Walk on the wild side

Countryside rangers, sometimes known as wardens, look after and maintain areas such as woods, wetlands, common land and national parks.

They prevent damage, protect plants and wildlife, and make sure that access is controlled and safe for public use.

As a countryside ranger, your work could include:

l planning and creating habitats to encourage wildlife and flora

l tree planting, pond management and other practical tasks

l making sure footpaths, bridleways and waterways meet health and safety recommendations

l carrying out field surveys to detect changes in the environment

l patrolling sites to assist visitors, and to discourage poaching or damage to the environment

l giving talks

l managing resource centres and exhibitions

l providing guided walks

l taking part in community projects

l working with local landowners and businesses whose activities may affect the environment

l keeping records and writing reports.

You could specialise in a particular area such as habitat management, fieldwork or education, or in certain types of habitat such as waterways, coasts or moorlands.

Your work could include evenings and weekends. Some jobs are part-time or temporary,

You would spend some time in an office or visitors centre, but there would be a lot of active outdoor work – you would need to be prepared to be outside in all weathers and do a lot of walking.

In local authorities, rangers can earn from around £16,000 to over £20,000 a year.

Skills and knowledge you may find useful include:

l an interest in the natural environment

l the ability to work both alone and as part of a team

l practical skills for using tools and equipment

l good communication skills

l awareness of health and safety

l people skills

Before starting work as a countryside ranger you will usually need some relevant experience.

A good way to get experience is by volunteering with organisations such as the Wildlife Trust, National Trust, British Trust for Conservation Volunteers, Forestry Commission or Groundwork UK.

Visit the organisations’ websites for details.

Some run training courses for volunteers.

Appropriate qualifications include BTEC Level 3 Certificate/Diploma in Countryside Management, BTEC HNC/HND in Environmental Conservation, degrees in subjects such as countryside management, conservation, countryside management, rural environmental management, conservation and environment, or environmental studies.

For all courses you should check with colleges or universities for their entry requirements. You may be able to get into this job through an apprenticeship.

The range of apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers.

As a new ranger, you will usually receive on-the-job training. You may also be able to work towards the Diploma in Work-based Environmental Conservation at levels 2 and 3.

As a member of the Countryside Management Association (CMA) you will be able to attend regional and national training and study days and gain professional accreditation through a programme of continuing professional development (CPD). See the CMA website for details.

You will find most jobs with local authorities.

Other employers include the Forestry Commission and organisations like the National Trust, RSPB and local wildlife trusts.

There are also many volunteering opportunities.