A day in the life of a ranger

The site that I manage is Forest Way Country Park, which is a disused railway line owned by East Sussex County Council. The track is now a permissive bridleway and people can use it for horse riding, cycling or walking.

One thing I like about my job is that the work is so varied. As well as the planned maintenance work we do, we have to respond quickly to problems that people phone in to report, like fallen trees. So sometimes we set off to tackle a particular job then I get a call and we have to dart off and deal with something else. The mixture of planned and spontaneous work is definitely part of the job.

Working with volunteers

My main day for working with volunteers is Friday. I pick up the trainee rangers and volunteers at quarter to nine, and drive us up to the site where we’re going to be working for the day.

There are usually anything between five and 10 volunteers on a single day. The group is made up of all ages, and people have different motivations for being there. Some of them have retired, some are students, and some are looking to change career and hope to get some experience of countryside management.

Other people do it just for fun – they work in an office all week so they’ll take the day off and come to help because they want to get out and do something different for the day. The volunteers’ help is critical as without it I’d be on my own and wouldn’t get half as much done.

The work we do

I work with the volunteers to maintain the track and the rest of the country park for wildlife.

We clear branches and bushes that might be growing onto the track, using bow saws and loppers. We also work to maintain access to the track by keeping gates and steps in good condition. This is something people really enjoy doing – they work on installing some steps and afterwards they can see that they’ve achieved something with an obvious benefit.

Volunteers also help me look after the Victorian bridges and culverts that make up the old infrastructure of the railway line. These are beautiful structures with big brick arches, clever engineering and nice design touches. We might clear vegetation that is damaging the structures, or even erect protective fencing made of traditional cleft chestnut post and rail.

The work we do varies depending on the season. In the summer it’s mainly about dealing with plants and vegetation, while in the winter we’ll be maintaining surfaces and countryside furniture like fences and gates.

How to become a volunteer

We are very fortunate to be supported by such a fantastic group of volunteers.

New people join the group all the time, so if anyone wants to come and have a go, visit the get involved page.

People who volunteer can benefit from additional training days, and these are funded by the Accessing the Countryside project.