When I was 17, my best friend and I went on a NT working holiday as something a bit different (and cheap!). We both loved it, and over the next few years went on two more together. Then I did a couple on my own, each time a new property and a new task, meeting new people and all the while thinking, 'These wardens have got the best jobs EVER.' But I never really thought it would be something I could do - I didn't have a clue about the skills, qualifications and knowledge needed to work in the countryside. I was born and raised in a seaside town on the east coast, and had rarely ventured inland and uphill except for the odd walking holiday with my dad.
I went to university because I felt that was what my teachers and parents expected of me, and ended up at Oxford studying archaeology and anthropology - subjects that I enjoyed, but that I chose because I knew I was interested in them, not because I had always wanted to be an archaeologist or anthropologist. Truth be told, at 18 I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. By the time I finished university I realised that archaeology was not where I wanted to be, and I got a job with a charity working with ex-offenders. This was fulfilling work in some ways, but I didn't feel there was much opportunity to expand my role. After a year and a half I admitted to my friend that I wasn't happy with my work, my home or my future in that part of the country and she suggested that I try some full time volunteering to learn something new and get a fresh start. Because of our holidays together, I looked on the National Trust website and found a placement at Wimpole Hall in Cambridgshire; two months later I was moving my worldly possessions (such as they were - not much room in a Ford Ka) into the volunteer accomodation and working alongside forester Simon. It was hard work - I worked full time for the Trust plus evenings in a pub to earn enough money to eat and fuel my car - and I loved every minute of it.
|With some of the other Careership students in my year|
|Livestock management at Reaseheath College|
|At the Careership graduation - even wardens wear frocks from time to time!|
Fast forward five years and here I am! I was lucky enough to stay on at Attingham after Careership ended, first in a seasonal contract and now as a permanent member of staff. I love it here - the people I work with, the landscape I care for and sharing my little bit of the world with the people that visit. I've still got a lot to learn - in this job you never stop learning, there is always something new! But I've also come a long, long way in those years since I left the sea behind. And it feels like home.