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Hatfield Forest's ranger ready for another 25 years protecting wildlife





Hatfield Forest warden Ian Pease is celebrating 25 years of protecting the ancient woodland for the National Trust this year.

He is the medieval hunting ground's longest-serving member of staff and started as a volunteer in 1993 before taking a full-time role seven years later.

Ian said: "I've always loved being outside since I was a kid and could never sit still at a desk, even at school. My role is far more than just a job but is a way of life for me and I'm still here after all these years because I love what I do, working outside in such a beautiful place with tractors and sheep. It brings so much variety and I get to work with a lovely team of staff and volunteers."

Ranger Ian Pease by Elliott Neale, National Trust Images (62614758)
Ranger Ian Pease by Elliott Neale, National Trust Images (62614758)

Alongside his best friend Selena, his border collie sheepdog, Ian looks after Hatfield Forest's flock of rare breed Hebridean sheep.

He said: "The sheep, and the red poll cattle that come for the summer, play a really important role in helping us look after the forest. They graze the land in a way that creates different varieties of habitats for all sorts of species.

"It's especially rewarding seeing the sheep through the winter and into the spring and summer. We're just about to come into lambing season so it's a busy time. We want to expand our flock of sheep and our resident ram Nigel has been busy helping us with this and we've also now brought in a new ram called Larry to share the workload."

Ranger Ian Pease with his Hebridean sheep by Elliott Neale, National Trust Images (62614794)
Ranger Ian Pease with his Hebridean sheep by Elliott Neale, National Trust Images (62614794)

During his quarter of a century in the forest he has picked up a clutch of new skills.

He said: "Being a ranger involves many different skills and I've learnt to have a go and give things a try. From rounding up cattle, felling trees, servicing tractors, plumbing and sheep shearing, there's not much I haven't been involved in at the forest.

"I even dressed up as Edward North Buxton who gave the forest to the trust in 1924 for a costumed re-enactment. Next year we will be celebrating 100 years of Hatfield Forest being in the care of the National Trust, so that will be a special moment. Maybe I'll dress up again!"

As well as helping to look after the landscape and animals in the forest, Ian also organised the popular WoodFest festival that ran from 2003 to 2019.

Woodfest at Hatfield Forest. Ukes of Hazard performing. (62614813)
Woodfest at Hatfield Forest. Ukes of Hazard performing. (62614813)

He said: "WoodFest was really special for me. It was a celebration of the traditional woodcraft that dates back centuries in the forest. It brought so many people together with great music, food and craft.

"Sadly it stopped with the pandemic, but I do hope that sometime in the future we may be able to bring it back in some form."

Looking back on the past 25 years, Ian said: "I've learnt to savour those small but special moments that you get from working outside in nature. This may be the change in light, seeing the deer or watching a buzzard or red kite fly overhead."

Ranger Ian Pease and sheepdog Selena by Elliott Neale, National Trust Images (62614800)
Ranger Ian Pease and sheepdog Selena by Elliott Neale, National Trust Images (62614800)

As he looks to the next 25, he added: "Hatfield Forest dates back over 1,000 years and is an incredibly special place, but it's under pressure from climate change, local development and an increasing population. We are all working hard to make sure Hatfield Forest is still here for the next 1000 years and I feel very lucky and proud to be part of its story."

Sarah Barfoot, the trust's experience and programming manager for the Essex and Suffolk countryside, said: "Ian is passionate about Hatfield Forest National Nature Reserve and has dedicated 25 years of his career in conservation to caring for 'The Last Forest' as Oliver Rackham called it.

"He is an inspiration to all who know him."



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