserve support and why I would encourage anyone to get involved.  Volunteering with Gateway doesn’t just help the players, it was fun. The key thought I came away with was just how much all the players loved playing and how rewarding it is for everyone involved.

Boroughbridge Library

On to Boroughbridge Library.  Boroughbridge is a community library run by the Boroughbridge Community Library Association and North Yorkshire County Council.  It overlooks St James’s Square in this picturesque market town.  I am in Boroughbridge a lot supporting events like Small Business Saturday and pushing the superfast broadband project.

Boroughbridge Library provides a very valuable community service.  Part of that service is a home delivery service, run by volunteers.  My job for the day was selecting books for home delivery to those who have difficulty getting in to the library.

This is quite a good fit for me.  I’ve always been a voracious reader, and even have a degree in Literature.  Volunteering in the library was right up my street.

The Library in Boroughbridge is right at the heart of the local community, and access to books so important. The volunteers do a wonderful job, and the knowledge of what people like and whether they had read them made the service very personal. What a friendly team!

Volunteering with Boroughbridge Library is easy.  Simply contact the Boroughbridge Community Library Association on 01423 320731.

Open Country

Our environment is important and is the subject of the first visit of Volunteer Week 2014.

We read so often of the dearth of bees and butterflies and the effect our activity has upon their numbers.  Today, I was doing something to improve biodiversity with the Open Country group at Staveley Nature Reserve which is managed by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

Open Country is a Harrogate-based organisation that helps people with disabilities access the countryside.

Today I joined the team raking up the grass cuttings from a wildflower meadow and stacking them in what are called ‘habitat piles’.  This encourages wildflowers, butterflies and other wildlife which otherwise may not flourish because of overgrown weeds and coarse grasses.

I have often supported projects to encourage species to thrive through work with the Harrogate Biodiversity Action Group (HBAG).  I have twice helped clear vegetation up at Birk Crag to enable the rare Chestnut Click Beetle to retain its foothold on this environment.

Andrew Jones MP said: “I thoroughly enjoyed this start to Volunteer Week. I’ve visited Staveley Nature Reserve dozens of times and it has been great to see all the conservation work bearing fruit. There was a great team spirit with the Open Country group; it was clear how everyone was enjoying it, being out and about and the work for the Reserve.”

Open Country is a voluntary organisation and does great work helping people with disabilities by opening up wonderful opportunities.  Most people take going for a walk in the country or a cycle ride for granted.  Open Country helps those who cannot take those things for granted.

As a charity Open Country requires £140,000 a year as well as continued help from a loyal team of volunteers.  If you want to get involved with fund raising or helping contact the team on 01423 507227.