Interview with the Winner of the National Parks Young Volunteer Award 2014 and Northumberland National Park Mosaic Champion

Our membership magazine Viewpoint talks to award-winner Jerome Bass about how our Mosaic initiative in Northumberland National Park has turned around his life.

How did you first get involved with volunteering in the Northumberland National Park?
I was staying in a homeless  hostel in Newcastle. One of the staff members introduced me to Paddy [Mosaic project officer] and he introduced me to the National Park. I started going to Northumberland National Park, doing loads of stuff, meeting people there. That’s how it started – that was in 2013.

What volunteering have you done?
I’ve done lots of visits to the National Park and attended several meetings with the National Park Authority, including the members of the Northumberland National Park. We spoke to them about getting young people onto a council to get fresh minds to change and influence what happens in National Parks. I think it’s going ahead now and hopefully I’ll be on that. I became a bit famous from a meeting we had. I felt like the discussion wasn’t getting anywhere and I said ‘stop listening to what you want to hear and listen to what you need to hear!’. I got a round of applause for that and things went well then. I felt really good about that.

Last summer we built a traditional pizza oven out of mud and straw at Walltown in the National Park. We made pizzas at National Park events for hundreds of people. We worked with families and kids and made pizzas with them. I’d just done a catering course and I made all the dough. I got it crispy and really good. I’m hoping to make a bigger oven this year and do it again.

I led a visit for a group of friends to Hershaw Lynn. There’s a tree there that’s grown into an archway. It’s like a movie. You couldn’t ever build what nature’s built. It’s like an official doorway into the National Park. We found a nest there, so hidden amongst the rocks. It was really amazing to see. I’ve also done lots of biking – that’s been really good.

People like me in Newcastle – they need to get into the National Park. You can sit in a place and drink and there’s broken glass around you, a bad environment and nothing to do. But here – you can just sit and there’s everything around you. It’s peaceful. You don’t need anything else. I’ve got others involved and it’s really changed things for them. It’s great to see.

What have you got out of being a Champion?
I’ve got experience, confidence from this. I’m looking at the end of it to get a job doing this kind of thing. You can’t really go into town and make this stuff. You have to go to National Park to experience it. To the world though it feels like this is classed as a hobby, not a job. There should be more people paid to introduce young people to Naitonal Parks. It’s important. The biking, the history of Hadrian’s wall. Just being there. There’s so much.

What’s special for you about Northumberland National Park?
I can’t even try to explain it. You’ve just got to go there and experience it. It’s so peaceful. It’s not about selling things to the public or making money. It’s amazing – I can’t describe it.

What are your plans now?
This year I’m going to be meeting members again at Northumberland HQ, hopefully doing the pizza oven, and bringing more people to Northumberland. I want to do loads of stuff there this year. I’ve also got onto a mountaineering training and leadership course.

What does the award mean to you?
This award – it makes me feel happy. National Parks are the best thing in the world and it means so much. Plus I got this great pair of Merrell walking boots! I’ve been on loads of walks and been through puddles and everything and my feet have stayed dry! It’s great. 

Any last words?
It feels like in National Parks, there’s a divide between people who go and manage them and people who don’t go. We need more people like us and like the Mosaic officers in the middle who bridge that gap and get more people involved. It’s the reason National Parks were set up. Everyone needs to experience it.

Notes to Editors

This interview is one of a number of stories that can be found in our Spring edition of our membership publication Viewpoint. Why not become one of our Friends and receive our colourful and informative magazine twice a year as well as a host of other benefits. To join, go to www.cnp.org.uk/become-friend