Apprentice joins the Riverlands team

Water Environment Worker Apprentice, Bure Riverlands

Sharon Reeves - Water Environment Worker Apprentice

Meet Sharon Reeves, the newest member of our team. Sharon joined us in February 2020 on a brand new Water Environment Worker Apprentice scheme.

Water sample collecting

What is a Water Environment Worker Apprentice?
I’m really excited to have joined the National Trust as a Water Environment Worker Apprentice. This is a new ‘on the job’ qualification focusing on improving water habitats. It includes learning how to prevent pollution, manage flooding and help people reconnect with their nearby rivers and waterways. 

There is an emphasis on using sustainable solutions with natural materials, which is something I’m particularly interested in learning about.  I will be spending my time supporting the Riverlands project at Felbrigg and Blickling Estates, as well as gaining as much experience as I can within the rest of the National Trust.

What was it about this particular apprenticeship that made you apply?
Hearing about this apprenticeship felt like a dream come true! 
I changed careers three years ago to work in Countryside Management and since then have taken every opportunity to learn as much as I can - about different habitats, how to benefit wildlife and involve local communities with naure conservation.  

This apprenticeship felt like a natural progression, combining the practical skills I’d already learnt with my passion for anything and everything connected to rivers and water.  Before starting the apprenticeship, I volunteered near where I lived in London on river litter picks, river bank reinforcement tasks and helped make floating reed beds. I really wanted to use these experiences to help further my knowledge in a more structured way within the National Trust which, I think, is an amazing conservation charity.

What have you enjoyed so far? 
I have loved my experience so far!  I’ve already had the opportunity to meet staff and volunteers working on the Riverlands project and can’t wait to get stuck in!  There are so many opportunities to be involved in and during my first week I helped with an eDNA Water quality testing project at Blickling Lake. This research project is using environmental DNA techniques to reveal the wildlife value of ornamental lakes around the National Trust. It’s shown me just how varied work here will be, and I am really keen to see how we can involve more people in monitoring and practical work.  

Only 17% of rivers in the UK are in a healthy condition.  Last week I walked round areas of the Blickling and Felbrigg Estates, where the Riverlands project has already made some great progress and the work illustrates how this project is already making a difference to help restore our watercourses to a more natural state and help encourage the wildlife to return and flourish.

What are you looking forward to the most about your apprenticeship?
I’m looking forward to everything!

What advice would you give to others who may not have considered an apprenticeship?
When I first saw the apprenticeship I almost didn’t apply, automatically thinking that I was too old.  I contacted the Apprenticeship team at the National Trust and was reassured to hear that it was open to any age.  I feel privileged to be at Blickling working on the Riverlands project and want to ensure that I make the most of this unique opportunity. I’d encourage anyone considering an apprenticeship to take the plunge – your dream can come true too.