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Academy Ranger

Age: 52

Organisation: National Trust - Yorkshire Dales

 Liz Wade - Academy Ranger

Why did you decide on a career in ecology/environmental management, and when did you decide?

I didn’t exactly decide so much as the career chose me. In 2001 I completed a computer based adult careers programme as I was a little jaded with my NHS job in health promotion and the career path it lead to. I was surprised and somewhat disenchanted when the computer programme result was that I should be a health promotion specialist! However, the second option was Countryside Ranger. At the time my colleagues and I laughed and thought the result was way off the mark but the programme was right. It just took me several more years to catch up and 2012 saw me get my first job in the sector.

How did you get started in the sector?  What qualifications and experience did you have? Have you gained any additional qualifications since?

I started doing working holidays to be working outdoors in the countryside and to meet people. After a couple of holidays someone put me forward to train as a leader and I started leading the holidays.  After four years of this I started a job in the extended schools service organising holiday activities but for four days a week with my fifth day volunteering on a National Trust property. I managed to further merge the job and countryside work by running family holiday activities in conjunction with the property and soon came to realize that my days working in nature were the best ones of my week. National Trust were advertising for their Academy scheme (the National Trust Careership as was). I applied and got the post on the Yorkshire Dales estates.

How long have you been in your current role?

About one year.

What does a typical day involve? What are your responsibilities?

This starts at 8.30am when I leave the National Trust bunkhouse where I live during the week. My boss picks me up as he collects the vehicle that is kept nearby and we usually visit the office to pick up materials, tools and specialist Personal Protective Equipment needed for the day. This could be chainsaw work to clear wind-blown trees, fencing, replacing or repairing stiles, gates or dry stone walls. Sometimes my day can be spent ‘walking the paths’ getting to know the area and assessing whether anything that needs our attention now or in the future. Another very important part of our work is supporting the events team to lead or assist with guided walks, introductions to star gazing and those all important holiday family activities. Currently my key responsibilities are to turn up on time and to take every opportunity to learn about the job. I attend college in Cheshire to learn about ecology and environmental management to complement my practical on-the-job training.

What do you think are the most important skills for someone in your role to have? 

To get on with people and be able to chat to visitors, volunteers, and colleagues and share stuff with them to explain about the work we do and why we do it. An ability to work as part of a team and also on your own initiative really helps and we need a professional approach to risk management so we are all safe in what we do and the equipment we use.  One of the most important things for me is to assess what I can do on my own and what I need help with.

Describe the aspects of your job you find particularly rewarding and those you find challenging?

The rewarding days are those when I feel I have done a good job on the estate – when the 3D jigsaw that is dry stone walling has been less of a mystery, when the gate we’ve carried up the hillside has been hung, is straight and works, and when we’ve done a litter sweep and we know the area is clean and we have had met a few appreciative walkers on the way round who now know a bit more about all the sides to our work through the friendly 5 minute chat. The challenging days at the moment are those when I’m supporting other staff doing an activity with visitors and I can’t answer their questions because I don’t know what that plant is or the history to a particular building or why the valley is shaped the way it is. I know it will come in time and my studying helps.

Describe your career progression so far and any plans you have for the future

Well, I’m at the outset of my countryside career and I hope to find a job in the sector at the end of the scheme. The National Trust introduced me to this line of work and has given me the trainee opportunity so I hope to get a job with them and work as a countryside ranger.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone seeking a career in the sector?

Don’t underestimate the importance of volunteering.