Countryside Manager, Northumberland Coast & Farne Islands
Meet the Countryside Manager with a passion for wildlife conservation.
When it comes to the great outdoors, Gwen Potter loves variety. Her career has seen her living on a windswept island in the Bristol Channel; abseiling, climbing and teaching archery in Norfolk and chasing ‘dancing, insane birds’ (black grouse) in Scotland.
Now she spends her time managing the landscape on the Northumberland Coast and Farne Islands.
Why did you want become a ranger turned countryside manager?
I studied a BSc in Zoology at University of Newcastle and then an MSc in Wildlife Conservation and Management, which mainly involved looking at insects in horse poo.
I've also worked on urban wetland reserves in environmental education for RSPB, spent a couple of years in bonnie Scotland studying insects and black grouse, been a National Trust ranger for mid and south east Wales and now here I am.
I essentially wanted to protect our wildlife and help other people to appreciate and enjoy it. We're lucky enough in this country to have bottlenose dolphins, peregrine falcons and stunning butterflies the size of bats – and that’s just at one place.
" Observe the outdoors, even for five minutes every day - you don’t need to know exactly what it is, you just need to love it. "
What does a typical day look like for you?
There isn’t one. But I could spend the morning meeting with the rangers and making some phone calls/emails, then I'll meet with other colleagues to talk about how we might make a place better for nature and for our visitors.
In the afternoon I may be lucky enough to take a trip to the Farne Islands, catch up with the rangers there as well as the 200,000 seabirds that call the place home for the summer. In reality I’m often in the office now but I don’t mind – if I think our team has made progress that day I go home happy, we can’t all be outside all the time.
Do you have a favourite memory from outdoors or with a wild animal?
I feel like I create these every day. There is one memory that springs to mind was when I was doing black grouse surveys near Loch Ness, I will have to make you imagine it.
You start the day by waking up at 4am to navigate through a wood in the dark, emerging onto a hill thick with mist. Imagine the sounds you can hear, flapping of goodness-knows what, bubbling grouse and the dawn chorus in the woods behind you. The black grouse are dancing like clockwork toys in the distance.
The air smells clean and full of life as the view across the woodlands and hills becomes clearer the higher the sun rises, it's breathtaking. I’ll never forget that morning.
How would you encourage people to discover nature near them?
Definitely wander near you and get to know your local nature. It could be a neglected corner of the garden with a wren jumping in and out of the hedge or your local woodland. Even if I only hear a yellowhammer on my way into work it puts a smile on my face for the rest of the day.
To get in touch with Gwen please contact our press office on 0844 800 4955.