A tribute to Emma Shepherd, a dear friend and colleague who lost her brave battle with cancer in late March 2018. Emma was a real inspiration, dedicated, hardworking, fun and a great ambassador for the National Trust. She will be very sadly missed. Here is an article she wrote about her life and work as a ranger.
Whilst working in the film industry in London Emma suddenly realised that she hadn't been out to the countryside in over a year. She decided something had to change, and started making steps towards a new career in conservation. She wanted to live by the sea, work outdoors, and get a collie dog.
She told us why she made the right decision that day.
How did you become a Ranger here?
When I was putting the wheels in motion to change careers, I signed up to a course in Conservation Skills, and volunteered with my local London council. Then I discovered Full Time Volunteer placements with the Trust, which offered on-the-job training and accommodation. I’d always wanted to live closer to the sea and completely lucked in, securing a role based in St Agnes on the north coast of Cornwall. After my volunteering stint I landed a two year Assistant Warden contract. After that I went up country employed as Community Warden at Wicken Fen – a nature reserve near Cambridge, one of the Trust’s oldest properties, but an awful long way from the sea. Lucky for me in 2010 a job came up here, and I returned to Cornwall (and the sea) as a Ranger on the Roseland. I got Archie a couple of years later.
What do you like most about the place?
The variety of landscapes and the wealth of watery fringes - I’m never short of stunning views when I’m at work. The Roseland is a peninsula, tucked downstream from Truro, and across the bay from Falmouth, with water on so many sides it feels like an island. There are lots of fantastic, sandy beaches, but the rolling fields are divided up by creeks with wooded valleys. I love bringing Archie to work with me too, he gets to hang out all day, every day, it's a great job for a dog.
What attracts visitors here?
In the summertime, they make a beeline for the beautiful beaches. Unlike the north coast’s rolling swell, the south coast beaches are generally calmer and more sheltered, making them perfect for a traditional bucket-and-spade family holiday.
It’s also is great for walking all year round. The South West Coast Path winds along the scalloped coastline, but there are lots of link paths and creek side paths that dip inland. In the colder months you may need to get togged up with good boots and a waterproof, but there are always lovely walks to discover.
Where are the best places for dogs on your patch?
If you’re a dog-owning walker (or kayaker, sailor or paddle boarder), the Roseland is a great place to spend time. With so many footpaths, there are lots of circular walks. It’s a farming area, so please be mindful that there may be stock grazing in some fields. All of our beaches on the Roseland and Dodman are dog friendly – Carne and Pendower have ‘on lead’ restrictions during set hours in high season, but elsewhere dogs are as free to enjoy the beaches as their two-legged friends.
My dog Archie enjoys our monthly community beach cleans as this means ball-time – I can throw his ball with a litter picker, keeping him entertained whilst we collect rubbish. He enjoys our commute to work since we often stop off at Trelissick to walk in the morning, before catching the King Harry Ferry where he loves to do his rounds, saying hello to all the ferrymen, getting ear-rubs along the way.
Can you describe an average week for a Ranger?
Not really! A Day in The Life of a Ranger = variety, exercise and being outdoors. The detail is different from day to day, and I could never describe my job as ‘average’!
What are the best and worst bits of your job?
The worst bit is picking up other people’s rubbish – especially abandoned dog poo bags or a trail of bottles, cans and food wrappers left by beach users. I find it frustrating that people clearly enjoy visiting beautiful countryside, but then disrespect it and the wildlife whose home it is, by leaving a mess. If people can carry a bag laden with barbeque goodies to the beach, why can’t they carry it back to their car when it is much lighter once the food and drink has been enjoyed? I don’t get it.
The best bits are pretty much everything else! Including being outside much of the time, amongst stunning scenery, working in a different location every day, having a variety of tasks to do, making a difference to nature and visitors whilst caring for the landscape.
What qualities does someone need to become a Ranger?
A love of working outdoors, a passion for nature and an enthusiasm to help others enjoy the countryside. We prioritise access for visitors alongside nature conservation, so you have to be aware of the importance of both, and be able to juggle that dual aim. I’m outside at least 70% of the time, mostly doing pretty physical work, so you need to be fit and get on with it regardless of the weather. If you've ever considered ditching a city career, and heading to the countryside like me, come and volunteer some of your time, and see what it's all about.
We run volunteer days on the Roseland which you would be most welcome to join. Get in touch on 01872 580553.