Inspired as a boy
‘My great-uncle had been a massive influence on me as a child. A farmer and self-taught conservationist, he was my David Attenborough.
'I recall visiting him as a youngster; he’d point out rare plants such as small orchids that were barely distinguishable in the long grass; find fossils and identify birds by their song. He was even awarded a British Empire medal for his work establishing Seaford Head National Nature Reserve.
‘I knew I wanted to work in conservation, to do something that made a difference and leave a legacy. Between contracts I’d volunteered with Project Aware and the Nature Conservancy Council, helping to re-establish coral reefs that had been buried beneath silt washed into the sea as the result of deforestation and development.
My lightbulb moment came whilst on leave and visiting a National Trust place. I got talking to a couple of rangers and their passion and enthusiasm was immediately infectious. I'd paid my entry fee as a visitor, but they were being paid to be there and were making a real difference....my mind was made up.
‘I left my high paid career and crammed all my belongings into shipping containers. Within a month of arriving back in the UK, I found myself huddled on a windswept hillside in Pembrokeshire as a full-time volunteer ranger, planting oak trees in horizontal hail. I was cold, I was wet, and I had a smile on my face.
'After a year or so, with experience and training under my belt, I began applying for permanent paid positions. That's when I became a ranger at Chartwell. It's a wonderful place, a stunning house and a large estate. I help take care of around 1,200 acres of ancient woodland and historic landscape, it's a great opportunity and one where I make a meaningful difference.
‘One of the things I enjoy is sharing our work and my knowledge with visitors. Whether that’s by explaining why and how we manage woodland to an adult or pointing out an unusual species to a child and seeing their eyes widen in amazement.
I believe engaging children is vital, they’re our future Trust members, staff and volunteers. They are our future conservators.’