Microview – Neil Winder

Ranger Neil Winder and a team of Young Ranger volunteers at Allan Bank, Grasmere National Trust

Paul Russell manager of Rohan Ambleside, author of Microview, the popular series on Rohantime brings us a new addition to the series, an interview with Neil Winder – National Trust Area Ranger

How long you have worked for the National Trust?

Fourteen years

How did you become a Ranger and what does that involve?

I was a joiner when I left school but I knew that being a Ranger was something that I really wanted to do. In my late teens I started to think about further education so I went to Newton Rigg college at Penrith in north Cumbria and did a diploma in countryside management. I also volunteered for the RSPB and at Sizergh Castle, a National Trust property near Kendal. My first job with the Trust was as a Ranger on the footpath team in Great Langdale and I am now Area Ranger for Grasmere & Great Langdale.

What motivates you to go to work, especially when weather isn’t, shall we say, at its best?

It’s working in this landscape, surrounded by some of the best countryside and views in the country, if not the world. I am very happy on Sunday night that I have got to go to work the next day! But it’s also about the ethos of the National Trust and what we actually do. I am passionate about what the whole organisation stands for.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

It’s the diversity of work that we do. As well as the conservation aspects, it’s all about improving access and conservation so that millions of people can come and enjoy this place. We want it to be open to all and I love meeting people, hearing their stories, talking to visitors and encouraging them to get out there and explore these habitats. The work we do often goes unnoticed – people expect paths to be there and gates to work – so when someone pats you on the back and says ‘thanks for repairing that footpath’ it means a lot. Every day is different and exciting and I get to work with so many people with a huge variety of skills.

You mentioned ‘young rangers’ in a recent interview, can you tell me more about this?

This is a project that the Lake District National Park Authority has set up to encourage young people aged from 16 upwards to find out more about the job of a Ranger. They are working with a number of organisations so a group of young people came out to spend a day with me. We were working in some woodland, removing beech saplings, to improve access and views, then we went to Allan Bank, a former home of William Wordsworth at Grasmere, which the Trust is opening to the public for the first time this year. The aim is to give the youngsters a cross section of the work that’s involved as a Ranger.

It’s very beneficial, especially for those who may not have grown up in a countryside environment, to give them a taste of working here and help inspire their education choices.

What tips have you for people who aren’t familiar with walking in the lakes?

Get a good pair of hiking boots, then get on our website www.ntlakesoutdoors.org.uk. We’ve uploaded loads of ‘Experiences’ and downloadable trails to show that you don’t always have to go to the high fells to enjoy this fabulous landscape. We want people to just get out there and enjoy it, and to be safe, so if you’re unsure about walking in the Lakes why not get advice from us first?

What kind of things have you got coming up this year in your role as Ranger?

I’ll be working with the team on the day-to-day management of Grasmere and Great Langdale, where we look after 7,000 hectares, of land. We’re responsible for everything from tree safety, to keeping paths clear, and making sure gates are working and our car parks are open as well as promoting this world-class visitor experience. Two additional projects I am working on are the opening of Allan Bank and the Grasmere Gallop, a 10k trail race which takes place on 9 June. As well as the main race, there’s a 5k fun run, 10k Nordic walk (though non-Nordic walkers are welcome too!) and lots of family activities on the show field in Grasmere. Get your entries in at www.grasmeregallop.co.uk. I’m also involved in the Fix the Fells initiative which has already seen more than 8,000 volunteer days to repair more than 100 footpaths. You may also have heard of Tubular Fells? I’ve been working with Cumbria fan Peter Burgess who created a map of the Lake District inspired by the walks of Alfred Wainwright and the London Tube map. We set up a fundraising campaign so that a cut of the profits of the Tubular Fells map goes to the Fix the Fells project. It’s already raised £6,000.

If someone wanted to help the National Trust or get involved, what’s the easiest way and how?

Become a member. You’ll be amazed at the places you can see for free, with the added bonus of free car parking in Trust car parks, so it’s perfect for those who simply just want to enjoy the great outdoors. And, if you’ve got any spare time, come and volunteer with us and help keep this special county beautiful for everyone.

Thanks Neil for finding the time from your day to have a quick chat and letting me find out more about you and your work.

If you would like to get involved visit: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/get-involved/

Read more Microviews and catch up with what’s happening at Rohan Ambleside

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