The (foot)path to becoming a National Trust ranger

Shelley working in Upper Wharfedale

Have you ever walked through the countryside and seen a group of people building a dry stone wall or fixing a fence and thought ‘I wonder how to get a job like that’? This is Shelley's journey on how she became an academy ranger.

Ever since I was a small child I have always been very active, and staying indoors was not my idea of fun. I have fond memories of my parents telling me to stop climbing so high in trees or to be careful when scrambling over rocks, when all I wanted to do was explore. By the time I left school I had a great interest in nature and made the decision to make it my career.

After 5 years of further education I came out with an MSc in Biodiversity and Conservation and a commitment to work in the conservation sector. Growing up with parents with lifetime memberships of the National Trust I already had a strong connection with Trust properties and had my sights set on becoming a National Trust ranger. However, with my limited practical experience in ranger work this made it difficult to achieve.

So I began working as a membership recruiter at Beningbrough Hall in York and really focussed on building my skills volunteering in the parkland on my days off. If you would like to get into the conservation sector, I can't recommend volunteering enough. I learnt so much  and the National Trust really invests in its volunteers. I even got a qualification to operate commercial wood chippers!

" It took passion, dedication and a lot of volunteer hours to reach this academy traineeship, but it was 100% worth it! "
- Shelley

During this time I heard about the academy ranger traineeship, a course designed to provide all the necessary skills a ranger needs whilst working full time with qualified rangers in a beautiful outdoor setting. I applied for the role in 2017 but unfortunately was just beaten to it by an existing volunteer at the property. However, rather than being downhearted, it fuelled my passion and I diversified my volunteering to other National Trust properties in Yorkshire including the North York Moors, Hardcastle Crags, Brimham rocks and the Yorkshire Dales. I got to know the National Trust ranger community in Yorkshire and made myself known to them whilst continuously building my practical skillset.

Academy Ranger, Shelley
Shelley Rhodes
Academy Ranger, Shelley

In 2018 I reapplied for the Academy ranger role this time at the Yorkshire Dales and with my collective experience I got the job! It has been an amazing experience and after a year of working in the Dales I am still loving every second of it. The role is so varied, I could be fixing a fence one day, and doing a guided bat walk or butterfly survey the next. I’m now working on my own projects, doing my dream job, in a beautiful part of the country! 

The National Trust is currently in the process of converting the traineeship into a new apprenticeship scheme starting 2020.