Okay, that’s a bit on the narcissistic side, but it really is a huge thing for me – after nearly six years at Walsall Council working as Senior Countryside Ranger, I’m moving on to pastures new. It is very difficult to take the decision to leave a job that you love, but I had my reasons, not least that I need to push myself.
Yesterday I cleared out my desk. I had envisioned leaving my job to be like one of those films where people walk out holding a cardboard box with a picture frame and a couple of books – what it was actually like was roughly 6 trips to the car, loaded down with hessian bags-for-life full of field guides, tupperware, entomological display cases, microscope and more. I was well and truly embedded in my work. Part of my ‘exit interview’ was asking me if I had achieved work-life balance, and I had to say ‘no’. The problem with doing something that you love for a living is that it’s very hard to leave at the door. In fact, the job has been very hard to leave at all.
I spent a good couple of weeks talking myself into it. Budget cuts and staff redundancies had made the job increasingly stressful in the last couple of years, and there is no end in sight to those pressures. I’m very lucky – I have a lot of those “I can’t believe I’m getting paid for this!” days, for which I’m extremely grateful, and I think that gratitude is crucial in life. So, as a swan song to Walsall Countryside Services, and in the grand tradition of Nick Hornby a-la High Fidelity, I thought I’d to a ‘Top 5’ of those:
My Top 5 ‘Pinch-yourself’ moments from the last 6 years are:
#5: Total Solar Eclipse on Barr Beacon – I’ve loved all of the astronomy events that have happened on Barr Beacon, and I’m really proud that we achieved Dark Sky Discovery status. 5 years of eclipse-watching, MeteorWatch, Stargazing Live, the Transit of Venus, solar observations, ISS-passes and more really culminated for me at the Solar Eclipse, in which over 600 people gathered on Barr Beacon for the event. The atmosphere was tangible and it was a real privilege to share the day with so many other people.
#4: Botanical Surveys – Mostly because it has been a baptism of fire. To me, for most of my ecological career, plants have been simply Things That Bees Sit On. The last two years of summer botanical surveys have taught me loads, and I have a new appreciation for an entirely different taxonomic area of interest.
#3: Bat Box Scheme – The one thing that I feel has only just begun, as I will continue to supervise the bat box scheme in Walsall (but with my bat group hat on instead of my ranger hat). We’ve made some real progress with recording the bats of the borough, and we have two new bat box areas to add to the scheme!
#2: Ringing Peregrine Chicks – Really, not many people get to do this, do they? I know what a lucky cow I am – and I’m not rubbing it in, but just being there to see our baby peregrines, and to hold their hot little fluffy bodies, and then to see all four chicks fledge the nest had been a long time coming, and after 5 years of Peregrine Watch, it really was a moment I’ll treasure.
#1: Walsall Amphibian Survey – this really has to be my number one, not only because it was my first big survey for Walsall Council, but also because I met so many wonderful people through recruiting volunteers for this survey, which took place way back in 2011. Not only did we get to record amphibians (including Great Crested Newts) across the borough, but it was the starting point for the Black Country and Staffordshire Naturalists, whom I still spend almost all of my spare time with! It’s brilliant to have started something worth while and to see it grow and blossom. I can’t wait to see what the future holds. (p.s. because NEWTS!)
So, it’s been a really tough decision to leave, but I’m so very excited about the next step in my career/life/etc. I’d like to say a huge thanks to all of my colleagues over the years including the twitterables: @DanSlee, @Corporal_Kleg, @AbesOddWorld and in particular to my boss @CountrysideKev for being just so awesome.
Deep breath…. here I go!