14th March 2019
It goes without saying that no two days are the same in this job and of course I wouldn’t swap it for anything else. So, what does a Countryside Ranger do in the winter you might ask? Well let me give you a wee snap shot of what we did in January.
A big part of what we do on the Estate is provide a welcome to visitors by maintaining the extensive path network, ranger base, car parks and being a friendly helpful face for enquires. Even in January Loch Muick is a popular destination and we spend time opening the visitor centre, gritting and often clearing snow out of the door way! As well as putting up weather and avalanche forecasts. Recently we installed a new bench in the base as many of our visitors need a place to sit down and have a rest.
Lots of our visitors not only come to enjoy the views and climb a hill but stay the night as well and we pride ourselves in having clean and tidy bothies with plenty of fire wood so that folks are not tempted to cut down any trees. We clear rubbish out of our bothies on a regular basis and must stock up the firewood several times through the year.
A big part of what we do to manage the impact of visitors on other estate activities such as stalking and forestry so over the autumn and winter months we regularly update the Heading for the Scottish Hills web-site and our Hillphone Service so that hill walkers and climbers know where stalking is taking place. We monitor how many visitors we get every month using devices such as pressure pads and infra-red beams. So, if you’ve ever visited Balmoral Estate you’ve probably been counted several times without knowing it! This information helps us prioritise where we work and also helps to build a picture of how visitors are using the Estate and if visitor numbers are going up or down.
Unfortunately, just before Christmas the path at the top end of Loch Muick was washed away. So, in January, with the help of the Outdoor Access Trust Scotland we started planning a new path with new river crossings. A massive project which may take a couple of years to complete.
The Ranger Service plays an important role in the conservation of species and habitats on the Estate and winter is good time of year to crack on with this work. In January we managed habitats for capercaillie, monitored mink rafts for water vole conservation, removed non-native trees from the pine forests and created wader scrapes for nesting waders such as curlew and lapwing. We also order ten more swift nest boxes to be put up in and around Balmoral.
We regularly host volunteers and volunteer groups on the estate who help keep the estate tidy with litter picks, help us with habitat management and clear out nest boxes for the spring.
One of the best parts of the job is having the opportunity to work with a wide range of people and see how enjoying the outdoors and nature on the Estate can play a huge part in their lives. Recently we hosted a Syrian Refugee group from Aberdeen.