Every day is a school day

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By Debs Carter, Countryside Ranger

Debs Carter
Debs Carter

Taking a deep breath (remembering to exhale) I find it hard to believe I have now been a Countryside ranger for over 3 years!

Graduating from Plumpton June 2019, I was accepted for a maternity cover role with WSCC for 1 year, then onto a permanent part time role in 2020. Now I am a full time Countywide Ranger with 3 (plus) sites to manage across West Sussex.

Wow! Say wow with me ……. Because, although it’s been a long difficult road, it is achievable with the right attitude and training.

Training never ends! There are never enough hours in a day to do what you have to, to learn new things and to do your job in the best way you can.

Everyday is a school day!

I was a mature student at Plumpton - a career change, a HUGE step after being made redundant from my worldwide role as Shore Support for a Seismic Shipping company. I went travelling for 6 months just because I could: Money √ – family grown up √ No work for the first time in over 30 years – huge √.

So, in my usual manner of dive straight in, Plumpton it was. Yes I had life experience, organisational, management and people skills… a good start. I was focused on being a ranger from the minute I left the open enrolment day. I usually say yes, I can do it if asked and work out how to after. It has got me by so far: ha ha

Seriously, Abby Lamb’s confidence in me, that I could do it, sealed the deal. Abby was to be my course tutor ad was managing the enrolment day.

group of people standing in hi vis clothing carrying power tools
The Safe use of Hand Held Hedge Trimmer training group that involved Debs, second from the right (Land Skills Training & Assessments Ltd)

So, there I was, now training on a 2-year Level 3 Advanced Technical Diploma in Land & Wildlife Management; units included Woodland & Coastal Management, Urban & Farm Habitat Management, Estate Skills, Ecology, Grassland and Greenwood working.

Along with that we also had to volunteer one day a week as part of our training, for practical skills. I started at Batemans National Trust, even before Plumpton’s first term had started, keen was not the word. I have been described as an excitable puppy at times!

If I were to give advice to anyone considering a career change, or just starting out or on course in their current role but looking to improve, it would be ……..TRAINING.

I pushed hard at Plumpton to get training certificates in chainsaw maintenance and small tree felling, it was part of the course, but I wanted mine sooner rather than later. Working in the woodlands one to one with a ranger, I was getting so much practical training and mentoring from him and I wanted to be able to help him too. So having passed the training I was now part of the team. We opened a huge area in the woodland and let in light, later becoming a fantastic wildlife pond.

Being on the course, training for tickets and volunteering weekly, was there space for anything else in this time? Of course! I organised a trip to the Isle of Eigg volunteering and in recognition of our hard work we were offered training in Marine mammal surveying.

A group and I, from Plumpton went on a field trip to South Africa and had training whilst working on the reserve. Always remember that new experiences are learning experiences too; I was gaining academic points while feeding a baby zebra and conducting large mammal surveys.

Debs in protective gear using a polesaw to cut branches.
Debs using a polesaw (Debs Carter)

Once employed by WSCC, yes, I had to get my head down and for a while that included learning the basics and I felt sometimes I was ‘winging it' - I guess we all are to a certain degree. However, not one to let the grass grow under my feet (no pun intended) as soon as I became a permanent member of staff if any training was offered, I grasped it with both hands. Undertaking practical training for pole saw, brushcutter and hedge trimmer to gain the certifications and to enable me to become an all rounder in my role. There were also online courses with the Forestry Commission and Lantra with Landskills at Dorking, plus the inhouse training that comes with any big company.

Juggling full time work and taking training is a skill itself but every now and then take a step back to look at how far you have come.

We can always learn, train, and retrain. It’s exciting and keeps us motivated and excited to be in our role.

Learning is available to me in so many forms, whether it’s working with or talking to more experienced rangers, completing an online course, jumping right in and going back to college or uni; working with volunteers, listening and learning something new from them on a day when they are completing a task for you, how amazing is that?

I am 60 and a grandmother to 10, I do actually have a new great grandson too …… if I can do it …… So can you!

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Posted On: 13/09/2022

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