Introducing Tina – Senior Countryside Warden for Exmoor

Hi everyone!

My name is Tina and I’m South West Lakes Trust’s Senior Countryside Warden for Exmoor. My role is extremely varied but essentially I oversee all of the conservation, environmental education and site management work across the Trust’s two most northerly lakes – Wimbleball and Wistlandpound.

So, how did I get here?

As a child I had two passions in life – nature and art. Growing up in a small village on the outskirts of Cheltenham I would happily while away many an hour in my garden. My extensive bug hunting expeditions took me to the farthest reaches of my small, wild paradise where no stone was left unturned or buddleia bush left unexamined; with my David Bellamy microscope at the ready and my jam jar full of strange and exciting beasts I was, in my eyes, a proper naturalist! It was a time of wonder and intrigue and the start of a life-long love affair with the natural world.

Roll on a few years and my love of nature turned into a passion for drawing. I’d spend hours drawing pictures of wildlife from my favourite books – birds, badgers, chimpanzees… and this later turned into a love of portraiture drawing. 10 long years and several jobs later I decided that it was time to pursue a new path.

 

A chance encounter with a Countryside Warden for Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust led me to sign up to a woodland management workshop where we learnt about traditional skills such as coppicing. It was a bitterly cold November day, it was exhausting work, I couldn’t feel my hands or feet by the end of it but I loved it… and that was that, the start of my new career in conservation.

I left my city job, moved to rural Devon, enrolled on a 2-year Foundation Degree in Countryside Management, undertook five different volunteer positions alongside my studies and then, in 2013, I finally secured my first paid job in conservation with a place on the National Trust’s Academy Ranger scheme. Since then I have worked as a Ranger for the National Trust, an Estate Worker for Hestercombe Gardens and now as a Senior Countryside Warden for South West Lakes Trust.

I absolutely love my job!

I have to pinch myself every time I drive over Bessom Bridge on my way to work in the morning because the view is so stunning. We have a real diversity of habitats here at Wimbleball and Wistlandpound alike, from glorious wildflower meadows and wet grasslands to oak woodlands and orchards. We also have some very special species such as our colony of Small Pearl Bordered Fritillaries – a now nationally scarce butterfly – our long-eared bats and our delicate butterfly orchids.

I also work with a fabulous team of people, staff and volunteers, who are all equally as passionate about our beautiful lakes as I am, so I feel very privileged. I am honoured to work with a host of amazing partnership organisations, such as Exmoor National Park, Butterfly Conservation and Plantlife, to deliver a range of exciting projects that help educate, inspire and engage our visitors.

Although it is a challenging job with many plates to spin, the rewards are endless – from seeing our meadows awash with colour and buzzing with life to hearing the joyous screams of excited children as they conquer their fears on the high ropes. For me, it’s all about those connections we make with the outdoors and I firmly believe that this is the key to successful conservation. Whether it be through learning a new skill such as scything or hedge laying, from understanding more about the ecology of butterflies on one of our training days, or just simply enjoying a walk or kayak around our lakes; it is through these experiences that we learn to love and therefore look after our natural world. This ethos is at the heart of all of the work we do at the South West Lakes Trust, so, without sounding too corny, this really is a dream job!

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