Tag Archives: ranger

R

5 Jan

There are times when everything seems to turn to ashes. All one’s best efforts, all ones hopes, and, foolishly one’s expectations are dashed to smithereens. And yet….. and yet, there is always a calm core to every Force 10 Hurricane.

Late this afternoon in the gloaming of a Wintery Sheffield Woodland, I revisited my old stamping ground – the place where I was awarded a post as a Countryside Ranger in 2003.

I was looking for a particular pair of trees, introduced to me by an ex colleague of Sheffield City Council Ranger Service, way back in 2004.

My Ranger colleague, John and our gaffer, Mark had been in post nearly 30 years man and boy when I joined the South Ranger Team, fresh from 2 years entertaining naughty boys and girls as a Green Watch Project Ranger.

I was as keen as mustard.

Mark my gaffer, used to say “For Christ’s sake sit down lad and have a cup of tea, you’re doing my scone in!”. I would be in the Base at Greenhill Park at least half an hour before them, busying myself fettling tools for the days work, checking the diary and sorting through emails. Busy, busy, busy.

If I was worried about setting up for a school booking, John would say “Be reyt’ ” and roll another cigarette.

I confess I could not understand the South Team attitude. It always felt as if we were ‘arsing about’ to coin a Yorkshire phrase.

Now, with my father’s passing, I understand the importance of ‘R’-sing  around.

R obscured

 

The trees I was looking for are a tall straight larch and a beautiful sweet chestnut. They have grown together for years, embracing as lovers do. They have some to rest against each other.

If you walk a bit further along the path, this is revealed:

R revealed

‘R’ for ‘R-sing’ around.

‘R’ for Ranger.

My father would have said:

“Steady on Son” – he was Rangering.

For Simon Littlewood, my brother in aRms.

Si and Henk Carpenters

Special

31 May

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Hanging a gate is one of those jobs to be savoured, especially when the client is a friend and the gate is a one-off. I used to reserve jobs like this when I worked as a countryside Ranger for days when the sun was out and the birds were singing. I used to think of these jobs as a ‘special’ – not really essential, but an opportunity to create a public access of character. A talking point for ramblers and visitors to the woods and green spaces of Sheffield.

My wife used to run a tea shop called Berteas in North Shields down by the Fish Quay and she would always put on a ‘special’ for the school kids who would drop in with their pocket money. A ‘special’ usually consisted of half a slice of chocolate cake and a glass of pop for 50p. It was particularly favoured by the twin boys who lived above the shop. These lads were tearaways – always up to mischief – Clare referred to them as ‘The Krays’. Her rapport with the twins and a whole host of salty, sea faring clients gave the shop security and a solid customer base. It was her way of oiling the wheels of the business and making her day more fun.

This gate is made from a cleft oak frame, morticed and pegged at each corner, the centre is a lattice of rhododendron branches. It now sits at the end of a garden about 120 yards long and opens out onto a public footpath alongside an arable field. It framed a glorious blue sky today:

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Installing it was pure fun. Butterflies, wild flowers, sun shine and the wind swaying the barley in the field beyond. Definitely a ‘special’.

Adieu

29 Mar

I have never been very good at ‘goodbyes’, so it is not surprising that I sneaked away from the leaving do I had organised for myself, four other Ranger colleagues and three apprentices last night, whilst the party was in full swing.

For the first time in many years I witnessed almost the entire Sheffield Ranger Service, present and past, relaxing and having fun after a splendid meal at Shapla curry house, in the Devonshire Cat pub. They deserved it.

Sheffield City Council has experienced some of the worst funding cuts recently and for our modest service this has meant several years of restructuring, early retirements and more recently, voluntary redundancies – all under the guise of ‘Achieving Change’. A hideous metaphor for ‘watch your back’, ‘survival of the fittest’, ‘competition for jobs’ and other such works of the Devil.

