I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love nature. Growing up I was surrounded by urban wildlife; foxes, grey squirrels, badgers and mallards. I lived on the back of the River Wey where my father was a water warden for the National Trust, and my childhood consisted of searching for badger setts, making footprint casts of animal tracks and tagging along on my fathers guided walks looking for bats and other cool wildlife.
We visited Cornwall regularly on summer holidays where my attention diverted to marine life and I became obsessed with the underwater world. I moved to Cornwall when I was 18 to study at Cornwall College Newquay and after graduating with a Bachelors in Applied Marine Zoology, I got accepted into an apprenticeship with Cornwall Wildlife Trust. I work for the Your Shore Beach Rangers project, a 5 year project funded by the National Lottery Community Fund through the Our Bright Future programme. It aims to engage and inspire young people between the ages of 11-24 and their wider communities to get more involved in the marine environment. My role in this apprenticeship is to run the social media accounts, help with everyday admin tasks and to assist in the delivery of events around the county of Cornwall.
Before this apprenticeship opportunity I had never engaged with young people before. I was very independent and would prefer to be out in nature alone than be surrounded by children. I had to change this mindset very quickly once I became involved with the Beach Rangers project (it is all about engaging with young people after all!) and now, after nearly a year, I love it! The children who come along to our events are excited, enthusiastic, want to be there and are willing to learn. Their brains are like sponges and they suck in every bit of information you tell them, especially the fun and sometimes gruesome facts about rockpool creatures!
Knowing that they would rather be outdoors than on their iPad’s makes my job thoroughly enjoyable. Their passion and enthusiasm brings out my enjoyment and passion for the natural world and working with young people has definitely taught me a lot. I am much more patient, calm and understanding and it keeps me motivated knowing that young people are gaining knowledge and life skills from our events.
There are two events in particular from 2018 which are my highlights to helping engage and inspire young people.
July 2018 – Snorkel safari, Bude
This was the first snorkel safari I attended after completing my BSAC snorkel instructor course. There was one young girl around 13 years old who had never snorkelled before. She was very nervous and reluctant to get in the water so we spent a while in the shallows whilst I taught her how to put on her equipment and breathe through her snorkel. After she felt confident in herself we entered the water and while holding onto my hand the whole way she was able to explore the underwater world for the first time. I could hear the squeals of delight through her snorkel as she pointed to the wrasse hiding amongst the seaweed, the spider crab crawling along the sea floor and the comb jellyfish that floated in the water in front of us. After 10 minutes of swimming I showed her how to duck dive and expel excess water from her snorkel. Once she had copied me (perfectly may I add) she instantly became more confident in herself, let go of my hand and snorkelled to her heart’s desire. She absolutely loved the experience and it definitely motivated and inspired me to teach more young kids how to snorkel and make the most out of the marine environment.
September 2018 – Rockpool Ramble, Porthpean
Rockpooling is my passion and nothing makes me happier than leaning over a rockpool or gully to see what I can find. We hosted a rockpool ramble with Three Bays Wildlife Group and there I met Charlie, a young keen boy who loved rockpooling. We had a great time lifting rocks to find crabs and wadding through rockpools looking for anemones. He was fascinated with my underwater camera, so I taught him how to use it and off he went. Giving him the responsibility of looking after my camera and trusting him with it allowed him to gain confidence in himself and partake in something which increased his excitement. Since then Charlie has turned up to many other rock pool rambles with his increased enthusiasm, excitement and warm welcomes. He has even asked for his own underwater camera!
Seeing young people gain confidence and knowledge through what our team teach them is very rewarding. We truly believe that to engage and inspire the next generation to want to protect the environment, we have to take them outside to capture that special bond with nature. I now live near the sea, with goals to work in marine conservation and my adulthood consists of spending my time exploring rockpools, hiking coast paths, snorkelling through seaweed forests and sharing all my knowledge with mini marine biologists in the making. I’m living the dream and aiming high!