Tales from the trails

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With 17 country parks across Leicestershire, we’re lucky to have a mix of walking and cycling trails, play areas and plenty of wildlife to enjoy.

To upkeep all of these parks, there are four dedicated ranger teams that work throughout the year across the 17 sites taking care of a total of 1,310 acres of land – that’s around the same area as 4,240 Olympic swimming pools!

The Beacon Hill ranger team manage Beacon Hill, Broombriggs Farm & Windmill Hill, and Jubilee Woods and Sheet Hedges Woods. From keeping pathways clear to taking care of highland cows, hear from Chris, senior ranger, on how they are delivering for you all seasons of the year!

When did you start your role as a ranger?  

I studied conservation and land management at university, and I’ve been with the council since 2005, which when I think about it, makes me feel really old actually! I’ve had five different roles within the County Parks service over the years – Snibston Ranger, Beacon Ranger, Parks Volunteer Coordinator, Heart of the Forest Parks Community Ranger and now Senior Ranger at Beacon Hill.

What’s a typical day in the life like for you?

There aren’t any! That’s the best (and worst) part of being a ranger – you’re never quite sure what each day will bring. Everything is seasonal, so we work with nature to carry out a huge range of tasks.

Forestry and in-depth habitat management work takes place in the winter which is my favourite season. During spring and summer, we conduct wildlife surveys (when we have chance) and estate maintenance. These two seasons are more focused on visitor services and allowing nature to do its thing. Although, there is still a huge amount of practical work to do, especially around heathland management and bracken control.

In autumn, we begin to work on wildflower meadows and plan for the upcoming winter work. That’s one of the reasons why the year goes so fast – we’re always planning ahead!

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What’s a highlight of your role?  

Having the livestock at Beacon Hill is very unique to this team. We spend a lot of time caring for the cows, sheep and alpacas. The cows are majestic to watch and a vital part of our heathland restoration project. They attract visitors to the park and help support the national rare breeds programmes – we are very lucky to work with them.

The forestry work we carry out is a true passion of mine. Some people hear a chainsaw and can worry about trees being felled – but I only see the positives of conservation.

Rangers are all conservationists at heart and the woodland work we carry out creates stronger, healthier diverse trees and woodlands. We carefully select which trees are removed and how this is done, and this includes all different techniques such as pollarding, haloing and coppice pruning.

The timber can then be used for all types of things – it can be sold locally, used as stakes for hedge laying or even left to create decaying wood.

Do you have a favourite memory?   

There are so many favourite memories in this job it’s had to pick one. We create artificial habitats, and some of this work involves making our own bird boxes. Recently, we were putting some up and stood them at the bottom of the tree, then we had a pair of blue tits begin to make a home in one whilst it was still on the floor. Every year brings new memories.

How can people get involved?   

The easiest way to get involved with the parks is to join one of our volunteer groups. Volunteers can help us maintain habitats, record wildlife, complete site inspections across play areas, take pictures of beautiful scenery or wildlife for social media and good old-fashioned litter picking. Get in touch with us to find out how we can tailor a volunteer role to you!

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Chris Conway

Senior Ranger

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