Nick Holden

Ranger, St Agnes to Godrevy

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Nick Holden - Ranger

Nick has been working as a Ranger with us for over 10 years. He is part of the team that looks after mostly coastal sites stretching from St Agnes Head to Godrevy in St Ives Bay. He was drawn to Cornwall for the countryside, the outdoor work, and, of course, the surf.

Alone early morning surfer at Godrevy, Cornwall
 
Why were you first interested in being a Ranger?
 
After a lengthy trip overseas (surfing and living in a van) I made the decision to change careers (I spent several years as a heating engineer up North before) and pursue a life and lifestyle that would keep me closely connected to nature and my environment on a daily basis. The Cornish countryside and coastline provides that for me in bucketloads. I love the place and feel very lucky to live and work here.
 
What do you like most about the sites you look after?
 
Tough question. The influence of the sea on our part of the Cornish coastline is huge. Witnessing it’s power and beauty on a savage stormy day. Seeing the turquoise blue sea from a sun soaked wildflower cliff is pretty special. I also love the view from the sea looking back towards the cliff at Chapel Porth in September, as the sun gets lower in the sky the cliffs and heathland around Towanroath Engine House glow golden, that’s pretty rad.
 
Can you describe an average week for a Ranger?
 
Well, no two weeks are ever the same, that’s for sure. Usually most of our time is spent doing maintenance repairs to the existing site structures, like fencing, hedge repairs, pot holes, steps and walkways. Then some of the time we are landscaping and managing the the natural environment, for example, access improvements, erosion repairs or vegetation management. The rest of the time is spent planning, driving, communicating and observing.   
 
What are the best and worst bits of your job?
 
Best bits are the days where you are working on a job with a great view, that you know is going to make a positive difference either to the habitat or to people's enjoyment in the years ahead. Worst bits are the inevitable indoor stuff, admin, emails, long meetings.  I get a bit tetchy if I'm inside too long. 
 
What qualities does someone need to do your job?
 
I’d say you need to care passionately about your environment to have the determination and patience to make improvements along the way. You also need a lot of stamina to keep going on the hard graft days, of which there are many.
 
Have your coastal sites changed much over the years?  Have you seen an increase in visitor numbers?
 
I think part of the appeal of the job as Ranger is the fact that certain sites I look after are in a constant state of change and others are unchanged in nearly a hundred years or more. The stunning heathland we have on the North Cliffs and St Agnes Head is shaped and beaten by the unrelenting west wind and salty air which makes it a very stable and slow growing environment. Alternatively the cliffs and dunes a short walk away from the heathland at Godrevy are quite the opposite and are constantly changing in certain areas. 
 
I have definitely seen a big increase in the visitor numbers, which I think is great. It’s no longer a secret that this place is amazing and worth returning to again and again. We must be doing something right in our jobs. For me this is what the Trust is all about, providing access to enjoy our beautiful places. 
 
What do visitors like most about the place?
 
Honestly, I couldn't say.  I do know that the views, the beach, the sea, the walks and the widlife will be up there, but they’re all different folks with different stokes. 
 
What are the most memorable days that you have spent here?
 

20 March 2015 was an amazing day.  There was a solar eclipse. We turned up to surf the early before working at Godrevy. With a small clean swell to greet us we paddled out and caught waves in the early morning sunshine.  Chris had brought a welding screen out into the line up with him. The sun started to darken as the eclipse began and we traded waves in the strange half light, staring at the disappearing sun through the welders mask, as it was eclipsed by the moon.  How rad is that? I suppose its not technically work related, but it was here, with work firends, and it was memorable. I’ll never forget it. 

There was also one afternoon several years ago when a brilliant former colleague (who knows a certain corner of Cornwall like the back of his hand), mentioned there was an orchard down a quiet lane, long overgrown and forgotten about. I badgered him to show me and later that day we pushed our way in through veteran bramble to reveal glimpses of ripe red apples that tasted like heaven. This orchard became a project to me, I opened it back up, unearthing delicious treasure. I’m stoked to say that it is going strong, and now locally well looked after.  
 
Cornwall is famous as a surfing destination, can you tell us about the break at Godrevy?
 
Godrevy is a very popular and works through most tides. It has a reputation of being a soft breaking wave and good for learner surfers. This is fairly true as it misses a bit of south westerly swell angle which hits the Cornish coastline. However when the swell is over 4ft and the wind is anything other than perfect (light, offshore) it can be a really long and challenging paddle to get out the back. Like most beach breaks it relies heavily on the quality of its’ sand banks to provide long walled up rides. Best on the dropping tide. Perfect place to surf if you like sharing the line up with friendly seals.