Apprentice Rangers in the New Forest

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Apprentice rangers Martyn Meaker, 27, and Peter Dovey, 38, have a passion for working in the outdoors.

Over 12 months, they are gaining experience with ranger teams from the New Forest National Park Authority, Forestry Commission, National Trust, Hampshire County Council and Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.

They are also attending a course in land management at Kingston Maurwood College, Dorchester. Martyn and Peter are two of seven apprentice rangers which the scheme, backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund, plans to train over four years.


Why did you want to become a ranger?

It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I was brought up on a farm but as a boy was talked out of becoming a gamekeeper as ‘there is no money in it’. Having been a carpenter for 15 years I decided I didn’t want to do it anymore. I got sick of the materialistic side of things, people spending thousands on fitted kitchens, and not thinking about the planet. So I moved back to Britain from New Zealand. It’s hard to get into this line of work and I kept getting turned down. So after two years of trying and getting accepted as an apprentice was quite an emotional time to be honest.

What do you like best about the apprenticeship?

All of it. It’s easy to want to learn about it, even in your own time, when it’s something you want to do and you’re absorbed by it. People at the Wildlife Trust have an encyclopaedic knowledge of wildlife which has been fascinating and our time with the National Trust has been more about how we care for the land and practical tasks.

What’s been your best wildlife encounter?

I was volunteering with the Wildlife Trust and asked what the funny noise was that I was hearing on an evening - it was a nightjar which makes an eerie churring sound. It was a brilliant moment to see such a rare bird for the first time the next night.

What has surprised you about the New Forest?

Seeing how important volunteers are to achieving good things for the area and how many people do actually volunteer and turn up in all weathers!


How did you get onto the apprenticeship scheme?

I’ve lived in the New Forest my whole life and have my own ponies out on the Forest. I saw an advert for the role and it went from there.

What have been the highlights of the apprenticeship so far?

It’s really the knowledge that I have now about the Forest, even though I’ve lived here for 27 years. Learning skills like chain-sawing has been brilliant and meeting the general public. I’m excited about the future.

What’s the most unexpected thing you’ve learnt?

The biggest surprise has been how many people feed the ponies, which is bad for them. I also never knew how endangered the heathland is – it is rarer than rainforest and we have it in abundance here so we’re very lucky.

Which task have you enjoyed most so far?

Burning the gorse and heather to keep all the plants healthy and not too leggy so all the ponies and other animals can munch on the new shoots.