A day in the life of a park ranger

To support our StoryParks initiative with Nottingham City Council for a second year and commitment to doing the right thing for our local communities, we have created a series of interviews from our Society and partners to showcase a range of interesting jobs that are out there to inspire children to investigate different careers!

This year, for Story Parks at Home in 2020's new normal we're bringing the libraries and the parks to everyone's homes via a revamped website and social media, including Facebook and Instagram. The website is packed full of great activities from bug-hunting and drumming to mindfulness and storytelling in a brand-new library, packed full of activities to engage and inspire your little ones at home.

First up are Matt and Steve, Heritage Lottery Funded Park Rangers for Nottingham City Council. Matt's main location is the Forest Recreation Ground and he has been a Park Ranger since 2010 and Steve has been a Park Ranger at Highfields since 2007.

Hi Matt, hi Steve! Let's start at the beginning - what was your first ever job?

Matt: I was a paperboy when I was 10 or 11. I used to take my dog with me, she was quite old so she’d walk round with me and then I’d have to pop her in the paper bag at the end when it was empty and cycle home with her.

Steve: My first ever job was a chef - but it started with dish-washing for about a month before you could think about cooking anything!

Describe your job to us - what does a Park Ranger actually do?

Matt: The job of a Park Ranger is extremely varied! Our main day to day duties are to engage with the public and be the link between them and the park. This can be achieved in many ways such as leading a guided walk on the wildlife, trees, plants and history of the parks. We also work closely with schools, colleges and universities to deliver educational sessions.

Steve: We also work with local businesses on volunteer conservation sessions and support park’s friends groups in their work on our parks. The sessions are either arranged by the schools or colleges or volunteers can find out about sessions by signing up to the Parks newsletter.

Who or what was your inspiration for getting into the work that you do?

Matt: For me getting to work outdoors and see the change in the seasons first hand and feel like you are playing an active role in helping members of the public engage with nature is what keeps me going!

Steve: At the age of 32 I realised I didn’t really have a career so went back to college to study biology. I made a very good friend while I was at college who was a Park Ranger. She inspired me to become one too!

Steve (left) and Matt (right).

What steps did you take to get to where you are today?

Matt: I have always had an interest in nature and wildlife, I studied Horticulture at Brackenhurst and also worked on the gardening teams with a local authority before getting an apprenticeship as a Park Ranger, this then led to a full time position. Further training in Forest schools that local primary schools organise has helped develop my career with more of a teaching focus.

Steve: I always loved biology at school but didn’t take it as an option. I studied it at college when I was 32 as a mature student. This led me to a Zoology degree. Both subjects I am able to use in my daily duties.

Describe a typical day in your job to us.

Matt: The day always starts with a walk around the park picking up any litter that has been dropped the previous night, I also look out for any graffiti that needs removing or any damage to street furniture. I will then head inside and check my emails.

Then, I will normally have either a school group or a volunteer group arrive on site that will stay for half or sometimes a full day. For example, we’re currently working with a local nursery twice a week and they now have a dedicated eco-classroom. It’s really nice to make these lasting relationships with local schools and nurseries and make a difference to the childrens' education.

Between working with these groups I am dealing with issues that arise on a daily basis such as reports of crime and antisocial behaviour and also maintenance issues on the park.

Steve: A typical day involves arriving at the park, a walk to check for any issues then coffee! I usually have some meeting to go to as I have many different partner organisations with which I work closely such as Nottingham Lakeside Arts or students from University of Nottingham’s conservation society. Then, I’ll get involved in some park maintenance such as bench restoration, planting or some other sort of developmental work. I am usually greeted by several park regulars who I like to chat to which is nice because it gives the job a sense of community too.

What’s the best thing about your job?

Matt: Working with school groups and trying to inspire them to want to learn more about nature and wildlife. Some of the children I get to work with are quite disengaged within the classroom but are completely different when you get them outdoors and learning about something different. I always try to incorporate the school curriculum into my sessions and focus them around a subject they are learning back in school. I’m a big believer in outdoor education!

Steve: The freedom to manage my own day and schedule and the delight of being surrounded by nature all day.

Do you have any tips for anyone wanting to be a Park Ranger?

Matt: A Park Ranger can mean so many different things across the country so I think do some volunteering in the area you are interested in working to get a better understanding of the role in your area.  

Steve: Try to be less specific and just get into the general field, i.e. the environmental sector, parks departments or wildlife trusts.

Do you have a life motto or a saying that you live by?

Matt: Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.

Steve: Laugh and the world laughs with you!

What did you want to be when you were a kid?

Matt: A tree - I thought I’d be doing a great job providing oxygen and a home for loads of animals.

Steve: His hair looks like an oak tree’s branches sometimes. Plus, oaks grow slowly and Matt likes to take his time! I wanted to be a sweet shop owner or a rock star, Depeche Mode all the way. We actually had a Park Ranger band once.

How do you like to switch off outside of work?

Matt: I enjoy taking long walks in the countryside with my family and meeting up with friends for dinner. I also volunteer as a community first responder for the ambulance service so that takes me away from my normal everyday life and keeps things interesting.

Steve: Sci-fi and horror box sets. Walking Dead is my favourite at the moment!


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