A Day in the Life: Rothiemurchus Ranger
‘That’s a great job you’ve got!’
If I had £1 for every time I’ve heard that over the course of the last 16 months, I would be able to retire. Just about every day one or other of the Rangers receive a comment from a member of the public to that effect. So, let’s see what all the fuss is about!?
Although it would be accurate to say that ‘no two days are the same’ at Rothiemurchus, for the Rangers, all mornings are pretty similar. We arrive at the Rothiemurchus Centre by 08.30 every day of the week. This is perfectly pleasant in the summer when we’ve all no doubt been awake since 03.45 thanks to the sunrise, but it can be a little trickier to drag ourselves from our nests during the cold, dark winter months. (Still, it could be worse – the Maintenance Squad start at 07.30, and the farmer is essentially nocturnal).
The first order of business is to open the ‘Palace’ – the in no way tongue-in-cheek name that has been given to the small wooden hut that constitutes our office. It is a suitably rustic environment from which to base ourselves, although the mood for the day can be affected pretty quickly depending on whether or not the heater has been programmed to come on in the early mornings in Winter. If it hasn’t, frostbite becomes a very real concern.
There are usually two Rangers on every day. The first order of business is to decide who is going to sort out the ‘front of house’ and who will head to Loch an Eilein. If you’re on the front of house – you busy yourself with a litter pick of the areas around the Rothiemurchus Centre, open up and tidy the various car parks, and put up the day’s weather forecast in the Rothiemurchus Centre and on the information board in the car park outside.
If you’re on Loch duty, you hop into the Ranger Van and take the 10-minute trip to Loch an Eilein. There you check the bins at the dog exercise area, put up the weather on the information board, and then clean out the toilets by the Loch an Eilein Visitor Centre. As you can imagine (or maybe you don’t want to) this job can be fine some days, and not so fine on others!
During the summer months too, we also check to ensure that nobody has been camping irresponsibly, leaving litter and lighting fires around the Loch.
Alph McGregor (Senior Ranger)
“Oi. I said no photos”
A lifelong outdoorsman, Alph has amassed a knowledge of Rangering, Wildlife, History, Gaelic place names and Rothiemurchus in general, but maintains that he’s still learning. He sees his main aim as helping as many visitors as possible to enjoy and appreciate Rothiemurchus, mainly through a variety of guided tours laced with his unique brand of humour. He can put Photoshop to good use in sign design and maps and is something of a wordsmith interpretation wise. He also donates generously to the office ‘swear jar’.
Tours and Duties
Whilst one Ranger is at the Loch, the other will be checking the Diary in the Ranger Base, and the online booking system, to see if any tours or events are scheduled. Typically, there will be 3 Ranger-led activity options open to the public each day: an estate Land Rover Tour, a Feed the Deer tour, and a Hairy Coo Safari. Some days all the tours run, and some days, none of them do. The Rangers decide amongst themselves who will be available to do which tours.
It is also possible that the Rangers will be involved in leading a coach tour, or an educational visit – where they take students from schools or universities around Rothiemurchus. Likewise, they could be booked in to take corporate groups on walks and tours.
If a tour is to go ahead – then we must ensure that everything is prepped to go, so we give the Land Rover a clean and make sure that there are some bags of barley in the back, ready to be fed to the Deer or Coos (or both) on the tour. It’s also a good idea at this point to make sure that the Land Rover has enough fuel in it!
As well as the various customer-facing tours that the Rangers lead, the rest of their day is spent on a variety of jobs around Rothiemurchus. We keep on top of all the various signage and interpretation here, so the Ranger might spend his morning fixing signage to wooden stakes to be displayed somewhere. Or he might spend time painting and retouching up one of the many wooden signs around Rothiemurchus. There is a sign maintenance programme which we work to and which keeps us busy!
Craig Fraser (Seasonal Ranger)
“Working here is great, no two days are the same – I just love being out on the hill, the wind in my hair, the snow all around, the adrenaline rush of the steep slopes and the black runs, the…oh wait, that’s the other job”.
