Chris Johnson

Ranger, Allen Banks and Staward Gorge

Chris Johnson - Ranger

From radio presenter to ranger. Chris Johnson hadn't always imagined working in the woods for the National Trust, but sometimes it's best to expect the unexpected...

A group doing some bushcraft skills

With a degree in Media Production I got a job working at my local BBC radio station, handing out promotional stickers at football games and washing the station’s vehicles, not quite what I had in mind after three years of hard work at university. However, you’ve got to start somewhere! 

With my foot in the door I was promoted to tea boy and phone answerer and ultimately made my way to the early breakfast show presenter, via some very long nights talking to myself presenting the overnight show! I was also presenting a weekly show about the great outdoors and got to meet lots of people who worked in conservation. 

My career in the outdoors began when I moved to Stockholm and with my beginners Swedish a radio job was out of the question. I worked for a gardening and landscaping firm who took care of the communal green areas surrounding apartments.

There was lots of grass cutting and flower bed maintenance through the summer and then when the winter came I learnt about ‘white gold’ the name the snow plough drivers give snow due to the amount of overtime you do. One year we had 14 days of consecutive ploughing, then another week moving the massive piles of snow we’d made before any more arrived.

When I returned to the UK and I knew it was conservation work I wanted to do and began my career with the National Trust, inspired by Rangers I’d met and interviewed for my radio show. I started, as many do, volunteering before becoming an Academy Ranger, the National Trust’s trainee programme offering class room and practical education. 

My traineeship was based at Allen Banks and Staward Gorge - which is part of the National Trust's Hadrian's Wall and Tyne Valley Group - and during the final stages of it, I was fortunate that a permanent Ranger job became available here too.

Quick fire-round:

What’s your signature dish? Pizza, with homemade dough (I’m a whizz with a bread machine)

Favourite tipple? Tea or Ale (depends what time of day it is)

Favourite movie? Don’t know, so can’t answer!

Favourite thing to do at work? Tree felling, it sounds devastating but it's essential to the ongoing health of the woodlands. Especially when we’re removing non-native conifers to restore the natural habitats so that the wildlife can flourish.

Favourite wildlife? Well, it has to be the Dormouse, Staward Gorge is home to the most northerly population in the UK.