My Center Parcs history
I’ll have been working at Center Parcs for 8 years in October. I joined as a Conservation Ranger in 2006 and in 2008 applied for the senior position and was successful. It was a bit of a shock as I wasn’t expecting to get it, but I’ve jumped into it. It’s a step up but the main difference is that I’m more responsible for the financial side of things, as well as more paperwork.
Before I joined Center Parcs I completed a degree in Animal Conservation Science. I was lucky enough to visit Africa for a month in August 2006 to work with baby cheetahs, rearing them. After university I really struggled to find a job in the field I’m interested in, so I did a stint as a dog groomer, which was quite strange, as well as working in a coffee shop. Although it wasn’t nature-based, all of this experienced has helped me in my Center Parcs job – mixing my outdoor knowledge with customer care.
“Working with nature and wildlife isn’t a job you can just switch off from, it’s a lifelong passion”
I often get a lot of people saying ‘what a great job you have’. It goes both ways; when it’s wet and cold it can be hard work, but when it’s nice outside you feel like the luckiest person in the world.
Outside of Center Parcs I’m secretary of the Cumbria Bat Group and also give talks at red squirrel groups. Working with nature and wildlife isn’t a job you can just switch off from at 5pm and at weekends, it’s a lifelong passion. To be honest, I think my boyfriend gets a bit bored of me talking about it all the time!
My typical day at work
I live in Carlisle. Normally I have breakfast before I get to work and once I arrive I start assigning tasks to the team. You have to do this day-by-day because you never know what’s going to happen. For instance, if I assign down a butterfly survey but outside it’s raining, then it’d be a pointless exercise as you wouldn’t see many butterflies appearing.
After that I open everything up at the Rangers Lodge, our base, and fill the feeders for any wildlife that might come by. We disinfect the feeders too. We’re lucky here at Whinfell Forest as we have something unique – the red squirrels – to help promote nature activities. It’s the main event for a lot of guests and they visit from far away to see them; just last week I spoke with a couple from Suffolk who had travelled all the way up here to see our reds. We’ve recently adapted our Red Squirrel Walk to cater for a younger audience to get them educated and involved; it seems to be working as this week we have around 60 people booked in.
Nurture and nature on the Village
My sole duty here is to look after the environment and woodlands, but you also have to be very guest facing. We do a lot of talks and walks; I look at the educational programme and it’s my responsibility to ensure it succeeds, analysing what works and what doesn’t throughout the year.
“Children seem to love what I do; I think programmes on TV, such as Deadly 60, help a lot”
It can be hard to enthuse people but it’s important to provide educational information. Children seem to love what I do; I think programmes on TV help a lot. Deadly 60 is something that’s mentioned all the time. If you don’t have small children you’ve probably never heard of it before, but it’s a show where they look at the poisonous animals around the world. At the moment we have a session called Wild About Bats and that’s really popular. The little ones book in expecting to be thrilled by sights of vampire bats and the like – fortunately we don’t get those here!
Most memorable experience
The past 8 years have been very memorable. But there is one thing that sticks out in my mind. Once we had a little bat that was found on the ground outside, not moving. I spoke to the local bat group for advice as I didn’t have a heater or anything nearby. Their advice was to roll the bat up in a tissue and put it somewhere warm. So I wrapped it up and put it down my bra.
Only thing is, I had a meeting later that day and the bat started waking up and moving around. You can imagine what it was like; everyone in the meeting was wondering what I was doing fiddling with my top. I just said: ‘Oh, there’s a bat down there,’ like it was the most normal thing in the world.
Towards the end of the day we let it out into the bat box and it flew off through the night. I was really concerned about it at first, but I think it just needed a bit of water and a place to stay. It was fantastic to see.