Hello, my name is Chaz Singh and as well as working for Fata He in Plymouth I am also the first Sikh councillor in Plymouth having being elected to represent Drake Ward in May 2011.
It all started as a suggestion to Clare from Mosaic that I should volunteer a couple of days at the Dartmoor National Park Authority Information Centres. Dates were set and the countdown began. I was contacted by Marilyn Graves who set up volunteering at the Information Centres for me. The following is therefore my account of my time working as a a volunteer working at Postbridge Information Centre.
05 July 2011 – Day 1 – Volunteering at Postbridge Information Centre
I arrived at Postbridge Visitor Centre and was warmly welcomed by Margaret, Barbara and Marilyn.
There were already two parties of German and Austrian Coaches in the car park. The Tour Guide of the German/Austrian group upon seeing me asked me how long my hair was, which was amazing to know she had recognised a Sikh. Wow and suitably impressed.
The first job was to update the weather chart to inform visitors. Temperatures were between 11 and 14 degrees and it was misty with a bit of drizzle to start off with.
I was surprised to see how many people were there so early in the morning and also the wide range of people. There were visitors from Germany and Austria, Duke of Edinburgh award participants and families, young and old, who were all accessing the moors. This is something that we city folk don’t realise that such a magnificent landscape is on our doorstep and we don’t appreciate it. As such I popped across the road to see the famous Clapper Bridge.
I was also made aware of the fact that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote The Hounds of the Baskervilles in Princetown. Barbara was very knowledgeable about the history, the sites and good places to visit. This is essential for all the people that visit.
The weather now is clearing and a steady flow of people are appearing. This includes meeting schoolchildren from Oxford who are exploring Dartmoor with two farmers from Stone Farm. There is so much going on in the daily working life of Dartmoor. I also found out that it is legal for a Farmer to shoot a dog who is on the land disturbing the sheep (Dog Act 1953 Section 1)
Just come back from lunch and had it in beautiful surroundings, a priceless view.
I have spent time talking to Margaret this afternoon. She has so much knowledge and information of Dartmoor and that’s called 24 years service and much more.
Facts I picked up included that: Lydford had its own currency; Dead people had their own procession route called Coffin stone; Tin mining; Rabbit Warrens; Pillow Mounds and the fact that the Duchy of Cornwall has owned the Forest since the Perambulation of 1240 of ancient tenements and early farm dwellings which I’ll explain later.
I have helped a few people with directions for short, medium and long walks and also served customers for various souvenirs and operated the till, which is very modern and not like the ones I had in my shops.
I also met Serina, the National Park Ranger for the area, who gave me a brief outline of her role and what the job was all about.
Margaret has been fantastic throughout the day and given me a valuable lesson in the history of the sights to see for example Satish Kumar and the link to Wistman’s Wood which featured on a TV programme.
06 July 2011 – Day 2 – Volunteering at Postbridge Information Centre
Upon arrival this morning I was met by Gary who again was very welcoming and cheerful. We started off with the setting up the centre. Signboard out, open sign out, visitor counter set, lights on and ready for action.
Coaches were arriving and a number of cars were coming in. It was interesting to see the number of families as well as young children. There are people going on bike rides, people with an interest in archaeology looking for the ancient stone circles.
There is so much activity. I have met a lovely family from Darmstadt in Germany who had their day made by having a special stamp in their letterboxing books. They even have their own stamp. The parents have been coming here every year for the last 15 years. They even spent their honeymoon here as well. Now that’s dedication.
Bavarians, Arkhens, Netherlands from all over the place. This place is a global magnet.
The Police have been in and informed us of a fly tipping incident in the woods. I went over to investigate and what I saw was unbelievable. I can’t believe that people from all over the world come to Dartmoor and will see that this is how people treat Dartmoor. It was horrendous to see the amount that had been dumped. This must have been done overnight. It really makes me angry seeing this and imagine how the people who live here and visit feel. The matter has been reported to Serina, the National Park Ranger, and she will contact the Forestry Commision to be dealt with.
Who would have believed it that through this opportunity I would have met a Councillor from British Columbia Canada, yes I couldn’t believe it either! Cards were swapped and a friendship formed. There was even talk of twinning with Plymouth, let me become Leader, maybe one day.
Gary is a much travelled traveller with knowledge which is a great benefit to the job. He also tells me of the Dartmoor Stimmungen, which is text in German and photos in English. I’m thinking if Gary could sell ice to the Eskimos!
Well the rain is here and they’re still coming. Australians, Canadians and more Germans.
It has been such an enjoyable day and I am glad I took the opportunity to come and volunteer at the Information Centre. I hope that whilst reading this you have noticed how pleasant it has been for not only me but everyone else at the Centre.
I would like to thank Clare from Mosaic. Barbara, Gary, Margaret and Marilyn from Postbridge Information Centre who have made this experience unforgettable. I will definitely be coming back with friends, family and anyone else I talk to.
The stories I have heard are unique and you would never be able to know them without the charm, personality, knowledge and approachability and experience of the staff like Margaret, Gary and Barbara and a part timer like me (of course)! I hope, and this is a personal statement from me, that the Dartmoor National Park Authority appreciate the commitment and passion that the staff have.
The Clapper Bridge will be my favourite place of my trip, how many people I have signposted to the bridge taking those memories and of a Sikh giving them directions. How often will I do that?
Time to put the signboard in, take off the open sign and switch off the lights for the coaches to arrive and let people enjoy the beauty that is Dartmoor.
Councillor Chaz Singh, Volunteer at Postbridge Information Centre – Courtesy of Mosaic