A local lad with a passion for people and the outdoors, Craig somehow fits about a years’ worth of work into the 7 months he is actually here (he ski-instructs in Courcheval, France, over the winter). You’ll find Craig out on patrol at all hours, mowing the grass, spraying the weeds, leading Land Rover Tours and entertaining school groups at the farm, amongst other things. Tireless and cheery.
Lunchtime is always a convivial affair – Rangers are creatures of habit, and every day between 1pm and 2pm, we migrate from the Palace across to the Tea-Shack, a similarly rustic cabin, in which we have our lunch, a cup of tea and a blether.
Ray Sefton (Part-Time Ranger)
“I just love listening to a bit of disco whilst I work”
A former Air Force man with a lifetime’s experience in the Scottish Hills, thanks to his work with Mountain Rescue. Ray is constantly on the move and never stops working. A cockney by birth, but we don’t hold that against him. He can be found leading Coach Tours, discussing the military history of Rothiemurchus, blowing the leaves, and maintaining the 150+ signs on the estate! Happy and efficient – just don’t forget to put back any tools you borrow from him!
At 2pm it’s back to business, if there is no tour going, then we have a series of designated patrols, which we aim to do a few times each month. On the patrol we pick up litter, note down any incidents or issues we come across, and ensure that the path network is safe and accessible. We also keep a note of any wildlife we might see – it is not uncommon to come across Red Squirrels at Loch an Eilein, although it is rare to see roe deer (Rangers make a lot of noise and scare them away well before we have a chance to see them). All this information is then inputted into a spreadsheet back at the Palace. Being out on patrols is also an excellent way to meet and interact with the local and visiting public, and it is always great to see people out and about enjoying this special place.
Other jobs that the Rangers get on with include mowing the grass and strimming at various locations. We also spray the weeds around Rothiemurchus periodically throughout the year.
Ellen Grant (Trainee Ranger)
Having spent a couple of seasons working at the Fishery, Ellen joined the Ranger Team part time in early 2019. She ensures that we are all kept in line! You will find Ellen out on patrol, litter-picking, leading hairy coo tours, mowing, strimming and painting signs. Always smiley and with a keen interest in the outdoors and the countryside, it’s great to have her as part of the gang. Although, we’re still waiting on her to supply us with some freshly caught salmon from one of her days’ off fishing…
End of the Day
As the afternoon winds down, the Rangers converge back at the Palace. Here they ensure that all the vehicles are locked up, and that any tools or machines that have been used during the day are safely stored away and returned to where they came from. Nothing incurs the wrath of a Ranger more than arriving at work and not being able to locate one’s spanner (or marbles). We also update our daily incident report with anything noteworthy and complete our timesheets. The Palace is then closed, and the Rangers make their merry way home at 5pm.
UNLESS of course, it’s a Friday or a Saturday during the summer. In which case, then one lucky Ranger will be nominated for an evening fire patrol. Having nipped home for a quick supper, the Ranger returns to the Palace at about 7pm, loads up one of the Land Rovers with a spade, bucket, containers of water and binoculars, and sets out for a 2-hour sweep of Rothiemurchus. During fire patrols, we engage with visitors who might be lighting fires or accessing the area irresponsibly and clear up any old fire sites that we find. If a live fire is encountered, the Ranger will contact the Fire Brigade and ensure that it is extinguished.
Tired, weary, and potentially smoked, the Ranger will return to the Palace by about 9.30pm, lock up the vehicles and head for home, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the next day at Rothiemurchus.
Matthew Kirkwood (Head Ranger and Countryside Manager)
“Manual labour? You must be joking!”
Fresh-faced and quite new to this gig, Matthew has the easy job of keeping an eye on the other Rangers; ensuring that they do all the work, means that he doesn’t have to do any. Still learning the ins and outs of the job, he can be found behind the computer in the Ranger ‘Palace’ (image above), keeping an eye on the various bookings, events and activities going on around the estate, as well as managing access issues. From time to time, he’s allowed out to tour with the public.
You can find out more about our Ranger Led Activities and book tours here.