My friends had gone to a great deal of trouble to construct some thoughtful leaving gifts – a Bonsai Tree for me – which sits proudly in my kitchen window (thank you Tom) as a reminder of the number of massive trees I have felled. As James put it “You’d probably get that one hung up too if you felled it Henk!”. Great words written in leaving cards like Nick’s comment about my ‘obstreperous sagacity’ – a polite way of saying I can be bolshy. Claire had brewed some wine made from the dandelions around the Ranger Base – I shall look forward to sampling this in my workshop – apparently it is rather ‘dry’ so it will cut French Polish rather nicely.

Handshakes from Matt, a volunteer I have gardened with “You really helped me with my confidence by introducing me to the Saw Mill project Henk”. From Bob, the allotments Ranger “Fair play Henk, I don’t know many people who could be as open as you’ve been about having experienced depression and Bipolar Disorder, and used it to their advantage. Whatever you do in the future I reckon you’ll succeed”.

Helen would say “Only Budgies Suck Seeds” and she had persuaded her ex to drive her in from Rotherham to attend the do (she’d broken her toe and her foot was in a cast)  way beyond the call of duty, but a gesture I greatly appreciate from a highly esteemed colleague.

Or Simon, my boss, saying “you know where to come for a cup of tea” in a big gruff bear-with-a-sore-head kind of way, hiding the big heart of a truly affectionate man. The same man, who ten years ago took about a week to suss me out after a meeting in which I had been a bit ‘hyper’ as we Bipolar types would say in the trade. “You were a bit giddy there” he said. Most people do not have his perspicacity.

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And this person, my confidant, business partner, lover and heroin – my wife, Clare who accompanied me to the leaving do, making it feel less like losing something and more like eloping for a grand new adventure. This person made it possible for me to make the right choice, to become a countryside Ranger and work outside for 10 years with these wonderful people. She saved my bacon. For make no mistake, without her and without the Rangers of Sheffield I would not be the person I am now.

Bringing the Rangers together over a curry was my small gift to them. It is in the fervent hope that the damage done to this merry band, by the managerial policy of ‘achieving change’ will be put to one side and that they can under Ted Talbot, the Director of Woodlands’ leadership, once again become the highly respected guardians of green spaces they were when I joined. The woodlands, meadows, ponds, heathlands and parks are well served by this team.

So it is to The Rangers I say “Adieu” and not goodbye. My dear old Oma (dutch for Nan) always said “Adieu” because she could never really know when, or if, we would meet again.

In Memoriam

27 Mar

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I will always be grateful for the Rangers who constructed this lovely memorial bench for my half sister Anna who passed away nearly five years ago. Anna’s very good friend, Helen and I got our heads together at her funeral to try to think of a way to commemorate this wonderfully complex, infuriating and brilliant young woman.

Anna was born, Abigail – one of my favourite names – which became for her a heavy burden literally ‘A-Big-Girl’ – a bullying taunt which affected her relationship with food her whole adult life. She changed her name by deed poll to Anna Beth Iona Wilde, thus retaining the ABI in her initials. Only 35 when she passed away – a brilliant and much loved veterinary surgeon she had saved many pets, farm animals and owners’ heartache through diligent application of her skill and empathy. She was forever rescuing ancient moggies who were duly resurrected, Lazarus-like to become (in my words) Frankencat. I really loved Anna she always reminded me a bit of Dame Margaret Rutherford – an eccentric and slightly dotty Duchess.

I’m thinking of her on the day I leave my job as a Ranger for Sheffield City council, a job which has sustained me by employing my love of teaching, my fascination with natural history and passionate belief in the importance of connecting people with and protecting the environment. What would she say at my decision to take redundancy and move on?

I think she’d approve. As Grandmother Annie Wilde (the Irish inspiration for Anna’s name) said to my dad when he began his apprenticeship as a carpenter at the Co-op in Huddersfiled:

“Well son, if it’s good enough for the Son of God, it’s good enough for you”

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What I particularly like about Anna’s Seat in Fingle Glen, Devon is that the Rangers went to the trouble of building a stone apron in front of the simple oak seat to make it easy to maintain and to define it. A ‘proper job’ as we Yorkshire Rangers would say.

If you are ever down Drewsteignton way in darkest Devon, pop in to the Fingle Bridge Pub, have a pint and then walk up stream on the right hand bank for a quarter of a mile and find the peaceful spot where Anna is fondly remembered.