Location: ZSL Whipsnade Zoo
In this role I look after the 13,000 trees on the 600 acre site as well as the 75 acre SSSI which is managed for chalk grassland. I also manage a flock of 100 sheep and 5 goats which graze the SSSI. I am also part of the paddock management team which means we maintain the enclosures that the zoo animals live in and we landscape the area according to the animals that live in the paddocks. My job focuses mostly on inside paddock maintenance however I am still expected to get involved with the amenities department and cut lawns and strim around stud posts and signs.
Majority of time is spent during the winter on tree work (felling or deadwood due to tree safety) and in the summer it is either strimming or mowing to maintain the paddocks or the lawns which we have on site. Time is split indoors 20% / outdoors 80%
If yes, how does it vary from summer to winter (or main busy season to quiet one)
Winter the jobs change as well as the hours. Most of my work switches to focus on tree safety work within the park as well as sheep management we tend to not go into enclosures during the winter as our vehicles would damage the habitat created for the resident animal.
I volunteered from the age of 16 with local wildlife groups. I managed to get a year contract volunteering with the National Trust which put me in good stead. I went to university and got 2 degrees in one in countryside management and conservation (fbsc) and one in countryside management (B.Sc.) as well as this I started my own landscape company which merged with a drystone walling company. After this I got a job as an outdoor educational assistant which built up skills as a teacher as well as a walks guide/storyteller.
To achieve my current job I have got; Forestry Tractor- with implements (lantra; ATV; Hedge cutter; Strimmer; Chainsaw; Ride on mower; Wood chipper; PA1/PA6
Knowledge of plants and animals both native and non native. Confidence in your ability to so a good safe job. Patience with the public as during school holidays you will not be able to physically get around site. And a love for the outdoors and ability to deal with it in ALL weathers.
Advice to anyone looking at similar roles:
Be confident in your abilities to do a good job and if you think that this career is suited to you brilliant. However- the pay will not make you rich. If you think that you can walk into a job in one of the national parks be aware it is a small industry and many people are going for these jobs... it is not uncommon for 30 people to be shortlisted for an assistant job. Basically the competition for jobs is fierce but the people in the industry are often very helpful and will share their knowledge with you.
If you have any questions about being a horticulturalist please Ask CJS.