Above: Robert Kerr (top), Lloyd Ross (left) and Emily Marsden (right) working with children as part of the Wild Child project.
The first ever South West Peak Countryside Worker Apprentices have completed their 18 month apprenticeships which have seen them working on rural projects in the Peak District National Park.
And now the hunt is on for three new apprentices.
Recruited as ‘Future Custodians’, the apprentices: Emily Marsden (21), Lloyd Ross (23) and Robert Kerr (20), have learned countryside maintenance skills and carried out a variety of tasks including fencing, installing gates, and tree felling in the South West Peak area – between Disley, Macclesfield, Leek and Buxton.
Helen Betts, vocational training officer for the South West Peak Landscape Partnership, said: “Emily, Lloyd and Rob have been brilliant apprentices and really got stuck in with their time and energy in helping us deliver our partnership projects such as Slowing the Flow, Glorious Grasslands, Wild Child and more.
“Their technical ability has gone from never having used a drill to competent use of chainsaws and brushcutters, making them competitive candidates for future employment. And through their efforts, these young people have shown how committed they are to helping make the South West Peak a better place for people, farming and wildlife.”
Whilst working on Slowing the Flow, a joint project with Cheshire Wildlife Trust, the apprentices planted hedges, felled trees and created small ‘leaky’ dams, all aimed at increasing the amount of water that stays in the hills to prevent flooding and mitigate climate change.
For the Glorious Grasslands project, Emily Marsden and Lloyd Ross helped to restore wildflower rich meadows at Warslow. Emily said, “When I first started I didn’t know dandelion from hawkbit, now I can identify three different species of buttercup as well as oxeye daisy, ragged robin and several species of grass.” The apprentices used their skills to survey the fields, collect seed, plan and carry out the restoration by creating plots and introducing new species.
Robert Kerr worked on Staffordshire Moorlands footpaths to replace stiles with wicket gates, requiring the strength and determination to dig holes to one metre deep, sometimes through rock, securing posts and has the technical ability to place the gate and spring, and make the new installation stock proof.
Helen Betts said: “With their skills and knowledge Emily, Lloyd and Rob will be moving on to permanent jobs, which means we are now looking to recruit three more Countryside Worker Apprentices. We want to hear from people over the age of 16, up to 30, who are interested in practical outdoor work.”
Lloyd said: “This apprenticeship is ideal for anyone with an interest in working outdoors, as it allows you to build skills in a friendly and supportive environment. It offers a huge range of opportunities for personal and professional development. To anyone thinking of applying, do not worry if you have limited practical experience, the most important thing is to bring enthusiasm, and a willingness to learn.”
There are three full time vacancies for the 18 months long, Countryside Worker Apprenticeships based at Marsh Farm, Meerbrook, near Leek. The deadline for applying is 21 October.
The South West Peak Landscape Partnership is a group of organizations led by the Peak District National Park, including Cheshire Wildlife Trust, RSPB, Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, Natural England, Environment Agency and United Utilities. It is supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund through a grant of £2.4 million, which distributes money raised by National Lottery players. The South West Peak area extends from Lyme Park in the north, to Onecote in the south, and from Macclesfield in the west, to Buxton in the east.