With over 1,500 forests to care for and 230 million visits a year, our fantastic staff of forest rangers have a lot of work on their hands! Whether it's repairing much-loved trails, surveying wildlife or working closely with local community groups, being a ranger for Forestry England is certainly a varied job - and one that never stops growing!
This week, we paid a visit to Bellever Forest on Dartmoor to get some insider knowledge from Community Ranger Tim Powles.
What does an average day as the Bellever Community Ranger look like?
No day ever being the same is what makes this job so rewarding! I could be checking on the many archaeological sites at Bellever or looking for new additions to add to our knowledge of the bronze age landscape. I could be inspecting recreational trails or keeping an eye out for unofficial camp-sites to manage the fire risk.
I'm also looking forward to working more closely with the local residents and schools all over Dartmoor. It's incredibly rewarding to see how fascinated people are by our organisation, and engaging with local groups during operations, such as tree harvesting, is an important part of the job.
I am also very involved the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust, a tenant of Bellever, who manage the wonderful ponies you might come across in the forest. The ponies graze the areas that are clear of trees mostly for conservation and archaeology management, so I could be meeting their team or volunteers to discuss new projects, or volunteer management.
What interested you in becoming a ranger?
I've always had a fascination with nature and the countryside, and I was lucky enough to be accepted onto a local countryside management course when I was young. This consisted of a year of industrial placements where I was sent to an urban river valley project in Manchester and a nature reserve in West Sussex for a Wildlife Trust. Both great experiences that cemented my desire to work in the countryside and also with people. The rest is history!
Do you have any advice for people looking to start a career like yours?
Never be afraid to volunteer! It's as relevant now as it was when I started 35 years ago and will give you a great taste of what working in the forest has to offer. You could also try speaking to your local ranger, I know I am always happy to chat or email with someone who wants advice.
Do you have any insider tips for visiting Bellever Forest?
Explore! Many drive to Bellever to go to the river, but if you leave the car park and head into the woods on one of our trails, you're guaranteed to experience something special.
You might see a bird of prey hunting, or hear the wonderful sounds of the cuckoo and nightjar, or it might be the sound of the wind in the trees or the water cascading over the rocks in the streams. Whatever it is, you will find it. I do every time.