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

Trail (UK) - - Wild Nights -

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.”

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