Ami Walker – Land Management Adviser
Places like the North York Moors National Park may at first glance seem like areas of wild, natural beauty, but in reality they are largely managed landscapes. As a Conservation Land Management Adviser working on the Habitat Connectivity – Linking Landscapes Programme (“bigger, better, more connected”), I work with farmers and landowners to encourage and assist them in managing their land in a way that maintains and improve conditions for our native wildlife.
My week is usually a mix of sitting at a desk and being out and about in the North York Moors (no prizes for guessing which I prefer). By far the best bit of my job is the people I come into contact with. The North York Moors is a tough environment to farm in but we are blessed with some wonderful characters who have a deep sense of pride in what they do and where they live, and I love working with them.
Lately a typical week has started with a visit to a farmer who is willing to get involved in the Linking Landscapes Programme. This requires an on site survey looking in very fine detail at the important habitats and features on the farm – and working out opportunities to link these areas together to enable movement of wildlife around the countryside.
I spend a day walking the area to get an idea of what already exists conservation wise on the ground – making lists of plants and birds seen, whether there are any veteran or ancient trees and any good examples of other habitats such as hedges or species rich grasslands. I’m also looking for the potential to improve the farm for nature conservation – by fencing river banks, or planting new hedges and trees. At the same time I’m noting whether there is any archaeology that could benefit from protection and making sure any planned natural environment work won’t detrimentally affect irreplaceable historic environment features.
Back in the Office, I consult other National Park Authority Officers on the farm holding e.g. Area Ranger, the Ecologist, the Archaeologist, the Rights of Way and the Woodland Officers, to see whether anyone has any insights and comments on my findings. This culminates with me working up a Conservation Agreement management plan with the farmer to agree habitat improvements on their farm.
In the same week I’ll be back on another farm, this time for a catch-up on how things are going with a Conservation Agreement that was set up earlier in the year; checking to see how the planned capital works have gone e.g. hedges planted and new fences installed correctly to allow effective grazing of important grassland sites. Each individual holding is an important part of the bigger programme of habitat connectivity. The more farm holdings involved, the greater the achievable connectivity will be.
As well as the farmers, I also love working with our dedicated Conservation Volunteers and our work experience students; passing on my enthusiasm for nature conservation and hopefully inspiring them to stay involved long term for the good of the North York Moors.
My job enables me to go to places where only the farmer usually has access to – something I feel extremely privileged to be able to do. I get to see wading birds, deer, owls, rare plants, all with the backdrop of stunning views and lots of peace and tranquility. I feel a small part of something much bigger.