11 September 2015

Ramblings of a Long Term Volunteer

It’s hard to believe that it is six months since my last blog back in March at which time I was one of the new faces on the block at Boon Crag, just starting my time as a Long Term Volunteer. What an incredible time it has been! With so many highlights I thought I’d share just a few of the most memorable with you.

Spending at least part of everyday outside is an enlightening experience. The passing of the seasons and the changes that they bring play a pivotal part in every person’s life; however during the last 6 months it has been noticing the small, subtle changes that have bought me the greatest pleasure. I can clearly remember seeing my first spring flower, a Wood Anemone, on my morning walk to work. Looking at things on such a small scale really does highlight the remarkable variety of life that we are surrounded with, so much of which would fit right in place in an ‘Alien Movie’ if it was just on a larger scale!
Wood Anemone appearing was one of the first signs of spring

Is this an alien, or a newt eft??
Sometimes when you fully immerse yourself into a situation it is easy to forget where you came from. Although I am all too aware of skills and knowledge that I still need to acquire, I really do feel that over the past six months I have begun to acquire the skill set that is needed to be a modern day ranger. Part of the beauty of this job is that you never stop learning and someone will always have a different solution to the same problem.

learning from a walling master in Little Langdale

New kissing gate on the iconic Cumbria Way
Talking to people that we meet as we are carrying out our work is part of the job that I really enjoy. Sharing a passion for the great outdoors creates an instant bond between people who have never met until that instance, and it is really rewarding to hear stories from people enjoying the land we work so hard to conserve.

Following from this, our 50 Things incentive has once again been hugely popular this summer. Having attended many similar activities when I was younger, I have really enjoyed helping with the activities the rangers have run at Wray Castle during the summer holiday period. Hopefully we have inspired a love for the great outdoors; you never know, some of the kids might now no longer want to be a doctor and may want to be a ranger!

Exploring the canopy, #1. Climb a tree

#35. Discover what's in a pond

Our Upland Rangers, comprising of a team of 5 who work as part of the Fix the Fells partnership, have one of the best views from the office of any job in the country (on a clear day …). Their main project this season is combating erosion near the summit cone of the Old Man of Coniston, and I was fortunate to spend some time with the team up there. We even had some sunny days!

After a hard morning of grafting what could be better than a curry ...

Apart from maybe a quick nap ...
After a 45 minute walk up to the summit and a quick brew, the work on the pitching commenced. Working with stone is a very different experience to wood; it’s not so easy just to shave a slither off to make something fit, but is all the more rewarding when you find the right sized belter that fits snugly exactly where you intended. I was told on my first day that within a few weeks I would be having conversations with the stones I was using, and sure enough towards the end of my time up on the fell they were getting pretty in depth … mostly involving cursing because the stone just didn’t quite fit. The combination of hard work and having a great laugh made this month was one of my favorites so far.

Or even better, a refreshing swim in Low Water after work!

My legacy on the Old Man ... fingers crossed they're still there!

It has always been my dream to work outside, and being fortunate enough to spend this time in the Lakes has been the icing on the cake. I am extremely excited that this has only been the start of my career as a ranger and will be spending the next two and a half years at Boon Crag in the role of Academy Ranger. During this time I will be learning many more practical skills on the property in combination with the theory and tickets during my time spent at college. Life really is good at the moment, and who knows what I'll have to talk about for the next blog!


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