It's something visitors notice too - the sense that people look after each other and really care for this wonderful area.
At the heart of every Dales community is an army of volunteers, from young school children going to sing at an old folks' home, to people like my mother who's 79 but actively involved in helping others who're older or less healthy, volunteering in the local community office and baking hundreds of scones a year for various events.
Where-ever you are in the Yorkshire Dales, what-ever time of day, it's highly likely that not far away at least one person will be volunteering, and making life better in some way. Many of the roles fulfilled by volunteers are invisible. You might not always see the people who clean their local church or village hall. You probably won't know whether the staff in libraries are volunteers or paid staff. Some are more visible: making cakes for a fund-raising sale, collecting for some good cause, or stewarding an event.
You may be surprised at the extent of the community services run by volunteers and communities. National media often highlight Hawes as one of the most self-sufficient places in Britain. There are many examples of similar activities around the Dales but Hawes is certainly a prime example. Councillor John Blackie* has been a huge influence, developing a local partnership to maintain a vibrant community. He spearheaded the take-over of the Hawes Petrol Station to save it from closure. Now it's run by part-time staff and volunteers. The Little White Bus was launched in 2011, and now has a fleet of 10 minibuses, relying on over 50 volunteer drivers. Some community-led services arise out of necessity, but are possible because those initiating them know they'll have support from others.
Volunteers are at the heart of many community events, putting on countless country shows, festivals and other events. They do it because they want to support their village hall, church, school or other organisation but sometimes it's for services they're unlikely to use themselves such as Mountain Rescue.
Volunteers benefit too - they develop skills, and friendships through these activities, and feel spurred on to do more, creating ever stronger links within their community. Over time people become known for a particular skill - Ian will help with the sign boards, Mary will bake the scones, Jim's good at organising the play. Participants in community events have their own role too - Beccy never says no to a car boot sale, the vicar's known for liking an extra slice of cake...
The sense of community is instilled from a young age, with children recognising and greeting their neighbours and becoming part of their lives. When I was little my mother taught me to always say smile and say hello to people, especially if they were older. That smile and greeting may be someone's only social interaction that day. Those hellos lead to conversations and friendships slowly grow. I passed on that advice to my daughter who's now 18 and it feels like she has dozens of grand parents. So many people still ask what she's doing and how she is, remembering her from when she saw them on her way to and from primary school.
There's a lovely collective memory in communities like ours, with space for each kind of personality and way of looking at life. I think there's a tolerance not always present in towns, because each person is known as an individual not just a label. As people age and can no longer do what they once did, the community remembers, and recognises it's now their turn to return favours and take care of those who've done so much.
The sense of community is incredibly uplifting, but it needs feeding and encouraging so if you're visiting and see a collection box, a cake sale, an event please do support it.
* I planned a different blog today but decided to write this one because John Blackie died yesterday (13th July). You can hear all about him and what he achieved on this podcast. I hope his legacy is that people will recognise the difference individuals can make, and step up to volunteer in any way they can.