Is this the best job in the world?
Working every day in beautiful wild places, getting to know their most secret corners; National Park Ranger is a dream job. We meet \PM XMWXTM _PW LW \PM _WZS \W ÅVL W]\ PW_ Q\ ZMITTa Q[ .QZ[\ ]X
Who are you, where do you live and where are you from?
I’m Mark, I’m 50, I live in Netherton and I’m from Rothbury – both just outside Northumberland National Park.
How long have you been a National Park Ranger and how did you come to have this dream job?
I’ve worked for the National Park for 23 years. I first started off as Field Assistant, then Estate Ranger. It was being in the right place at the right time, I suppose. I just saw the advert, went for it and I got the job. They were looking for someone practically minded and I fitted the job description, so that was it.
How much land are you responsible for?
The Park’s just over 400 square miles and I look after the northern part. So, you could say 200 square miles.
How many days a year, at an estimate, are you outdoors for much or most of the day?
In my role I would say a couple of hundred days in a year. I’m outdoors all the time anyway, because even in my time off, I’m still an outdoor person.
What are the kinds of moments you stop and think ‘this is the best job in the world’?
There are loads of moments like that. I mean, I really love the job and its different aspects. Every day could be different if you wanted it to be. For instance, I could be surveying a path, out there alone, and the scenery’s just superb. Times like that, you think, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Tell us what a typical day looks like for you at different times of year.
It depends on the workload. In the summer months we still do general maintenance, but also deal more with visitor pressure. We have hot spots in certain valleys where visitors may need need general information, or on the other hand I could be organising contractors to do some of the larger type work, such as bridge building and footpath surfacing, or working with volunteers throughout the Park.
How do you keep your enjoyment levels up, when the weather takes a turn for the worst?
You take the job knowing that it’s an outdoor job. I can put up with most weathers but in the cold and wet the enjoyment levels can fade quickly. But you just get on with it. “There’s an old saying “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong kind of kit!”
What aspect of the job do you find most fulfilling and why?
I suppose it’s the variety, from the hands-on general maintenance of the rights of way infrastructure, to visitor management. Conservation tasks are also very important and an enjoyable part of the work. Sharing knowledge of the park I find very rewarding.
YOU AND THE PARK Can you describe what makes Northumberland distinctive?
It’s the tranquility and solitude, I think. They call it ‘The land of the far horizons’. You’ve got Hadrian’s Wall in the south, which gets multi-national visitors, but up in the north of the park you’ve got the solitude. There are four main valleys that run from the Cheviot Hills and each one has its own merits.
What do you personally love?
I’m an outdoor type and for me, it’s got everything: from the clean rivers and the dark sky to the conservation projects within the park. The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre has just opened, which is a £14.8 million project, and sort of a hub to get people from all different backgrounds and abilities into the Park.
“The scenery’s just superb... you think, it doesn’t get much better than this.”