Saturday, 16 March 2013

Nine Months “Rangering”

Orley Common limestone grassland.
I recently completed a 9 month position with Teignbridge District Council in south Devon working as a countryside ranger. This was a fantastic opportunity for me to undertake as it is the career path I intend to go into once I graduate. It allowed me to really get a feel for not only the day to day responsibilities of the position but also for how the work changes during the seasons.

Teignbridge currently have 28 different nature reserves covering a large area of south Devon, these reserves feature a huge range of habitat types including, woodland, limestone grassland, heathland, reed bed, scrubland and wet grasslands featuring fens. There are few other placements where you get the opportunity to work on such as wide range of different habitat types!

While with Teignbridge I was able to take part in a hugely diverse range of projects including but not limited to:
Warren Copse woodland.
  • Dormouse box surveys at Orley common
  • Heathland habitat management removing encroaching scrub and felling invasive conifers at Ideford common
  • Woodland thinning and coppicing at a number of sites
  • Cutting and maintaing fire breaks on the heathland sites
  • Swailing heathland as a management tool
  • Using “green wood work” skills to create site furniture such as gates and styles from felled timber to be put back onto the sites
  • Installing fencing, gateways and vehicle barriers to protect the reserves
  • Creating boardwalk “bridges” to allow visitor access in wet weather conditions
  • Digging a tidal water channel at Jetty marsh nature reserve to encourage a range of wildlife species
  • Restoring a dry stone wall at Churchills local nature reserve
  • Precipitating in planning and running a grazing programme at Churchills local nature reserve to promote Wild flower and Invertebrate biodiversity
  • Woodland glade formation at Warren copse wood to increase ground flora diversity
  • Further scrub control this time on limestone grassland at the iconic Orley common site
  • Working with volunteer groups to further our public relations and to educate about the green spaces serviced by the Green spaces rangers
These are only a few of the many tasks that I took part in while on placement but they are some of the more memorable, as with any job you have your day to day essentials such as path way maintenance, Grass cutting, vehicle maintenance, bird feeder refilling, Chainsaw sharpening, litter picking and site safety checks (especially after big storms!).

Green wood bike trap.
Dry stone wall at Churchills.
Splitting logs in the "round".
Initially I was only scheduled to have a 3 month placement with Teignbridge however when these three months were nearly up I was offered an additional 6 months work and a training budget of £1000. The next 6 months were a lot more intensive with me getting many more responsibilities and tasks, but at the same time this comes with a new level of respect and trust from your co-workers as it becomes evident that you can handle the work given to you. As mentioned earlier I also had access to a training budget which I chose to use for the following:
  • NPTC chainsaw (CS30 and CS31)
  • Lantra Brush cutter operations
  • Emergency first aid at work
These are probably the most essential “tickets” you can get a hold of if you are considering a career in habitat management and they are the minimum ones that employers will look for you to have. Also if taking part in any winter management (Sept – Feb) you will need to be competent on chainsaws and brush cutters as you will be in the middle of felling season.

Swailing at Little Haldon heath.
Being from an agricultural family and working part time in horticulture certainly allowed me to hit the ground running in this placement as you really do need to have an already healthy set of practical skills to take full advantage of opportunities offered on a practically based placement such as this. Also the ability to think for yourself and effectively budget your time is essential as you will be expected to carry out lone working tasks and navigate your way around the different sites, consequently you must have a full driving license and a decent amount of road sense, the off road sense can be picked up at a later date!

In conclusion this was an amazing placement, yes there were days when you go home completely knackered, broken and soaked to the bone (in sweat or rain!) but if you love your countryside and really want to be on the front line doing something to protect and safeguard it then this could well be job for you, I know it’s the direction I'm heading in!

A snowy Ideford Common!

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

ViP Green Team volunteers needed

ViP Green Team have two tasks coming up on Saturday 16th March and Wednesday 20th March.

For Saturday 16th March we will be joining some volunteers from Exeter Uni at Houndtor Woods for a project with Natural England. The task is to clear and burn some brash, plant some hazel whips and fence a series of 20m2 enclosures in a conifer plantation, as an experiment to discover the best way of bringing back the natural deciduous woodland.

The ground is quite rough and steep so you'll need sturdy shoes and old clothes. Don't forget your packed lunch, a MUG for hot drinks and waterproofs!!

We will be leaving the Hive at 09.45, arriving back at Uni at 16.30

For Wednesday 20th March we will be working with the Wildlife Hit Squad at Bovey Heathfield. The task will involve scrub clearance for important heathland wildlife such as Dormice, Fritillary Butterflies and Birds of Prey.

Sturdy shoes and waterproofs are recommended and also a packed lunch and a MUG for tea and coffee that I will provide.

We will be leaving the Hive at 09.30, arriving back at Uni at 16.00

There will be separate sign-up sheets for each event in the Hive situated within the SU and you are welcome to sign-up for either project or both if studies allow you the time!!

If you have any questions regarding the events please contact the volunteer team in the Hive (

I look forward to seeing some of you there,


Simon Stringer and Alice Hedges (Green Team Project Leaders)