A few days ago I had a lovely chat with James Little, the Chairman of Shaftoe Young Farmers club, which sounds like a group that enjoys itself and its activities very much indeed.
I began by asking about the name: where do the members come from? It turns out that the Shaftoe YFC encompasses some 50 members from both Allen Valleys, East and West, from Carrshield, Ninebanks, Whitfield; from Allenheads, on in to Allendale, Catton, Langley. There’s a gender mix of about 60:40 male:female, and the ages run from a minimum of 10 (the youngest is currently 13) to a maximum of 26.
Although the big project currently in James’ mind was the ‘Shaftoe Walks the Wall‘ effort, an attempt to raise £2000 to split between the Great North Air Ambulance and the Teenage Cancer Trust, he was happy to chat about the whole ethos of the club. “It’s all about making friends, building confidence, learning new skills, enhancing socialisation, community interaction,” he said, “And we meet every Monday night from 7:30 in a variety of venues around the area.” Apparently it could be carpet bowls one evening, or maybe a quiz night, or a sports night; ice-skating, zumba, go-karting, rock-climbing, 10pin bowling have also been on the menu. The group have toured Allendale Fire Station, engaged in orienteering around Allendale, experienced a Health & Safety talk and even a session on dementia. Sometimes the activity is free, and other times there’s a fee to cover the costs. I had a little idea for James and the group as well, since we’d featured another group interested in farming matters in an earlier diary entry: The North Pennines Smallholders Association . . . might be a useful group to synergise with on the lecture front, sometime.
The group informs its members of its upcoming activities through their facebook page, which is open to the public, but has a closed section for members, so that helps to contribute to an esprit de corps as well. Last year Shaftoe YFC had a stand at Allendale’s Agricultural Show, they were a presence at Allendale’s May Fair, and they hope to be involved in volunteer work for the Broadband For the Allen Valleys (B4AV) project in the future.
James went on to chat about the club’s affiliations. There are 650 Young Farmers’ Clubs in England and Wales, of which 10 are in Northumberland, including Shaftoe. The county organisation helps to promote educational days for all its clubs, as well as rally days which are full of physical/sports competitions, at the latest of which Shaftoe particularly excelled, according to the plaudits on the club’s facebook page. Winners at county level go on to compete in various categories at regional rallies, and success there means an entry to the national rally. So that sounds like good healthy fun!
James reported on a few examples of the competitions at the county rally: traditional farm skills including sheep shearing, tractor driving, bale stooks, stock judging. “Oh,” he remembered, “We all had a go at Silly Wrae Farm with Richard Wise and the big horse-driven ploughing, in one of our weekly activities.” Richard, of course, is one of the last farmers in the whole country to use real horse power to farm, and so is quite an inspiration to the next generation of farmers coming along.
It takes quite a team effort to organise the activities, rally entrances and attendance that the club members enjoy, and James wanted to emphasise that the committee are particularly hard-working, including the Co-Secretaries Edward Robinson and Amy Little (no relation) and Treasurer Ian Stoelk. The Shaftoe YFC are a community group associated with the national body, the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs, holding a proper Annual General Meeting and paying members’ fees (£35/year for existing members, £5-10/year for new members).
I could scarcely believe the breadth of activities this local group has to offer its members, and I was so impressed later to read of how well the relay walkers had done on their Hadrian’s Wall Walk: online contributions were at £860 a week after the successful event, and local sponsorship forms and donations were being collected during the last week of June. No doubt the group will achieve their target before too long.
Enquiries to Shaftoe YFC are best done through the group’s facebook page and after my chat with James, I’m confident that anyone in the right age group would be very welcome indeed to join in the fun!
Meanwhile, and probably not a lot of people know this, but today is National Writing Day . . . although every day feels like a writing day to me, here at AllendaleDiary.org I wondered, finally, if I couldn’t persuade one of the Young Farmers in the Shaftoe club to report back on an activity or two, themselves, to chat about how it feels to be part of the club, growing up in this rural atmosphere. It could be a great diary entry, young farmers! Just contact the editor through these pages — you’d be very welcome to contribute!