A belated introduction to our new Ranger
12th September 2022
Regular readers of our blogs will no doubt know that the Commons Warden Steve Budden retired at the end of June. Steve is now enjoying his new life of leisure, and can often be seen smiling away to himself as he continues to enjoy walking his dogs around the commons. He has so much knowledge to share, and I have very much appreciated him being so willing to help and guide me as I take on responsibility for his amazing 30 year legacy.
I am absolutely delighted to now introduce myself as the new Ranger for our wonderful Commons:
Brought up in the West Country, I have found my way to beautiful Kent via Bristol, London, Tonbridge and Heathfield. I spent much of my adult life working for the Ministry of Justice, but then in 2011, aged 42, I chose to take a leap of faith in myself, deciding to change my lifestyle and career entirely. I realised that my lifelong passion for wildlife meant that I should be courageous and re-enter education to study for a degree in Ecology and Countryside Management. This degree alongside my volunteering with the National Trust opened up a whole new world of excitement and experiences, which took me to Africa to protect rhino, to Crowborough where I was ranger for 5 years, and finally to Sissinghurst & Scotney Castle where i spent 2 years working with teams of rangers and extremely lovely volunteers.
I feel so very lucky to now be the Ranger for Tunbridge Wells and Rusthall Commons. The title has changed from ‘Warden’, but don’t worry, it’s still the same role to protect and nurture our precious nature. I have been in position now for just over two very enjoyable months. People have been so welcoming, and it is clear to me that the commons are a special and important place for everyone who uses them. There is such a lovely community feeling, and I have been very struck by how people are so happy and willing to chat and engage with me and each other. To be able to see friendly faces and say hello to another person is so important for our health and well-being. This is perhaps especially the case during these more challenging times, when we or others may be feeling more vulnerable or lonely.
So far, I have been observing how the commons is being used by wildlife, local residents and visitors. Very importantly at the moment, I need to tell everyone that I have been discovering lots of disposable BBQs and fire sites. This is very worrying indeed, and given the recent catastrophic wildfire events in the news, I would very much like to politely remind everyone that fires or BBQs are absolutely not permitted on the Commons. The Commons reach into the heart of Tunbridge Wells town centre and also into some areas of Rusthall, which would be extremely vulnerable should a wildfire occur. I would be very grateful if residents could be especially vigilant during these dry spells, so that our community and our precious wildlife are as safe and protected as possible.
On a more positive note, I am happy to say that plans are now being created with the Commons Conservators and the Friends of The Commons for some exciting projects which will help us to better understand and further improve our wildlife habitats. If successful, we should see even more critically important pollinators and other wildlife making their homes all around us in the Commons. I have been so happy to be contacted by many people who would like to volunteer some of their time to improve the habitats in some way. Volunteering opportunities are far and wide on the Common from the less strenuous photography or wildlife surveying using simple apps to full manual tasks such as scrub clearance and litter picking. Many tasks can be can be done alone or in groups and can be completed in your own time. If you are interested in volunteering, then please do get in touch with me via our email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I would like to give a special thanks to the Friends of The Commons, as it is their members whose subscriptions and donations provide the much needed funds for many of the additional wildlife improvement projects. Please do consider joining the Friends, or making a much needed donation if you would like to help in this way.
If you see me out on the Commons, please do stop to say hello and ask me what I am doing; I will always be very happy to stop, talk, or explain. At the moment, I can be seen along the roadsides in my high-vis vest, as I am carrying out a survey of our ash trees, which are sadly now being seriously affected by Ash die-back. One thing is very clear, no two days are the same on the Commons, and I look forward to meeting you all.