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Planet Perspectives: Exmoor National Park Ranger


This blog is part of our series bringing to your attention people or projects that we want to cheer on as we develop a culture of mutual support and encouragement at Planet and People. Our interests are broad - women in business, environmental living, the climate crisis, educating the next generation. It’s all worth shouting about!

Bethia: I am thoroughly enjoying this ‘cheering on’ project! It gives me such a buzz to hear what people are doing on their individual journeys and to learn from them!

An insight into the life of an Exmoor National Park Ranger:

I recently spoke to Charlotte who has been an Exmoor National Park Ranger for the last two years. She’s incredibly knowledgeable about her work, as well as being a very reflective person - a winning combination! A combination which will be essential as we face the challenges ahead due to the way we have compromised the natural world. Her challenge is real and one that is actually for us all - how to walk that fine line between meeting the needs of people and meeting the needs of nature. How do you create a space in which we, as humans, can benefit, enjoy, thrive in and learn from the natural world while also allowing nature the freedom and uninterrupted space to survive and thrive.

Interestingly, Exmoor National Park’s ethos is that nature should come first when a decision needs to be made, where a compromise is required. This is known as the Sandford Principle:

“Where irreconcilable conflict exists between conservation and public enjoyment, then conservation interest should take priority”.

How has Ranger life changed in lockdown? As school visits and community events have been cancelled, Rangers have used their time and resources to deliver free school meals or prescriptions to people living more remotely. That has been one of the best outcomes of these difficult times - many of us have been lucky enough to see our communities step out and support.

What is special about Exmoor National Park?

Part of Exmoor’s uniqueness lies in its historical richness, as well as its natural diversity. Many of us see our National Parks as the last wild places - as some of the very few spaces we have left that are relatively untouched by people. However, Exmoor has evidence and remnants of human life going back thousands of years. We can easily think that the challenge of the nature/human interface is the crisis of now but the landscape of Exmoor has been the backdrop of the ‘planet and people’ story for much, much longer and will go on for longer still.

It’s great that people like Charlotte are playing their part in it - people with the knowledge of how natural systems work and what is needed to allow them space to exist, whilst at the same time opening up the space to the public so that they can exist there too.

In the light of this, it made me question our view of ‘wild spaces’.

What is the balance required between nature’s influence and people’s influence in order to define it as ‘wild’?

Charlotte makes the point that the idea of ‘wild’ is relative. It’s not necessarily an either/or situation. Exmoor is the least visited national park in the UK and so might be considered more ‘wild’ than somewhere in the South East, however, it is still managed and owned by people.

What are the stories of hope for planet and people?

The ‘planet and people’ story is easy to feel hopeless about. The future is so uncertain and so much is at stake. I often ask people if they have evidence for optimism as I need all the boosts I can get! Charlotte is optimistic and she has the evidence. Exmoor, and Devon/Somerset in general have seen increases in threatened species being reintroduced to natural areas. The beaver is a great example.

Since coming out of the EU, there will also be changes in how land owners are supported and encouraged to adopt pro-wildlife practises on their land. They will be required to be more proactive and evidence-based in their approach. The variety of ecosystems that are recognised as needing protection, and actions that they are encouraged to take will increase (for example, river banks are being championed as we begin to understand the level of threat they are currently under and the need to revive these spaces). There is also more understanding of the benefit of wildlife corridors and how landowners could work together to allow nature more freedom of movement.

How does the Planet Action Kit fit in?

Many of these themes overlap with what we are trying to achieve with our Planet Action Kit - when we appreciate and love the natural world, there is motivation to nurture it and protect it. I think for many of us, our education and cultural messaging has not given us that message loudly enough. Hopefully through the Planet Action Kit, as with interactions with landscapes like Exmoor, children can grow up with a different view and better skills for protecting the natural world.

I have learnt a LOT from talking to Charlotte. And what an amazing way to spend your working life - driving/walking across Exmoor, championing the best for nature and the best for the public! Thanks for the work you do Charlotte!

FOR PLANET AND PEOPLE is a weekly blog conversation by ‘Planet & People’ to reflect our values and behaviours and encourage open conversation on topical eco-issues.

We are the creators of 'Planet Action Kit', inspiring kids to LOVE the Earth. PAK is an educational resource and subscription activity box providing personalised learning resources engaging budding planet-friendly kids. The activities focus on the four main themes: Love, Observe, inVolve and Enjoy and are centred around matters of environment and sustainability.

Find out more on our Website, Facebook group,and Instagram Feed.

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