This post was written by Jane, a volunteer ranger in the New Forest. Volunteering in the forest has made Jane feel more connected to nature and the seasons. Learn more about forest wellbeing.
For more than twenty years I spent most of my working week catching glimpses of the New Forest on my drive to work or looking out on it wistfully from the train window as I sped past it. I could see it was beautiful and felt lucky to be so close to it but I’d never really had the time to fully explore it.
When I had the opportunity to go part-time at work, I quickly realised that spending time in this amazing landscape right on my doorstep was what I wanted to do. But I didn’t quite know where to start or how to get involved. Then I saw an advert in the local paper offering the chance to become a volunteer ranger with Forestry England. That was ten years ago and I am still doing the job today!
Being a volunteer ranger is a fairly unique opportunity. Unlike many other volunteering roles where you can feel on the edges of an organisation, this role puts you right at the centre. When I put on my uniform I feel like I am really part of the team. It’s a pretty great office to work in too!
Spending days outside, in the fresh air with others who are committed to this beautiful landscape gives me a huge amount of job satisfaction.
In return for my time and commitment I get a lot back, you are constantly learning and building up your knowledge and skills. This makes the rewards of the job really tangible.
I love working in tandem with the seasons. In spring I might be out on patrol checking signage, information points, or cycle routes. In the summer months I spend a lot of time meeting the public at our visitor information cabin at Bolderwood or taking part in guided nature walks.Then in the autumn, the forest puts on an amazing show of colour and I think this is my favourite time of year to be out in it.
"I notice the seasons properly now that I am out in the forest more. I love the variety of the job and that it changes as I go through the year."
There simply isn’t enough space here to talk about everything I have learnt about wildlife in the forest during the last ten years. Suffice to say, I had NO idea how many creatures called the forest their home and how many rare and protected species are here.
I feel privileged to be able to get involved in tasks to help conserve and protect this precious habitat.