Working for Denbighshire Countryside Service
By Claudia Smith, Countryside Ranger, Denbighshire Countryside Service
I’m a Countryside Ranger, working for Denbighshire County Council’s Countryside team in the north of the county. My role involves the practical management of our 43 Countryside Sites in a variety of habitats, including woodland, wetland and sand dune, as well as allotments. Throughout my time at Denbighshire, I’ve been working on the Nature for Health project, which encourages local people to get outdoors and enjoy the countryside on their doorstep through volunteering opportunities. I’ve been here three and a half years so far, and I’m enjoying the variety of the role: no two days are the same! I was recently helping out on the Clwydian Range AONB’s annual black grouse count, which is something I look forward to every year. We are currently in the process of preparing for the little tern breeding season at Gronant, which involves installing electric fenced pens, and a team of Wardens to protect vital shingle nesting habitat. I’m also in the process of setting up BeeWalk transects on one of our Countryside Sites, which my volunteers will be involved in, after a series of training sessions.
I’ve always had an interest in the environment and the outdoors, having been volunteering with a National Trust Youth Ranger group when I was younger, so a degree in the environmental sciences was a natural choice. I decided on Environmental Conservation at Bangor University, and it was the perfect location to study the subject, being surrounded by Snowdonia National Park, and it provided many exciting field visits. During my time at university, I continued to volunteer with the Wildlife Trusts, as well as with Treborth Botanic Gardens and the university’s own gardening group. I always enjoyed the practical element of volunteering, so decided that a role with a ranger team was a good fit for me.
After university, I did a long-term placement with Conwy County Borough Council’s Warden team, based in Llanfairfechan. I was part of a team which managed Nature Reserves across Conwy county. I worked on the practical management of a variety of sites, including woodland, sand dune, upland and limestone grassland. Furthermore, I worked on the ‘Donate a Gate’ project, where people would be able to make a donation towards a new gate on a public footpath, rather than a bench. I was responsible for assessing gates throughout the county. One of the highlights of the placement was working with the team on the Great Orme Country Park, especially with assisting with the wild goat counts. I also got to organise and run events for the public, which gave me valuable experience as it is something I now do regularly as part of my current role. While completing my placement, I started to look into other ways of networking. I joined a local bat group, which helped me to form links with conservation professionals working for many different organisations. It led to helping out with many bat surveys, which I found fascinating. Soon after my placement ended, I applied for a job with Denbighshire’s Ranger team, and I luckily got the job, helped by the experience and local knowledge I gained during my placement with Conwy Council’s Warden team.
Advice I would give to anyone looking to start their career in conservation is to start volunteering. There are many opportunities with Countryside Services and local conservation charities. Joining special interest groups is another great way to network, as you will meet people from many different organisations. Getting outdoors and improving your wildlife knowledge is another way to demonstrate your interest, and will come across well in an interview. Free online seminars are becoming increasingly popular, covering many aspects of ecology, so take advantage of these to boost your knowledge. In addition, Denbighshire Countryside Service provide membership to the Countryside Management Association (CMA) for its staff, and also has corporate membership. It provides many useful resources, and networking opportunities through its conferences, so I would recommend joining.
If you are interested in volunteering with Denbighshire Countryside Service, please contact email@example.com / 07785 517398
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