Ellie Moore is part of the Cairngorms Youth Action Team, in this blog she explains the role of the Cairngorms Youth Action Team and why she joined it and also how she is engaging with nature during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Two years ago, I was lucky enough to be selected, along with other young people from across Europe, to take part in the EUROPARC Youth Manifesto project. Seven countries came together to create the manifesto which aimed to ensure that decision-makers in protected areas and rural communities involved and empowered young people: the leaders and conservationists of the future. Now, in 2020, after many meetings, exchanges, thinking, and planning, I am a member of the Cairngorms Youth Action Team.
Who are the Cairngorms Youth Action Team?
The Cairngorms Youth Action Team (CYAT) was formed in 2019 to help address the issues identified and outlined in the EUROPARC Youth Manifesto. The group currently consists of 20 young people aged between 14 and 26 years old who come from around Scotland, including the Cairngorms National Park.
The group works to improve living, learning, and working opportunities for young people in the Cairngorms, by being a voice for change and providing a platform to reach out to others.
We want to empower young people to be a part of running their community, by providing grants for funding community project ideas, and giving members of the group opportunities to take a more active role. We also maintain a close relationship with similar groups in Finland, and as a result, we are lucky enough to have travelled to a variety of places across Europe in order to learn from others and spread our work as far as possible.
Having grown up on a former home farm in rural Aberdeenshire, I had always lived very closely to the natural world. As I got older, my eyes were opened to the problems of climate change and the negative ways in which humans often treat the planet that we live on. That is why I joined the CYAT; in the hope that I can be involved in making a difference and spreading a message to other young people about why protected areas, like the Cairngorms National Park, are so important.
However, while we do as much work as we can in the background, the pandemic has put some elements of the CYAT on hold for now. So how can we engage with nature at home while on lockdown? I for one have been getting out into the garden as much as possible. This suspiciously sunny weather we’ve been having in Aberdeenshire has meant my family and I have been able to get out and do all the things we wouldn’t normally have time for. We have dug over patches and planted wildflower seeds, we’ve cut back or dug out any overgrown shrubs, and we’ve even embarked on building a small summer house that my parents managed to pick up just before the lockdown began.
I’ve also brought some of the outdoors indoors by planting and looking after a multitude of house plants and vegetables. I’ve got cucumbers and tomatoes growing on my bedroom windowsill, rosemary growing down in the kitchen, and pea seeds which will be planted in the next few days. Growing veg has been a great thing to do during lockdown as I can see its progress every day, and looking after it has given me a purpose and goal to work towards while all other elements of life are on hold. And of course, at the end of the day, there’s nothing better than a home–grown lunch.
Obviously, it’s not terribly easy to get hold of vegetable seeds at the moment. Some supermarkets and hardware stores are still open and selling them, but a safer, more practical option for the time being might be to try and re-grow food from scraps. Onions, lettuce, and potatoes are among some of the foods that can be re-grown relatively easily and a quick search on YouTube or Google will show you how. Some things will even grow in just a pot of water – no compost required if you can’t get hold of any!
As well as the gardening, I have also taken up another rather traditional pastime during lockdown. I’ve been whittling away at sticks since I was old enough to use a knife, but in the last few weeks, I’ve taken this a step further and have tried my hand at spoon carving. This has been an excellent way to connect with nature during lockdown, first simply because there is something innately primitive about creating things from trees and scraps of wood. Carving has taken me outside and into the forest, I’ve become more familiar with the trees, the types of wood they produce, and even just with what is lying about on the ground. It’s also a rather calming activity that you can sit and do for hours. It has really taken my mind off everything that is going on in the world and has given me a focus, a new skill to learn, and even produces something useful at the end. If you fancy a go, YouTube is full of easy carving tutorials!
The most important thing to do during this time is to stay safe and protect those around you who may be more vulnerable. But, so long as it is in keeping with current government guidelines, this is also an excellent opportunity to slow down, maybe try something new, and connect with nature either in your local community or from the comfort of your own home.