Working in the great outdoors: meet Ed the ranger

It’s been said time and time again – ‘do what makes you happy’.

For those fortunate enough to have the means to shape their lives, it makes sense to take this advice and run with it. We are increasingly expected to work more than ever before. In fact, most of us spend one-third of our adult lives at work. We spend another third sleeping (which I personally find commendable) and we try to cram everything else into the remaining third. With work being such an enormous part of our precious lives, it’s important to do something we enjoy – something that doesn’t really feel like ‘work’.

A reality check

Societies worldwide are experiencing unprecedented levels of anxiety. It’s no wonder really; personal, political and environmental issues aside, many of us work in stressful jobs that aren’t very good for us. Office workers, for instance, don’t see as much daylight as they should and sit for long periods, staring into screens and juggling emails. While some find happiness in a regular 9 to 5 office role, there’s something to be said for being outside and taking in the beauty of the natural world around us.

Reconnecting with nature

People generally don’t spend much time outside, yet there are a number of scientifically proven health benefits associated with doing so. In fact, a report published by the University of East Anglia found that exposure to greenspace reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stress, and high blood pressure.

Job roles that allow us to work and connect with nature not only help improve our health and wellbeing, they are often linked to caring for the natural environment. Making a positive difference to the natural world is a good thing in itself, but it can also contribute to a person’s sense of achievement and thereby increase job satisfaction.

Taking the leap

I recently interviewed Ed Fursdon, a friend who decided to change his career path a few years ago. Wanting to do something he was truly passionate about, he left his role as a delivery driver to embark on a career in conservation. It took some time, education and hard work, but the move is paying off – both for him, and the world around him.

Can you tell me a little about yourself?

Hello, my name is Ed and I live and work in Cornwall. I’m a ranger for the National Trust on the Roseland, where I’m lucky enough to work with a great team who care for wooded valleys, sandy beaches, orchards and headlands.

How did you get into this line of work?

Like most rangers, the journey starts with volunteering. I followed what I loved to do with my time, which included surveying footpaths for Exmoor National Park, ranger work with National Trust in Bristol and attending rewilding weeks with Trees for Life in Scotland, and the list goes on. I combined this with undertaking a BSc in Countryside Management and, a few years later, I found myself with a growing interest in entomology (particularly ground beetles), a 1st class honours degree and, after a year in Devon, the perfect job.

What’s a typical day for you?

Strong coffee starts the day, before going out to check livestock and then back to pack up the truck for the day ahead. Summer work involves butterfly and wildflower surveys, coast path cutting and a lot of hay raking, which improves the diversity of the grassland. Outside of bird nesting season, winter work involves woodland management (cue the chainsaws), dry stone walling and hands on habitat management.

What would you say inspires you most about your job?

Working with other like-minded people, including staff and volunteers, creates a real shared common purpose – which is inspiring when the world can sometimes feel disconnected. Never before has it been such an exciting time to work in conservation – with climate change and biodiversity loss far up the political agenda, it’s great to finally be able to talk to people without sounding like a far left hippy.

Working for the National Trust is great, as our national strategy ‘Land, Outdoors and Nature’ aims to essentially improve and restore priority habitats using the method of ‘bigger, better and more joined up’. So, if you are a huge fan of bugs then this is a time to be excited.

What challenges have you faced?

I have boundless energy and enthusiasm; however, a ranger’s biggest challenge is time. Spread thinly over an ever-increasing work load, time is spent balancing practical work with public engagement activities. You have to focus your attention on essential work that can maximise the benefit to nature.

What do you think we need to do to support our natural environment?

We need to stop focusing on tree planting as the cure to fix climate change. What we need is an effective environment and agricultural bill that protects and restores nature back to health, that works with both the farming community and conservation organisations to produce great food sustainably, whilst halting biodiversity loss. People need to start talking and ask: where does this food comes from? how is it produced? They can also get involved by volunteering with their local wildlife group and do their bit – ‘There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew’.

You might be thinking about changing a thing or two career-wise or you might have already found your dream role – either way, it seems we could all be doing with a little bit more time in nature and, importantly, making sure that we give it the care it needs in return.


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