January 2018 - life as a Full Time Volunteer

Full Time Volunteer taking a breather whilst repairing footpaths in the central Brecon Beacons

Volunteering can be hugely rewarding and provide vital practical experience for a career in conservation. If you want to find out more, who better than our current woodland Full Time Volunteer to talk about what is involved, and now over to Morgan...

Working life before the National Trust

Before deciding to take on this role with the National Trust, I spent three years working as a Countryside Ranger for a County Council in a very busy country park. Overall, this had given me a rounded experience of ranger work, with particular emphasis on engagement. I realised quite quickly whilst looking to move into a role that was more conservation orientated that I was lacking certain practical skills and began considering the various full time volunteer options available to me.

After reading the advertisement for the woodlands volunteer role and coming over for an interview I realised that this was what I had to do. I’d always had a connection with woodlands and knew this was the type of experience I needed if I wanted to end up working within the woodland environment.

Life as a Full Time Volunteer

Once I started with the team I was thrown straight into the action with the development of a forestry track. Within weeks my confidence and skill level working with the chainsaw had increased rapidly. These skills were recognised through further chainsaw training back in September. Although the past twelve months have improved my hands on, practical forestry and woodland based skills, the opportunity to work with two experienced woodland rangers, Stuart and Tim, with a wealth of knowledge of not only woodland and tree management, but also estate skills, machinery maintenance and wildlife, as well as the rest of the Brecon Beacons team with their varied experience, skills and passion for their jobs, has further inspired me to work in this industry.

Volunteers working hard to repair the footpaths in the central Brecon Beacons
Volunteers working on the footpaths leading to Pen y Fan in the central Brecon Beacons, Powys
Volunteers working hard to repair the footpaths in the central Brecon Beacons

Despite being predominantly based with the woodlands team, they were more than happy for me to explore other areas of ranger work where I was lacking experience. This specifically involved survey and monitoring, something I personally view as quite a vital skill if you are involved in habitat management work – after all, you want to know that the work you’re doing is benefitting the habitat you’re working on and this can often be determined by annual surveys. Last year I was able to attend an Ancient Woodlands Restoration workshop run by the Woodland Trust, a wildflower meadow survey day at one of our tenanted farms, Berthlwyd Farm, with the National Trust's Wildlife and Nature Consultant for Wales and helped our conservation ranger, Jess, with her meadow surveys at Lanlay Meadows. As a full time volunteer you are still able to and encouraged to attend training workshops with full time National Trust staff.

What next?

I recently accepted an Assistant Rangers role with the National Trust at Ashridge Estate in Hertfordshire. This site is predominantly semi natural and ancient woodland with areas of parkland and calcareous grassland, giving me the perfect opportunity to put the skills I have acquired over the past year (as well as the previous few years’ experience) to good use.

Whether it’s a career change, the experience you need after college or university, or in my case identifying the skills you are missing, I can’t recommend a role like this enough to give you the perfect platform for a career in conservation. If woodlands are your thing and you have a chainsaw felling certificate, the team here will be advertising the volunteer post again in the autumn or if you prefer working in upland environments and mountain footpaths these volunteer opportunities frequently become available around spring each year so keep a look out!

If you've enjoyed reading the first blog of 2018 and want an insight into what else goes on within a countryside ranger team, come back next month to find out what our woods team have been working on.