Meet Daniel Brotheridge
National Trust Project Ranger, Green Academies Project (GAP)
Daniel helps young people from Birmingham look after their green spaces and learn new skills in conservation training. Daniel is passionate about giving other young people the opportunities the Green Academies Project opened up for him.
How did you get into GAP?
I grew up on a council estate in Birmingham. We spent holidays walking and visiting Trust places, but I didn’t think that someone from where I lived could work in conservation. I was set on going to university but I hated college and dropped out during A-levels. After that I had no idea what I wanted to do and lost a lot of confidence.
It clicked that working outdoors could be a career when I started volunteering at a community centre garden, where I met a Green Academies Project (GAP) youth worker. I spent two years on GAP while studying for an NVQ in Environmental Land-based Conservation.
Now I’m a community ranger for GAP. The Project has been extended from Birmingham into South London, Greater Manchester, Wrexham and the North East.
What do you do?
I lead a group of 11–16-year-olds called the Urban Rangers. They meet after school to volunteer at a local green space called Dell Meadow. We get them involved in making decisions about their local area and planning what they want to see there. Some are already interested in nature, but many are there because there’s nothing else to do. My first group was really challenging, but you need to treat the kids with respect and keep them engaged.
There’s a real disconnect between the young people I work with and the environment. When kids first start in the Urban Rangers they’re often nervous, as they haven’t been exposed to the outdoors much. We make time for activities like den-building and bushcraft sessions. They soon find their confidence and get stuck in. Now, if they miss a session they’re disappointed.
My other volunteers are 16–20-year-olds who are not in employment or education. They work across Birmingham and the Clent Hills, doing more serious conservation tasks like tree-felling, which give them skills to help them into training or work.
What does GAP mean for you and the future?
Communication is a key part of my role. At first I found speaking to the public really difficult. The first Project Manager of GAP, Dee Whittle, really encouraged me with this and now I can chat away for ages. It helps that I speak the same language as the people I’m leading – some of them are only a few years younger than me.
Before GAP started in the area, a survey showed that most local people either didn’t know what the Trust was or they thought it was just about stately homes. Now in a recent survey most people said the Trust is about helping people in their local area. The community and the kids’ families are very supportive.
With cuts to park budgets, local people will increasingly need to look after their own green spaces so GAP is more important than ever. We’ll have a big problem in the future if we can’t find ways to connect people to their environment now.
This article originally appeared in National Trust Magazine, Autumn 2017.