Continuing our series in conjunction with the Jersey National Park, ecoJersey introduces readers to some of the Custodians of the Park. These people, who care for our precious landscapes, play an important role in maintaining the Island’s unique characteristics and make an essential contribution to safeguarding and promoting the identity of the Jersey National Park. In the second part of this series, ecoJersey meets Environment Department countryside ranger Richard Rive and finds out what his job entails, and why he loves it so much
When and why did you decide to be a ranger?
When I left school, I was guided into the building trades by my parents and teachers. But once I had completed an apprenticeship as an electrician, I didn’t feel like it was the right career for me. It was only after I came back from 18 months travelling that I had the confidence to choose a different path and retrained as a tree surgeon.
Working outside was great. But, after five years or so, I was getting pretty fed up with knocking down beautiful mature trees just so that someone could have a better view or build a summerhouse at the bottom of their garden so I applied for a job as a countryside ranger at the National Trust for Jersey, which is where I ‘learnt my trade’.
What does an ‘average’ day look like?
That’s the greatest thing about my job; there is no typical day. As we move through the seasons, there are different things that need to be done. It could be that I’m driving a tractor for a couple of days, cutting areas of Burnet rose on the dunes to give a chance for other plants to grow, or controlling areas of ragwort to stop this invasive plant from spreading. The next day I might be managing a wet meadow in St Catherine’s Woods or starting my day with a farmland bird survey, then fixing a fence line or replacing a cliff-path step. Every day is different, and that is what I love about it.
When did you first develop an interest in the natural environment?
My grandfather had a keen interest in wildlife and would take me out on walks to identify different species when I was very young. I also grew up on a farm, so I have always been an outdoor person. But I really took an interest once I had learned a little about trees on a tree-surgery course I attended at Surrey University in Merrist Wood. That little bit of knowledge planted a seed in my brain that has been growing ever since. Once I knew a bit, I wanted to know more.
Why is the Jersey National Park important?
With an island as small as Jersey, it would be easy to think we don’t have much wildlife here. But we have a plethora of different ecosystems which provide habitats for so many different species. This ranges from puffins breeding on our north-coast cliffs, agile frogs and toads spawning in their ponds, and the short turf grassland habitats found in St Brelade’s south coast (Jersey’s answer to the rainforests of the Amazon) to the terns that nest on Les Ecréhous. There is life everywhere, and it needs protecting, especially in an island as small as Jersey.
How can Islanders support the park’s conservation?
Like a lot of things, education is key. I implore anyone to go out and learn a little about our amazing natural world. I guarantee they will fall in love with it. Find a new flower, maybe an orchid at Noir Pre in May, and learn about the symbiotic relationship between the plant and the mycorrhizal fungi living in the soil, and you’ll realise how delicate life can be.
Another of my favourite things to do is to learn to identify birds, starting with those in your own garden. Learn their calls and songs – sounds you will have heard your whole life without knowing who was making them – and discover just how many different types of bird we have on this tiny little rock. Once you have done this and found a new interest in the countryside of our Island, you will want to protect it as much as possible too.
What can Jersey do more to protect the Park?
The park is owned by lots of different people and, overall, those owners have been good custodians of the park. But land is always being sold and traded to new people all the time. I think it may be a good idea to approach owners of land inside and outside the National Park to put in place something that would protect the land from future development. That could be some sort of covenant over the land or some other layer of protection – anything that would make it harder for someone to destroy something that would be impossible to get back if it was lost.
If there was one thing you could change to protect/improve the environment, what would it be?
I would like to see more investment in properly managing our open spaces for wildlife value. We are living through challenging times and, with a growing population, there are other priorities that have to be dealt with, but I would hate to see our green spaces neglected because of a lack of funds. After all, it’s not just our wildlife that needs a home to live but also us humans who need to spend more time in our own natural environment for the sake of our own mental health and physical fitness.