As rangers, the variety of places we work and the type of work we carry out varies a lot. It almost sounds cliched we say it so often. Whether that is rebuilding a dry stone wall, fixing a gate, filling in potholes, leading a guided walk, doing some 50 things activities with groups of children or presenting our special places to the highest standard (that includes the toilets!). But the most important part of our role is sharing this love of special places with all our visitors.
When I first started as a ranger, I was quite daunted by how much knowledge some of the other rangers had about their patch, ecology and the natural environment. From my volunteer days, I was under the impression that the role was very much about getting your hands dirty through the variety of conservation work such as rhododendron bashing and drainage clearance. But as it turned out it was about so much more than that!
Every ranger brings their own special skills and interests to the job and the South Lakes ranger team is no exception. They have a wealth of knowledge and experience but historically we have not been great at sharing this knowledge around the team (great at sharing with the public!). After lots of ranger chitter-chatter, we came up with a solution - ‘Walking in the wild side’.
|Rangers learning about the geology of the Coniston coppermines valley from a very knowledgeable, local historian, Mark Scott|
The idea is for a ranger to run an afternoon session of his or her choosing on the South Lakes patch, once a month by getting out and in true Lou Reed style ‘walking in the wild’ side! The topics so far have ranged from dragonflies and damselflies, the landscape history and ancient trees of Tarn Hows, the history of the Coniston Coppermines and a historical walk around Blelham Tarn. It seems hard to see how we can justify the ranger time initially when we look at the mounting work such as fixing wall gaps, repairing fences, filling in potholes, strimming grass. Justification is easy – how can we share our love of special places with our visitors if we don’t spend the time learning about them?
Many people tell me that you become knowledgable over time, by picking up tid-bits and simply asking lots of questions. I find the best way to learn is to get out and hear passionate people talking about the subjects that they care about!
The idea is not only to share this knowledge but also to allow individuals to pursue their own interests and learn about a topic to share with everyone else. We have plenty more planned in for the future including meadow wildflowers, Beatrix Potter and her farming legacy, traditional use of woodlands and woodland crafts. I am hoping to run a ‘walk in the wild side ‘ by sharing (and improving!) my knowledge of Lake District geomorphology… The knowledge of the South Lakes ranger team as a whole is improving rapidly!
|Rain doesn't stop play - learning about the industrial archaeology and history of the Coniston coppermines|
One of the National Trusts’ aims is to pass on a richer, healthier natural environment for future generations. This starts with sharing our knowledge and interests with everyone we meet... We want to help people to recognise the true value of our countryside and have a role in caring for it, for example to understand the impact that wild camping and off-road driving can have on our special places.
So if you see a ranger in red out and about, ask them what they have been learning about recently!