Rangers helping shape enjoyment of the National Park

Ranger’s role helps change perceptions of what a National Park is all about 

“What time does the park close?” A simple enough question and one which the rangers in the North Area of the North York Moors National Park are well versed in answering.

For Area Manager Naomi Green and her ranger team, answering this and other questions is all part of the day job as they endeavour to promote responsible enjoyment and understanding of the national park.

Naomi’s patch, covering the Northern area of the National Park including the coast, lies in close proximity to the largely urban populations around Teesside.

Rangers fixing dry stone wall credit Polly Baldwin

She explains: “The best part of my job is seeing people get enjoyment out of being here but there’s no escaping the fact that occasionally there’s a mismatch in their understanding of what a National Park is and knowing the impact of certain actions on sensitive environments.

“Sometimes it can be a challenge managing people’s expectations; for instance when paths get muddy in winter.”

In-line with the national explosion in dog ownership during the Covid pandemic, Naomi says canine-related incidents grew in between lockdowns and after restrictions were lifted, which led to a large chunk of time being spent talking to the owners as well as liaising with landowners to try and minimise the damage.

“There have been instances when owners have innocently let their dogs roam off their leads during lambing time or in areas populated by ground nesting birds without knowing just how much damage this can cause.”

Ranger stimming credit Polly BaldwinRanger Naomi map reading credit Polly Baldwin
(Left) Ranger strimming at Danby Lodge. (Right) Area Manager Naomi Green

Naomi, who worked for local councils after gaining a Countryside Management degree explains how the rangers and their volunteers can fill a knowledge gap:

“The Countryside Code used to be taught in schools which helped youngsters understand how to be considerate when visiting rural areas. This stayed with them into adult life but now they don’t necessarily have that early insight.”

This involves proactive on-the-ground actions such as signage and rangers actively engaging with the public out on the trails or at popular picnic spots as well as putting messages out on social media and the National Park’s website to act as reminders for people planning to visit, whether it’s a prompt to take home their litter or remembering to park sensibly.

Nowhere are these challenges felt more acutely than at the many iconic beauty spots such as Goathland where people gravitate and which naturally then leads to pressure on the surroundings.

To help alleviate these pressures Naomi draws on the skills of 40 voluntary rangers who patrol busy areas and provide assistance to visitors and residents. They undertake small maintenance tasks and litter pick to keep the area clean and tidy.

“We can pretty much predict where the busiest places will be according to the weather, what’s on and time of year. For instance on a hot summer’s day we know visitors will be drawn to the waterfalls, or if there’s an event being held by the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, areas like Grosmont will be busy so we can plan accordingly.

“We completely understand why people want to visit certain locations and the last thing we want to do is to spoil their day but if we’re on-hand and visible as visitors arrive we have the chance to suggest other, equally lovely places they could try instead if there’s a danger of one spot becoming overwhelmed,” she adds.

“The distinctive hilltop Roseberry Topping near Great Ayton is a prime example. It can attract thousands of people each month as they make a bee-line for the summit which inevitably puts more pressure on the footpath as well as creating parking challenges. In this situation we can suggest other walks nearby which will provide a similar great experience and we also liaise with walking groups to help steer them towards crowd-free alternatives.”

Ranger photoshoot map credit Polly Baldwin

Of course, advising the public is only part of Naomi’s role alongside the area’s dedicated ranger team. Other important aspects of the job involves maintaining rights of way, improving accessibility, liaising with landowners to help manage the landscape as well as working on major infrastructure and conservation projects such as assisting in the delivery of the Land of Iron project along the Rail Trail between Goathland and Grosmont or installing new sculptures around the grounds of Danby Lodge National Park Centre.

“People might not realise that much of the land within the National Park is privately owned so we spend a lot of time talking to landowners,” Naomi says. “For example if there’s a problem with a public right of way we will liaise with the farmer or landowner to see if replacing gates with self-closing ones will help avoid livestock escaping if people have left a gate open. Landowners often also need help with maintaining boundary walls or would like to plant new hedges, in which case we can advise on the grants available to help cover the cost of the work.”

Naomi, who enjoys nothing more than exploring the National Park with her little girl when she’s not working, believes everybody can help maintain the beauty of the landscape and get more out of their visit with a bit more planning beforehand.

“If people are arranging a trip into the National Park, it will really help them if they research where they want to go and plan an alternative if they find their first choice is already busy. There are a lot of tips on our website and social media as well as general information on what you might encounter during your visit such as identifying the swathes of purple flowers seen on the moorland as heather.

“Of course we can also help if you see us when you’re out and about. We love to talk about the area and why it’s so special and how we can all look after the National Park.”

Before planning your trip take a look at our Share with care guidance.

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