Countryside ranger: Fraser Williamson
Ranger, Chartwell and Toys Hill
Fraser Williamson, countryside ranger at Toys Hill, he explains what it's like to work outdoors at the place which inspired Octaiva Hill to found the National Trust.
What’s the best thing about being a Countryside Ranger?
I get to enjoy special places every day and make a real difference - whether through management of a particular species, restoration and improvement of habitats, or simply wildlife observation.
I love the fact that it’s not about controlling nature but instead working with it. I am privileged to work with a fantastic team of volunteers that continue to inspire me and without whose help much of my work would not be possible.
Our team come from all backgrounds and with a diversity of experiences they all bring something different to the table. We have a fantastic team dynamic, there’s a lot of fun to be had and working in a group makes the difficult times easier.
Yes there are times when it’s not so good; a cold wet winters day when you’ve lost all feeling in the fingers for instance, but it's more than made up for at other times.
What does a typical day look like for you?
There is no typical day. One consistency is the team brief in the morning before heading out to site but other than that it very much depends on the time of year and the type of environment we're working in.
I help take care of both woodlands and grasslands so in winter it is mostly woodland work such as coppicing or thinning. In the spring we start planting for the year ahead. In the summer we have to ensure rides and paths remain clear as everything grows at a faster pace.
Summer is also the time of year when we see more visitors, so footfall is high. Paths, gates and fencing have to be installed, repaired and maintained regularly. We also carry out ecological surveys to better understand the habitats which help inform our management plans; for example, livestock grazing the grassland to ensure that hay is cut at the right time.
We also help organise events in the summer time for visitors, whether that be guided walks or family trails inspired by 50 things to do before you are 11 ¾ .
What is your favourite memory in the outdoors?
That’s tricky. Before working for the National Trust I lived in the Far East for over a decade, spending much of that time on expedition super-yachts. I travelled to uninhabited islands in remote archipelagos and led adventure expeditions into remote a rain forest and the mountainous regions.
Diving with hundreds of sharks in the Galapagos has to be up there, as does waking up one morning in primary rain forest in Malaysian Borneo to the sound of a Malaysian Tapir in camp and a 15 foot python curled up on top of my sleeping bag!
In the UK, I love to see any wildlife in its natural environment. I always smile at the little opportunist robin, that we all know and love, who will arrive and perch on the handle of my spade. I have wildlife cameras in the woods and enjoy watching the nocturnal creatures going about their normal duties the next morning.
How would you encourage people to discover nature near them?
I think people discover more as they take the time to learn about and understand nature. Going on a ranger guided walk or attending a species ID training day is a good place to start.
Volunteering with the National Trust is a great way of discovering and learning more about nature and the environment in your local area as well as helping conserve the environment.
When you have that bit of knowledge you see more and consequently look for more. You’ll be surprised how quickly your passion can escalate. Start small, by being able to name a few common flowers and trees you’ll impress your friends and family and you'll start to understand the wildlife habitat you’re in and the part each species plays within it.