Funding enables new ranger roles at Ham Hill Country Park

Funding enables new ranger roles at Ham Hill Country Park

Released On 10th Feb 2021

Funding from the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage has helped South Somerset District Council appoint three new rangers who will help keep Ham Hill Country Park and its heritage protected and in tip-top shape for wildlife to thrive and visitors to enjoy.

The funding is a rescue package to safeguard cultural and heritage organisations across England from the economic impact of Covid-19.

Not only did Covid-19 have an impact on humans, but it also affected the countryside. Work at Ham Hill Country Park and our staff and volunteers’ ability to manage the site greatly reduced, with two rangers having to be redeployed to Covid-19 related work to support vulnerable residents for a long period of time. Additionally, the dedicated volunteers have been restricted in their numbers and activities, leaving the park with no volunteers on site for approximately 5 months of 2020, due to lockdowns and other restrictions. This, coupled with the last 12 months seeing the highest visitor numbers ever recorded at Ham Hill, has left the small ranger team depleted, with important work still needing to be done. 

The funding support from the Culture Recovery fund has enabled SSDC to welcome Ben, Edd, and Izzy to the countryside team at Ham Hill. They are already making a huge difference on site, working alongside our long-standing Head Ranger Paul McNeill, who many visitors to the park already know well.

Over the next few months, they will help make sure that our most vulnerable habitats, wildlife, and the Iron Age hillfort itself are protected, and will also be working to repair damage to our path network so that visitors can safely access the country park. 

Councillor Sarah Dyke, portfolio holder for Environment, said: "We are very thankful to the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage. Their grant has enabled us to fund the recruitment of three outstanding new rangers to support vital work at Ham Hill. SSDC is committed to creating and supporting initiatives that can boost biodiversity and wildlife wherever we can. Having Ben, Izzy, and Edd on board will mean we can continue to nurture and preserve the future of this much loved award-winning natural heritage site for both nature and people.”

Edd has been appointed as Engagement Ranger and he will be developing ways to increase engagement with our communities, stakeholders, and visitors. He will also assist with day to day site management and will work alongside the countryside team to help secure a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant for Ham Hill in 2022. Edd said, "I am looking forward to sharing the work we do on the beautiful and biodiverse Ham Hill Country Park, with communities near and far." 

Izzy brings a wealth of experience from working as a warden in the East Devon and Dorset countryside. She said "I'm really looking forward to working at this great site and learning all about the fantastic wildlife that calls Ham Hill home. With the team, I think we can achieve lots of positive work to benefit visitors, wildlife and help to keep the country park the special place it is". 

Ben has great knowledge of managing country parks from his previous role with the National Trust. Ben told us: “I'm grateful for the chance to work for SSDC at Ham Hill. I grew up in Wiltshire surrounded by chalk grassland and iron age hill forts, and they are both very special to me. I've worked in nature conservation previously, on chalk grassland in Berkshire. This is a great opportunity to learn from the team and also share my own experiences. Also, I am really looking forward to seeing the wildflowers flourishing at Ham Hill.”

Both Izzy and Ben will help to manage all on-site practical work, volunteer parties, day to day site management, and carry out wildlife surveys across the park. 

Head Ranger Paul McNeil said: “We’re looking forward to working with three passionate conservationists, and excited about what we can achieve here at the country park over the coming months.”