Inside the lives of Essex’s female National Trust rangers
PUBLISHED: 10:35 28 August 2018 | UPDATED: 10:35 28 August 2018
National Trust rangers find themselves out and about in all sorts of weather, and required to do all sorts of tasks. Essex Life spoke to two female rangers happy to show that it’s a job they still love to do
The job of a ranger may not be the most obvious career choice for young women, but for two girls in Essex this is a dream job. Jess Rogers and Kim Goodall are both Essex girls and assistant rangers for the National Trust.
Kim is based at Hatfield Forest, an ancient royal hunting forest near Bishop’s Stortford, and has always been an ‘outdoorsy’ girl.
“I remember telling my parents I wanted to be an archaeologist because I liked digging, but it was when I attended an Explorer Scout camp that the idea of being a ranger took hold. After completing a master’s degree in Physical Geography at Hull University, I volunteered at different places across the UK then gained an internship placement with the South Lakes National Trust Rangers based in Coniston in the Lake District.
My first ranger job was a seasonal role based at the Dunstable Downs in Bedfordshire and after that I was lucky enough to secure a permanent position at Hatfield Forest.”
Jess is based across sites in Essex and South Suffolk, which includes locations as diverse as Flatford Mill, Dedham Vale and Northey Island as well as Danbury and Lingwood commons. Jess also began by volunteering with the National Trust.
“I started off by volunteering with the ranger team at Hatfield Forest. I was studying for a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Countryside Management at Writtle College and as part of the course I needed to complete 300 hours of voluntary work. Hatfield was a brilliant place for me to start my ranger career.
“It has a mix of habitats, from grassland to woodland and marsh to lakes. I was able to learn a great deal of skills and knowledge essential for my future in the industry.
“A ranger’s main role on site is to help maintain the estate and conserve the habitat. So our day-to-day jobs include things such as fencing, hedge cutting and tree work, but also more in-depth conservation projects such as heathland restoration or planting up new woodlands.
“Our job isn’t always countryside management however, as we also get involved in the running of events across our sites. I have helped out at Castaway on Northey, open air theatres at Flatford and on many off-site events representing the National Trust.”
The variety is what Kim loves about the job. “One day I will be out mowing, strimming or chain-sawing, the next I can be out in the lake catching invasive American Signal crayfish or shearing our small flock of sheep.
“I could be helping our learning officer decorate the Shell House ready for Father Christmas or decorating fairy doors in preparation for the Elves and Fairies event. The varied workload keeps it interesting, as well as the people (and dogs) that I meet during the day. Most recently I have been involved in the training and handling of our new sheepdog, Selena.”
“Much of our job is outdoors, which is great for me,” adds Jess. “I find being outdoors very therapeutic. I love knowing that I am making a difference. The work that I do helps to keep that special habitat alive, so more wildlife can call it home and more people can see and enjoy it.
“One of the nicest parts of the job is interacting with people who have a genuine interest in what you’re doing and seeing people connect with the outdoors in a way that maybe they wouldn’t have before. It’s great to show people new things they have never seen, and helping them to learn more about the world around them.
“I once had a grandmother with her granddaughter come up to me to ask what I was doing. As I was explaining it all, the little girl was getting more and more excited about it – she even asked how she could start volunteering!”
For Kim, a special moment was helping a duck and her chicks to safety last spring. “A duck was nesting on one of our shed roofs. When her chicks hatched they were reluctant to follow her as she flew down to the ground. After watching her many unsuccessful attempts, I gathered my volunteers and together we managed to gently guide the chicks into a large shallow bucket to bring them down to their mum.
“Together they all followed her into the lake for their first swim. I’ve noticed that this year she has nested in the same spot, so I am on standby to help her out again if needs be!”
There can be some unusual requests as well, as Kim shares. “We can often be asked for tools to repair bikes or tighten up wheelchairs. Last year during Woodfest (Hatfield Forest’s annual music festival) we even had to help repair a lady’s prosthetic leg!”
So what advice would Kim and Jess give to anyone, particularly girls, who are thinking of becoming rangers?
“I would always suggest doing a job that you enjoy,” says Kim. “I think being a ranger is often thought of as being a male dominated profession, but this is changing.
“Everyone has a varied skill set to bring to their job and you have to work to your capabilities and strengths. If you’re not sure what it is you want to do yet, go out and volunteer. Get involved with different organisations and see which jobs and activities you enjoy.”
Jess continues: “There are jobs out there doing all sorts of things, and one of those is going to be something you love. Also get out in the world and see things. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about what people are doing and why they are doing it.
“Volunteering is one of the best things you can do as well. You get a taster for the job before having the commitment of actually having the job. I tried loads of things – I volunteered in a charity shop and at a playschool, for example.
“Ultimately, don’t let anything stop you from doing what you want to do.”
Find out more
The National Trust has thousands of volunteering opportunities across all its properties. To find out about volunteering opportunities or other ways to get involved, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/join-and-get-involved