Young rangers define their ideal activities

13th August, 2012

At the first meeting of our new project group ‘Establishing a Young Ranger Network’ held on the 8th and 9th August 2012 in the Mendip Hills AONB young rangers played an active role in developing plans for the network.

Matthew McDonald-Smith, young ranger from the Northumberland Coast AONB, focused on rock climbing, with a morning looking at training and safety equipment, to be followed in the afternoon by climbing, investigating wildlife and geology, and concluding by abseiling down.

With the Olympics still in the memory, Aaron Jones from Anglesey, described an archery course. This would start off learning about the history of archery and be followed up with techniques for building equipment using natural materials. Learning about the properties of trees, natural resources and survival techniques would all be integral to the course, which would finish off with target practice!

Northumberland Coast AONB young ranger Ed Harrison also presented sporting and survival activities in his proposed canoeing day, which would involve finding food in nature, learning about the wildlife along the river, making a shelter, waste management and recycling. A return canoe trip would round off the day.

A varied day was also put forward by Liam Ault, who proposed a morning in a place with abundant wildlife and learning how to protect it. The afternoon would be spent with rather more sporting activities reflecting his seaside roots in Anglesey, learning windsurfing techniques

The ideas were presented as part of the meeting, which examined the young ranger schemes in the participating AONBs of the Mendip Hills, Northumberland Coast and Isle of Anglesey, as well as the Cairngorms National Park. Elements of good practice were identified and the next steps in the project defined. A research questionnaire is now being finalised that will be circulated to protected landscapes across the UK, before being analysed by the young rangers and their mentors.

A ‘graduate’ of the Mendip Hills AONB’s young ranger programme, Laura Blanchard, also provided valuable insights, as did Aled Lewis, Community Warden at the Isle of Anglesey AONB, the project’s Coach Andy Mallender, Project Development Officer at the Mendip Hills AONB, and Iain Robson, Access and Natural Environment Officer at the Northumberland Coast AONB. Busy on their exchange with junior rangers from the Bavarian Forest National Park, Alan Smith, Outdoor Learning Officer at the Cairngorms National Park, contributed via telephone. EAI’s coordination was led by Board Member Chris Gledhill and Development Adviser Richard Blackman.

The research results will lead to the publication later in 2012 of a good practice guide on young ranger programmes for the UK’s protected landscapes. This is the first stage in establishing a young ranger network, with plans for a support network for protected landscape staff, a UK-wide young ranger camp, and a young ranger forum all envisaged in the future.

EAI is grateful to the British Council and the EU’s Youth in Action programme for the funding making this project possible.

The first Europe-wide model for junior ranger programmes was developed by the EUROPARC Federation in 2002/03 and has since been taken up by more than 50 protected areas across Europe.