Dave Beardsmore, ‘Ranger Dave’ as he is affectionately known, talks to us about the joys of his job as a ranger based at the Lickey Hills.
‘Why don’t you just switch off your television set and go out and do something less boring instead….’ Some of us may remember this familiar song lyric from the classic children’s TV programme from the 1980’s, ‘Why Don’t You,’ and some of us won’t – but the sentiment is the same. Chatting to Dave Beardsmore, a passionate and dedicated ranger based at the Lickey Hills Country Park it’s clear that’s what Dave wants us to do too. Dave wants to get us closer to nature and he won’t stop until our wellies are caked in mud and we wonder at how lucky we are to have so many beautiful green spaces in Birmingham. Here at BTFL, we understand that every cog in the wheel that keeps Birmingham’s green open spaces functional, maintained and beautiful needs to be celebrated.
And Dave, along with the rest of the team at the Lickey Hills and across the city help do that every day. A city with more than 600 parks – more than Paris! Us Brummies’ are very lucky and Dave knows it. Dave has been a ranger for Birmingham City Council for eight years and couldn’t see himself doing anything else. Dave says: “I had a job once in a garage, I hated it, working inside felt claustrophobic to me so I left. That was in 1983 and I’ve never worked inside since. Who wouldn’t love working in this beautiful 524-acre landscape full of woodland, heathland and wide-open spaces that is the Lickey Hills! This is where I am based, but myself and the rest of the rangers here work all over the city. This job is varied. We don’t just tend to the green spaces in Birmingham. We are the connection between the city council parks department and the public. As well as land management, tree felling, litter picking, fire-fighting, environmental study and dealing with anti-social behaviour we help educate the public too. And we are very fortunate to have the enthusiasm, passion and practical help from, friends group and friends of parks groups. Volunteers that help us maintain the parks throughout the year. These amazing people are invaluable to us.
For the public, there is a varied programme of activities throughout the year to get people closer to nature, especially children. In an age of technology where lots of children sit at home playing video games for hours we need to communicate that at their nearest park there is an adventure just waiting to happen! We help communities develop growing places in their local area where they can plant, nurture, harvest and eat fruit and vegetables they have grown. It’s very rewarding to be able to eat what you have grown! We work with Birmingham Tress for Life through their education and tree planting sessions with local schools across the city. Children and adults love to plant these trees, it gives them a sense of pride, ownership and understanding over that space and the newly planted trees and it provides a small organic personal legacy, where they can point and say proudly, ‘there’s the tree I planted!
When we have to fell diseased trees we work with Birmingham Trees for Life to replace these trees. We had to fell 324 trees recently, but with the help of Birmingham Trees for Life and their sponsors Deutsche Bank, Birmingham we cleared the area and planted 6000 more trees. And we will continue to work with Birmingham Trees for Life to plant more and more trees. Here at the Lickey Hills throughout August we have play days, putting on activities like bug hunting, den building, environmental arts and crafts, music workshops and small picture quiz nature trails and larger self-guided nature trails. On one day alone this Summer there were 600 people enjoying the play day. We looked out from the information centre at the Lickey Hills and saw a sea of smiling happy faces. The responses we get from parents and children is so positive, they enjoy getting outside, getting muddy and getting closer to nature. And if they come and enjoy our play days once, we know that they will visit again. And it’s all free.
Getting outside and close to nature is good exercise, it’s educational, it’s good for emotional wellbeing, people learn new skills and it helps us all appreciate our natural environment much more. It eases stress and anxiety and improves general health. Eco Therapy is real, just step outside and find out for yourself. But don’t forget to turn off your TV on the way out!
Copy: Justine Marklew