Hello again. So far I’ve been blogging about the tasks and activities that Rangers up and down the country at National Trust properties get involved in. But there is one thing that all National Trust Rangers would agree on; and that is the invaluable help that we get from our volunteers.
At Sissinghurst we have only three permanent Rangers, the full time Senior Ranger and two assistants who do three days and two days a week respectively. So it’s important for us to have extra help, especially during the busy winter period, to enable us to complete our programme of work on the estate. True to life our volunteers come in all shapes and sizes, with differing skills and from the young to the not so young! But they all have one thing in common; love of the outdoors.
If we were to breakdown our Ranger volunteers we would have two very distinct groups. The first would be students that are working towards a diploma or degree in Countryside Management or other related topic. The second would be (mainly) retirees that are looking to remain active and enjoy the social side of volunteering.
Looking at the first group, the students, they have a very focused approach. Our students are from Hadlow College, an agricultural college near Tonbridge. Whilst their studies involve learning some practical skills there is no better way than learning in the field with experienced operators. I should know as I was one of those students three years ago! To go someway towards being marketable in the countryside industry, having a qualification is important but it is the time you spend building up your practical experience that will make you stand out to potential employers.
Whilst I initially built up my experience levels with the Kent Wildlife Trust and Medway Valley Countryside Partnership, I soon volunteered with the National Trust and my skill and confidence levels rocketed. So to all you potential Rangers out there…get those hours in!
Our second main group of volunteers consist of those not seeking to make a career out of the countryside but to give something back whilst enjoying the social side of volunteering. They also like to learn new skills but often bring skills with them which are adapted to the sort of work we do. Every other Thursday this group, TAG (Thursday Action Group), help out the Ranger department. The very useful thing about this group is that whilst the students might use their time on their practical projects, TAG can be used to do those urgent jobs where lack of time or hands has delayed tasks.
So volunteering at Sissinghurst has many functions which can be of benefit to all. We realise that we are an excellent training ground for students and although we are limited to the numbers we can take we always try to accommodate. It is the variety of tasks and equipment used that the students gain most from together with learning in an almost one to one situation. It is a pleasure also to work with those from the local community who still have so much to give and quite often the learning is very much a two way process…and of course they’ll always be tea and biscuits!
Paul – Ranger