Alex Maskell, Apprentice Ranger

Hi, I’m Alex and I’m Apprentice Ranger at Nene Park Trust. I work in the Park Management Team with the role being funded The National Lottery Heritage Fund as part of the Your Community Greenspace project. As part of my apprenticeship, I am studying a Level 4 Countryside Apprenticeship course, run by Bishop Burton College.

Before coming to Nene Park Trust I had worked in a supermarket for a couple of years and spent a few years at college before that, completing a level 3 Diploma in Countryside Management. I had gained  knowledge from this, but apart from volunteering with Froglife, I had never had the chance to use what I had learnt or gain the experience and skills to work in conservation. 

The subjects I have been learning on my apprenticeship college course have been really interesting. They cover all areas a full time ranger or warden might need to deal with. These have included the practical sides of habitat and land management; land use, ecology and environmental legislation. I have also covered other topics including upper management, how to budget and raise funds, developing work programs, dealing with volunteers and public engagement. The college also put us in mock scenarios where we would have to carry out landed bates on a piece of land we would want to manage or being part of a tribunal on something that has broken a piece of countryside legislation. All these subjects help you to build up your understanding of things you could be dealing with in the land-based sector.  

Through Nene Park Trust I have learnt a lot and have gained a lot of practical experience and put my knowledge learnt at college into practice. My colleagues at Nene Park have been very supportive of my apprenticeship and I have made some good friends. It feels like you are a part of a big family working for Nene Park Trust.

My main role as a Ranger is to maintain and manage the Park. Through this I have learnt a lot of practical skills, including how to put up different types of fencing and path maintenance; how to create fish habitats and how to manage parkland trees. I have also learnt how to operate mowers and tractors and I have now got a qualification for doing that. I have had the opportunity to help on some different wildlife surveys, including rapid grassland surveys and surveying for purple hairstreak butterflies.

Another part of my job is the Duty Ranger role, which is being a visible presence in the Park, making sure things are safe and helping with visitors' queries, and emergencies. I have carried out and learnt a lot of new things in this role, including; small maintenance tasks such as bits of plumbing and dealing with our parking payment machines; carrying out play area safety checks and becoming a first aider. Through this role I have had to deal with some difficult situations and some strange incidences and questions, but this has helped to build up my knowledge of the Park and countryside, and has helped to build up my confidence in a myriad of ways. Some of the things I have dealt with while duty rangering, I probably would not have been able to deal with a couple of years ago.

I have also had the opportunity to help out in the education team and with events. This has included carrying out multiple sessions with the same primary school (our 'school in residence') to teach them about the environment, countryside and history, while giving a chance for them to learn and play outdoors. I started out assisting in the education sessions, but by the end I had learnt to carry out activities for these events and built up my confidence enough to plan my own activity. I ended up teaching the children about the butterfly life cycle and how to identify different species, and finished it off with going out into the Park to find some butterflies to tick them off on bingo sheets I made for them.

Over the last twenty months at Nene Park, I have learnt a lot and progressed in my confidence with others, and I hope to continue developing my skills and knowledge with the Trust for the last six months of my apprenticeship, which I hope to pass. Thank you to everyone who has supported me through this, from Nene Park Trust, the college and further afield.

Good luck to all those about to complete their apprenticeship.