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 in mid and SE Wales, putting her Wildlife Conservation and Management MSc to good use. With areas of expertise that include insects and minibeasts, birdsong, meadows and upland, Gwen is ideally placed to care for her patch.
Gwen’s educational experience also helps as she shares her knowledge and enthusiasm with visitors of all ages. And she has appeared on local TV and radio.
"I’ve lived in eleven different places in the last decade, across England, Scotland and Wales," she says, "but my favourite Trust place is right here in Wales - the coast from Newquay to Cwm Tydu. It’s intimate and huge at the same time, with endless variety, buzzing with life in the summer and then in winter you can almost hear all the wildlife sleeping and trees resting."
How many years have you been in this role?
3 ½ years
What does your role entail?
I look after the woods at Llanerchaeron and Henllan, as well as Bryn Bras in the mountains and Mynachd’yr Graig on the coast. Generally I work with volunteers to cut scrub, record our wildlife, clean beaches and cut trees.
Which area do you cover and what do you think is really special about it?
The countryside in Ceredigion is a place people pass over on their way to Snowdonia or Pembrokeshire – but that means we have more ‘secret’ areas where you won’t see many people all day, you can get a bit of peace and quiet and see some amazing wildlife
Why did you want become a ranger?
I wanted to protect wildlife and help other people to appreciate and enjoy it – we have bottlenose dolphins, peregrine falcons and stunning butterflies the size of bats – and that’s just at one place.
How did you get into the role and what did you do before?
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 then volunteered for NT and RSPB at various locations across the UK, worked at an outdoor centre teaching archery, climbing, abseiling & fencing (the swordy version) as well as A level Biology and Geography students. I also worked on urban wetland reserves in environmental education for RSPB, spent a couple of years in bonnie Scotland studying insects and black grouse and then here I am.
What’s the best thing about being a ranger?
Knowing you have made a difference, making a place better for wildlife and people
What’s the worst thing?
Fencing and putting in gates – they always end up wonky
What’s your favourite season and why?
Autumn. It’s a win-win – either you get the mists shrouding the wispy trees before the blue skies. Then you know you’ll have a day where you get ammil and everything glistens in the frosty morning light. In afternoon the trees start to blaze, gentle pieces of delicate red, yellow and orange fall before the sky glows red in the evening. Or you get the crazy winds that make all the colours dance together and drenching rain which is guaranteed to bring jewels of fungi peeping through the ground. It’s also the only time of year you can effectively use the word russet.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Going to gigs (though there aren’t many big ones in West Wales), playing guitar incredibly badly, planning adventures and growing ‘unique’ vegetables.
What are your future aspirations?
To learn more about nature every day, and spend even more time with it
To get in touch with Gwen please contact our press office on 0844 800 4955.