NEARLY all charities are now showing reduction in their incomes; the impact of recession on the finances of trusts showed that net asset value was falling and two-fifths of them reduced their grant-making in 2008.
A further concern is that as charities look for other ways to replace lost income, activities such as free-fall parachuting and climbs in Peru, the Himalayas or the Great Wall in China may be costing more in environmental damage and costs to the National Health Service by participants than the funds raised.
Running 13 miles from the base of Pikes Peak, Colorado, to the 4,300 metre summit raised £500 for Water Aid by one participant from the UK but the air miles involved in taking on this challenge could have a negative benefit to the environment.
Action for Charity has raised over £9 million for charities by organising similar challenges but some of these endurance events can lead to invoicing a small charity for £72,000 when providing an overseas expedition. It is then important that potential donors to the charity are motivated to make long-term commitments rather than a single effort.
Two London councils are demanding a crackdown on charity fundraisers campaigning in public places following complaints from businesses and residents; they want action to enforce regulations in The Charities Act 2006 limiting fundraisers’ numbers and hours and requiring them to obtain licences to operate in public areas.
Yorkshire sponsored walk
In August, a sponsored walk in the North Yorkshire Moors and the Esk Valley was held to raise money for the RCVS Trust and the Friends of Herriot for the museum in Thirsk. Fundraising for these two charities by low carbon footprint was the idea of retired vet Norman Leslie; each year a different area of Yorkshire associated with the James Herriot books is chosen and this was the third successful year for the walk.
The five sponsored participants who took part this year largely used public transport to reach the start point at Castleton and the historic Esk Valley rail route provided an environmentally effective method of return on reaching the coast at Whitby.
A long climb
The first day involved a long footpath climb to Blakey Ridge on the moors; although the weather was showery, heavy rain held off until the end of the day. We were able to observe grouse amongst the heather, the butts were being prepared for the annual shoots but there seemed to be a shortage of game birds in this locality.
The route partly followed the old mineral railway line that was once used to carry iron ore to the steel mills of Middlesbrough and there were other examples of industrial archaeology, as well as the old stone crosses used as way marks for travellers who would have had to cross the moors to reach the monasteries situated further south.
The next four days were spent walking down the valley of the River Esk but climbing to reach local landmarks such as Danby Beacon: a name not unfamiliar to those who read the James Herriot books. It was also interesting to follow the routes used by merchants and traders to and from the port of Whitby for carrying goods such as wool and fish, often organised by the monks who farmed the granges.
Paved with Yorkshire flagstones, now often well worn, they provided an all-weather route for pack horses; these pannier ways are known as “The Trods” and radiate out from Whitby. Before the rail arrived, there was no possibility of providing a canal transport system in such undulating routes so for commercial reasons, single-track paved pathways were provided for the transport of goods.
To cross the river where bridges might break or be swept away in seasonal floods, stepping stones were needed.
After going out to celebrate the 75th birthday of one of the walkers , the return journey to the bed and breakfast required using such a river crossing. A slip off one of the stones gave a memorable re-baptism in the flowing water, quickly the victim was pulled out: it wasabirthday experience Norman will not forget.
As donations are still coming in the total sum raised is not yet known but will exceed four figures. The activities of the RCVS Trust are fairly well known in the profession and I was particularly wishing to support their sponsorship of the rabies project which is investigating the impact of vaccination campaigns and community awareness and understanding in parts of Africa, one of many RCVS listed funded activities. The Friends of Herriot assist with the museum at Thirsk based in the old practice house of Alf Wight, providing volunteer staff and helping to pay for projects such as refurbishing the Austin 7 car that appeared in the films.
The museum is operated by Hambleton District Council and has brought in more than 400,000 visitors over the years to the quiet market town of Thirsk, especially popular as a calling point for tourists from the USA.
The long-term future of the museum is not so clear, as the generation brought up to love the sentiments of pre-World War II country life and veterinary work get older. Visiting groups of schoolchildren are encouraged by the education authorities and museum interactive animal displays were provided more recently but the museum now has to compete with many other “children’s farms” where handling live animals (and frequent washing of hands) are a greater attraction for urban children.
Veterinary practice museum
The veterinary profession lacks a museum of veterinary practice as compared with a number of facilities displaying medical history. The historic past and the development of new techniques in human medicine and surgery are well displayed by organisations such as the Wellcome Foundation and Thackray Museum of Modern Medicine in Leeds, to name but two.
If every veterinary graduate who in any way was influenced in choosing their profession by reading or seeing TV and films of the Alf Wight way of life, donated £10 annually to the Herriot Museum an additional and more relevant display of practice in the last 50 years might be possible.
The future of the museum is at present uncertain and it may be necessary to operate it independently with a Museum trust. A sustainable income to supplement the present admission charges would require greater commitment from those who feel such a museum should continue to exist.
For all fundraising, the environmental impact of the activity should be a consideration. Plans for next year’s sponsored walk are already being made.