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Many countries set aside land for national parks to connect people to their surroundings, and the UK is no exception. Writer Cat Allen interviews one of the park caretakers, called rangers, who maintain the land and also call it home.
Text and Photos by:Cat Allen
Country: United Kingdom

he United Kingdom is home to 15 national parks. Unlike the parks in North America and many other parts of Europe, regular people live and work within these national parks. They are home to thousands of people who work and live on the land. They also serve as one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions, visited by millions of visitors from all around the world. The Dartmoor National Park has nine rangers and one head ranger, all of whom work together to keep the park a safe, clean, accessible and enjoyable place to visit. One of the rangers, Bill Allen, sat down for a special interview with TeaTime-Mag.

Cat: When did you start working for the Dartmoor National Park and why?

Bill: I started work on the 5th December in 1988, so I have been a ranger for just over 25 years. When I was just 14 years old, I read a prospectus that my older brother had brought back from an agricultural college open day. I found the job description of a national park ranger, and I knew that was exactly what I wanted to be when I was older. It listed everything I enjoyed, already felt passionate about, and wanted to do as a career.

A few years later I started the course in an agricultural college. The course was two years long and included work experience based on farms, as well as a placement in the Yorkshire National Park, another park in the north of England. I was lucky enough to get a job as a ranger at the Dartmoor National Park just three months after I graduated. I have been here ever since!

C: What is your favourite part of being a ranger?

B: I really enjoy working with people. Every day I interact with lots of different people, from farmers and landowners to visitors and volunteers. I get the opportunity to educate people and share the knowledge and history of the national park. Visitors vary from young schoolchildren to retired pensioners who have all come from near and far to spend time in the park. Some come to volunteer and help out, others come to learn, and many come just to experience Dartmoor as a place. That is what I really enjoy, all the different people I get to meet.

C: And dare we ask the worst part of your job?

B: It saddens me to say, but it is the litter. People come and unfortunately leave behind their picnic rubbish, and it just ruins it for everybody else who lives here or comes to visit. The national park is to be enjoyed, and it is just pure neglectfulness of such a beautiful place. People come to Dartmoor to enjoy it, and we are lucky to have such an amazing place accessible to us. We just ask people to take away with them what they bring.

C: Can you describe what a typical day as a ranger on Dartmoor is like?

B: To be honest there is no such thing as a typical day. It can involve anything from practical tasks such as building bridges and stiles to conducting a search-and-rescue operation for a lost walker to litter-picking with a group of volunteers. The diversity of the job is something that is very important to me.

Dartmoor’s legends

C: We have heard there are lots of legends and tales that originate on Dartmoor. Do you have a favourite?

B: Yes, I have lots! I think one of the most poignant ones is the story of Kitty J. She was a young girl who lived in Dartmoor about 200 years ago, working as a servant in a big house. She discovered she was pregnant, which as an unmarried woman in those days was especially frowned upon. Due to her predicament, she tragically decided to hang herself. She was found in the barn, but because of the sin of committing suicide, neither of the two local parishes would accept her body for burial in their graveyards. Ultimately she was buried on the crossroads halfway between the two churches, outside of both archdioceses.

The really interesting part of the story is that there are fresh flowers left for her on her grave daily, yet to this day, no one knows who is responsible for leaving them.

C: Have you ever seen a ghost?

B: I can’t say I have actually seen one with my own eyes, but I have definitely felt a presence. Luckily it has never been a bad one!

Charming Dartmoor

C: Is Dartmoor your favourite national park?

B: Now that’s a tough question. I absolutely love it. I have always said that if it had a coastline (Dartmoor is located about 25 miles from the sea), it really would be absolutely perfect. However, even as it is, yes, it is still my favourite.

C: And a close Second?

B: I also absolutely love the Yorkshire Dales in the north of England, which is where I did my work placement. It is a very different national park to Dartmoor and another very special place. One of my favourite things about it is how the stone barns and walls just meld into the landscape.

C: Can you describe Dartmoor in five words?

B: Timeless. Diverse. Beautiful. Spiritual. Special.

C: What does the park mean to you and the people who live there?

B: I think the beauty of Dartmoor is the diversity that it offers; it means such different things to different people. It is anything and everything from a perfect place to rock climb, to go for a bike ride, to go hiking, the inspiration for a painting, a beautiful location for a drive, or just a perfect place to enjoy the view and have a picnic. Many people have a very spiritual connection to Dartmoor, and for this I am very lucky that Dartmoor is not just my home but also my place of work.

C: And finally, is the typical English weather better or worse in Dartmoor?

B: I would love to say that it is always beautiful blue skies and sunshine, but unfortunately that is not the case. The weather can be very extreme up here. We are 621 metres above sea level here, which in English terms is rather high. Also, due to the openness of Dartmoor, we get the weather from all directions, often including rain, hail, sleet, and sometimes snow. It keeps things interesting though, as one minute it can be lovely and warm and sunny, and literally 10 minutes later, everyone is frantically putting on their waterproof coats.

All about Dartmoor
Dartmoor National Park is one of the oldest national parks in the UK. It is located in southwestern England, in the county of Devon, roughly three hours from London via train. The park is 954 square kilometres and is made up of forests, woods, rivers, quarries and medieval ruins of villages. It also has hundreds of species of birds and animals, including the Dartmoor Pony, which is native to the park.

Dartmoor is estimated to be 290 million years old and is well-known for its tors (the anglo saxon word for “tower”) which are granite outcrops. There are hundreds of these tors of different sizes dotted across the park. They are now landmarks and tourist attractions, and climbers and hikers flock to them.


Protecting the UK’s national parks

The United Kingdom is home to 15 national parks. The UK parks have people called rangers who live and work within them. The rangers are the park caretakers. The Dartmoor National Park has nine rangers and one head ranger, all of whom work together to keep the park a safe, clean, accessible and enjoyable place to visit. One of the rangers, Bill Allen, sat down for a special interview with TeaTime-Mag.

Bill has been a park ranger for over 25 years. He says his favourite part of being a ranger is interacting with a lot of different people, and the worst part is all the litter people leave behind. His days include things such as building bridges, conducting search-and-rescue operations and litter-picking with volunteers. His favourite park is Dartmoor National Park, where he has worked since he first became a ranger. It is one of the oldest national parks in the UK and can be described as a timeless, diverse, beautiful, special, and spiritual place.



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Park Rangers in the UK



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Protecting the Uk’s National Parks

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