National Park Apprentices from Exmoor and North York Moors spent a week in each other’s parks this summer to expand their knowledge of countryside management. But this was an exchange trip with a difference, with students swapping path-laying and bridge-building skills rather than culture and languages.
In the North York Moors, the students were shown how recycled flagstones from the old mills of West Yorkshire were used to prevent path erosion – a common problem along popular routes – and how bridges and other ‘National Park furniture’ are made on site in the sawmill. They saw first hand how the popular Coast to Coast route is maintained and learned how the area’s long history of mining is managed to minimise impact on the landscape.
The following month it was Exmoor’s turn to host, sharing lessons in how timber grown on Exmoor is used to make handmade gates, signs and stiles to help maintain the rights of way network. The group also went on a dragonfly identification course to learn about the many rare species found on Exmoor, and found out about ‘Ranger Experience Days’, giving people the chance to go behind the scenes at the National Park and see places visitors rarely go.
Exmoor National Park apprentice Lily Cox, who went on the exchange, said: “The public get to see all the beautiful signs, gates and bridges out in the National Park, but it’s fascinating to go behind the scenes and learn for yourself how to make them from scratch. It’s a vital part of the work that goes on to get ready for all those boots, bikes and hooves throughout the year. Seeing how it’s done in another National Park has been a really great learning experience and given me loads of new skills to use on my apprenticeship.”
The Government’s 2008 Environment Plan challenged National Parks to double the number of apprenticeships available by 2020, and there are now a growing number of entry-level opportunities throughout the National Park family, covering everything from field services and ranger duties, to business and administration. For the latest opportunities see: http://www.nationalparks.gov.uk/about-us/jobs-and-volunteering
Dan Barnett, Recreation and Access Manager, said: “Our aim is to train our apprentices in a whole range of countryside management skills. This will set them up for a future career and also helps create more opportunities for people to live and work locally.
“In return they make a vital contribution to the team, carrying out important maintenance and repair work across the rights of way network, and bringing with them a fresh outlook to the workplace. It’s a great partnership.”