Melissa Viguier is one of our new assistant rangers, but not long ago, she was a volunteer helping our rangers look after Holyrood Park. For Volunteers’ Week, we asked her to tell us about her volunteering experience and how it prepared her for her new job as a ranger.
Why did you decide to be a volunteer ranger?
I love being outside, exploring and protecting nature. I studied Plant Science at University, and then worked in the Environmental Education Sector, so the work of a Ranger is a natural next step for me.
How did you go about becoming a volunteer?
I applied in autumn of 2011, then I attended an interview and 6 days of training. This covered first aid, park regulations, difficult scenario role-play, radio operations, patrol training, the natural history, geology, and archaeology of the park. Then there was a probationary period, after which there was an award ceremony and we were awarded our green Ranger T-shirts.
What did you do as a volunteer?
The role of a volunteer ranger is a really diverse job. I helped out at lots of Ranger events, including Archaeology Month events and the adders tongue plant survey. I also did lots of patrols and helped with guided walks.
There are regular wildflower surveys at Holyrood Park
What was the best thing/experience about volunteering?
One of my most memorable wildlife experiences during this time was a ‘bat walk’ organised by one of the rangers. The walk began at dusk one night in the summer, and we followed the treeline around the playing field area of Holyrood Park, then walked down to St Margaret’s Loch.
At first we didn’t see much, then a fast shadow crossed the path in front of us, followed by another. By the time we arrived at the loch and switched on the bat detectors, there was lots of bat activity. It was a fascinating evening – after spending so many days in the park, in all sorts of weather, to encounter a whole new group of animals was a great pleasure.
A group on a bat walk
Now when I’m out in the day by St Margaret’s I often think of the bats roosting in the trees.
Were there any challenges or difficulties?
Occasionally there were challenging situations with members of the public, and difficult situations to handle. But there was always a member of the Ranger team I could contact by radio to ask for advice, or backup.
How much time did you spend volunteering?
I spent between 4 and 8 hours a month volunteering, over 4 and a half years. I could only volunteer at weekends due to family commitments.
What have you taken away from this experience?
I absolutely loved my time as a volunteer. The ranger team were always friendly and supportive, and when I approached them with an Iron Age Farming project I wanted to set up in 2012, I had a tremendous amount of support from the Community Ranger at the time.
Iron Age activities at Holyrood Park
This has now turned into an organisation, and I have a team of volunteers that I now look after. I often refer back to the volunteer training I had with HES, it has stood me in good stead, not just in terms of preparing for volunteering, but also in terms of giving me a framework to train volunteers, and how to retain their commitment.
How does being a volunteer differ from being a full time ranger?
Being a volunteer is a great foundation for becoming a Ranger, you get to experience a lot of the fun side of the job, and see the behind the scenes side of the organisation. Now I am working as a Ranger the main difference is that there are longer hours, and more responsibility, but these are challenges I enjoy.
Do you want to volunteer with us? There are lots of opportunities with our rangers, at events and at many of our properties.