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Age: 37

Organisation: National Trust

Simon Vining - Ranger


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

After having spent over 10 years as a production manager in the entertainments industry I became increasingly disillusioned with the lack of leaving any lasting impression. As I had been brought up in a rural setting and had a love of hard work and the outdoors, a career in the countryside seemed the appropriate next step. In 2001 an opportunity came up that allowed me and my partner to move to Devon. Knowing it would be increasingly difficult to find work within my present role I looked towards volunteering to gain an understanding of the environmental sector.

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

Initially I volunteered on a weekly basis with charities such as the National Trust and The BTCV (now TCV) and also helped out at a local stable and a racehorse rehabilitation centre. In Devon I took jobs on farms to learn about practical farming and then started my own land management business. Due to financial constraints I closed the business and found full-time employment within the conservation sector. Returning to volunteering to improve my skills and contacts I was lucky enough to become an estate ranger for a charity in Oxfordshire. My role involved looking after woodland, farmland and grassland. After a year I went on to work for the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust managing a three year project restoring chalk grassland across. Over the years I have been on many training courses. The majority for using specific machinery, but also courses in woodland and grassland management, flower and tree identification and many others. I aim to keep up my learning through reading, workshops, courses and listening to professional advice.

How long have you been in your current role?

A few months.

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

I am responsible for over 1000 acres of woodland, farmland, Rights of Way and buildings; including managing budgets, staff and volunteers. As the single point of contact for nine sites I am responsible for managing projects and contractors and carrying out practical work including tree/woodland management, path maintenance, fencing and grassland management.

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

  • Being able to juggle various projects whilst retaining an overall view of the bigger picture
  • Being able to talk to land owners and find solutions to a variety of issues
  • Enjoy meeting people and dealing with the public
  • Have a good understanding of practical processes and 'hands on' skills
  • Leading volunteer groups
  • Having a positive and thorough approach towards Health and Safety

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

I love making a difference in the countryside and having a positive effect on wildlife. I’m passionate about what I do and am committed to doing the best job where I can. I like the thought that one day I will return and see the positive impacts. The negative issue of this job is that we seem to become tied more than ever to the office and less ‘hands on’. Budgets are increasingly tight meaning work is harder to complete and low salaries make it hard to live.

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

I have worked hard to prove my abilities and to progress. Recent posts have required me to juggle large projects and considerable budgets. I have ensured all my roles have taken me further forward. I have many plans for the future, the underlying aim to continue to make a positive difference within the countryside and ultimately to live and work on an estate that aims to be environmentally sensitive whilst being economically productive.

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

Learn as much as you can as often as you can – not just via formal training but get out there and actually do it. Gain as much understanding on as many different aspects of the countryside as possible. Volunteer, volunteer and volunteer some more! Take on specific roles that will add substance to your CV. Show passion and enthusiasm and remember this is a tough sector to crack, but stick at it.