Monday, 25 February 2013


One of the many perks of being a ranger with the National Trust is the opportunity to learn new skills and gain vocational qualifications.

In late January I, along with rangers Doug and Al completed a 4 wheel drive course in Holmfirth. Driving across the Pennines to the training centre after a night of heavy snow was a good warm up for what lay ahead.

The two day course covered the basics of off road driving, from the mechanics of different types of transmissions and differentials, to driving techniques in various extreme conditions and self-recovery.

All was going quite swimmingly, until we got to the part of the course where we had to drive through water. After an initial reccy of the icy plungepool, we decided to give it a go. Getting into the water was not a problem, and neither was driving through it…

 …but getting up the deeply rutted track on the other side was not quite as straightforward…


So, it was time for plan B. Another pickup was on hand to tow ours out. Well, that was the theory anyway. But with the all terrain tyres spinning on polished ice, it was time to throw the towel in and opt for plan C. A tractor made quick work of towing the vehicle out. Ah well, all part of the learning curve!

At Lyme Park, occasions often arise where we need to drive off road, such as responding to accidents and incidents, and retrieving deer from remote locations. Our team of patrolling volunteer rangers keep us updated with reports of damaged boundary walls, which we drive to in order to fence off to keep deer from escaping.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Winter visitors

Not long now.

The snowdrops are out, soon it’ll be daffodils, and bluebells will follow. With the wind howling, and the snows of the last few weeks fresh in our memories, Spring might feel like a distant mirage. But it’s edging closer by the day.

It’s not just flowering plants that hint at the changing of the seasons; migrating winter birds do too. A timely reminder that we are still in the clutches of winter came in the form of two birds today.

While entering Turfhouse Meadow earlier, I looked up in the direction of a shrill trilling in the canopy of an alder tree. This distinctive call, combined with the bird’s  distinguished outline, refined with a telltale crest, meant only one thing: waxwings.

Thirty waxwings to be exact. One of Britain’s most flamboyant winter migrants, right here in Lyme Park. I watched for a few minutes, as they flew to and fro; from their perch in the treetops to a nearby cotoneaster bush, flush with red berries.
Seconds later, a call came through on the radio of an enthusiastic birder who had spotted something to cause even more of a flutter (pun intended) down at the Mill Pond.

Red Crested pochard! Never heard of them? Well, you can be excused. According the the RSPB website, there are only 29 breeding pairs in the UK, and only 300 wintering birds. That makes this quite a rarity at Lyme Park. Not that the star of the show seemed too put out by the attention. Our celebrity seemed quite at home paddling contentedly alongside the mallards, gulls, and geese. One of our volunteer rangers, Anne, said the bird had been residing in the Mill Pond since Wednesday of last week. Let's hope he hangs around for a while yet.

Thanks to David Bancroft for these fantastic photos from today, you can view more of his wildlife shots on his website at