Aaron Claxton

Volunteer Countryside Ranger, St Agnes to Godrevy

Aaron Claxton - Volunteer Countryside Ranger
Rangers fix a fence on the North Cliffs, Cornwall

Many of the Rangers that work for us gained the skills and experience that they needed for the job as volunteers.  Aaron started his career with the National Trust filling the volunteer steel toe-capped boots on our patch, pleased in the knowledge that the previous six volunteers have gone on to gain full time work with the Trust in Cornwall and up-country.

We tracked him down and asked him to give us an insight into his experiences.

What sort of work are you doing?

A Rangers job is a real mix of practical and office based roles. This means we can be doing anything from cutting vegetation on miles of footpaths, to building hedges and fencing, to organising events such as working holidays, surf comps and beach cleans.  In the past our team hosted a Bioblitz and the World Bellyboard Championships.

What do you like about living and working here?

I find it really interesting getting to spend so much time out in the countryside, and seeing the stretch of coast line that we look after go through seasonal changes. From seeing huge waves breaking over Godrevy lighthouse in a winter storm, to all the wildflowers and nesting birds in spring.  The contrast is really something.

Why did you decide to volunteer for us?

I wanted to volunteer because I saw it as a really good opportunity to gain experience and training in conservation - the field of work I want to continue working in.

How long did you volunteer for?

I have volunteered now for 14 months and have another 4 to go, so 18 months in total.

What are the best and worst parts of the job?

The best parts for me are being in places that are usually really busy, but when no one else is around. You also get to work in places that not many people ever get the chance to see.  It feels like a privilege to be there. The amount of wildlife you get to see from spending so much time outdoors is also really cool.  There aren't many bad bits about the job, but it can be disheartening to see people abuse the sites you care for, littering and fly tipping can get you down when you work so hard to look after the place.

What has been the most valuable part of your experience?

Volunteering in a role really helps you focus on whether or not the job is for you. You get to meet lots of interesting people and your knowledge and skills grow really fast.  I have received a lot of free training, and now have practical certifications in brushcutting and maintenance and tractor and trailer driving which are essential for being a Ranger.

What advice would you give someone who is interested in volunteering?

Always give everything 100% effort as you get the most out of it that way. There are days when you can get down (digging a hole for a gatepost on uneven muddy ground in the pouring rain or strimming through dog poo isn’t fun) but persevere as it is well worth it. The skills you gain and people you will meet make it all worthwhile.

If you are aiming for a career in conservation and land management then find out more about volunteering opportunities that can help.