'To be honest, I think I have my dream job'
Grab 5 minutes with Christie Greer, National Trust Ranger at the North Coast, and get an idea of what it is like to work at a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
What does a typical day entail for you?
There’s really no such thing, and my day varies a lot depending on the season. There are always important conservation projects happening, as well as the day to day management of the site. At certain times of the year we carry out monitoring projects like butterfly transects, breeding bird surveys, moth trapping, bioblitzes and botanical surveys.
Grazing animals are an important part of conservation management on National Trust land so we spend a lot of time maintaining 30+ km of fencing. We work hard with our tenant farmers to ensure that the land is sensitively managed going forward. We also have a responsibility to control problem plant species within our remit. Ragwort is a huge problem as it can be toxic to livestock. The only way to control it on sensitive habitats is to pull it by hand. This is a huge and arduous task
We attracted over 1.3million visitors to the Causeway last year, which means that we do a lot of general maintenance tasks on site, and the ranger team helps to look after paths and access to the Causeway. We have a whiteboard in our workshop with a list of ‘Things to do’; one of which now is to buy a bigger whiteboard!
What has been the most interesting species or wildlife you have spotted?
Along the North Coast there’s always the chance to spot porpoises and dolphins, but I love catching a glimpse of some of the many birds of prey that call this coastline home. We would see buzzards most days, as well as the occasional kestrel or sparrowhawk, but seeing a Peregrine falcon in a stoop while hunting is something special.
What has been your favourite project you have worked on recently?
I helped to organise the litter pick by sea in May last year, where we teamed up with local marine businesses to co-ordinate their first ever litter pick of the inaccessible bays below the cliff path. Plastic pollution in the waters around the Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede is a growing concern, so it was brilliant do our bit to tackle marine litter. We gathered 45 large bags of plastic and fishing debris, 8 tyres and a full trawler net.
In terms of wildlife conservation, we are currently working on promoting and protecting certain species of birds and butterflies that we are trying to encourage back to the North Coast. For example, there is a declining bird species from the finch family called the twite, which can only thrive in certain conditions, so we are trying to create a suitable environment for them here through a change in our farmland management.
The Rangers do a lot of work with local school children, teaching them about nature and wildlife. Do you find that many of the kids have an interest in conservation?
Absolutely, the kids from Ballytober, Bushmills, Straidbilly and Dunseverick Primary Schools, who are involved in our potato planting projects have a lot of interest in and passion for nature and wildlife. Many of them live in the areas around the Giant’s Causeway and are from farming backgrounds. They aren’t afraid to get stuck in and already have a solid knowledge of their surroundings. They love learning about the ways they can protect and enhance the environment.
Do you have a favourite National Trust place?
White Park Bay, especially in May when the bluebells are in full display. The entire ancient dune system is awash with colour - it’s just stunning.
The species rich chalk grasslands support a lot of plants, many of them rare, including orchids and the Meadow Cranesbill, known locally as the Blue Flower of Dunluce. Cattle graze the pasture there, and can often be seen on the beach, which is quite a sight to behold. I’m told they’re the most photographed cows in Ireland. We spend a lot of our time there, but I could never tire of it.
Do you have a favourite time of the year?
Coming in to spring, when the insects and butterflies are starting to appear. The seasonality is part of the beauty of working here with the National Trust - you never get bored of the place. Also, working outside most of the time, it’s always nice when the weather starts to pick up.
What do you love about your role?
I like the variety of it, the problem solving and the practical element of working with my hands. I love my job. Even when I’m off on holiday I’m still out and about doing ‘Ranger’ jobs and conservation tasks… even if it’s just in my garden. I usually can’t wait to get back to work!
If you could have any other job what would it be?
To be honest, I think I have my dream job! It’s my passion and I discover something new every day. I’m from an environmental science background, and am enjoying learning more about the agricultural side of things.
Give us a reason to visit a National Trust property
You’ll always learn something you never knew before when you visit one of the incredible places owned by the National Trust. For example, people think they know what the Giant’s Causeway is …but there is so much more to it and many fascinating facts to learn. That’s why we are here - to help people discover the amazing stories, myths and legends, and to learn about the amazing flora and fauna that the area around the Causeway supports! And the Causeway Cliff Path is a stunning walk, I’d highly recommend it.