Melissa’s story – from volunteer to assistant ranger

Melissa Viguier is one of Historic Environment Scotland’s new assistant rangers, but not long ago, she was a volunteer helping the rangers look after Holyrood Park. We asked her to tell us about her volunteering experience and how it prepared her for her new job as a ranger.

Holyrood HS Ranger Lily Laing taking a guided tour around Holyrood Park about the wildlife, geology and archaeology. ©Historic Environment Scotland

Guided tours about the wildlife, geology and archaeology of Holyrood Park.

Why did you decide to be a volunteer ranger?
I became a volunteer ranger because I love being outside, exploring and protecting nature. I studied Plant Science at University, and then worked in the Environmental Education Sector, so the work of a Ranger is a natural next step for me.

Melissa Viguier. ©Historic Environment Scotland

Melissa Viguier.

How did you go about becoming a volunteer?
I applied in autumn of 2011, then I attended an interview and six days of training. This covered first aid, park regulations, radio operations, patrol training, the natural history, geology, and archaeology of the park. Then there was a probationary period, after which there was an award ceremony and we were awarded our green Ranger T-shirts.

What did you do as a volunteer?
The role of a volunteer ranger is a really diverse job. I helped out at lots of Ranger events, including Archaeology Month events and the adders tongue plant survey. I also did lots of patrols and helped with guided walks.

There are regular wildflower surveys at Holyrood Park.. ©Historic Environment Scotland

There are regular wildflower surveys at Holyrood Park.

What was the best thing/experience about volunteering?
One of my most memorable wildlife experiences during this time was a ‘bat walk’ organised by one of the rangers. The walk began at dusk one night in the summer, and we followed the treeline around the playing field area of Holyrood Park, then walked down to St Margaret’s Loch.

At first we didn’t see much, then a fast shadow crossed the path in front of us, followed by another. By the time we arrived at the loch and switched on the bat detectors, there was lots of bat activity. It was a fascinating evening – after spending so many days in the park, in all sorts of weather, to encounter a whole new group of animals was a great pleasure.

A group on a bat walk. ©Historic Environment Scotland

A group on a bat walk.

Now when I’m out in the day by St Margaret’s I often think of the bats roosting in the trees.

Were there any challenges or difficulties?
Occasionally there were challenging situations with members of the public, and difficult situations to handle. But there was always a member of the Ranger team I could contact by radio to ask for advice, or backup.

How much time did you spend volunteering? 
I spent between 4 and 8 hours a month volunteering, over 4 and a half years. I could only volunteer at weekends due to family commitments,

What have you taken away from this experience?
I absolutely loved my time as a volunteer. The ranger team were always friendly and supportive, and when I approached them with an Iron Age Farming project I wanted to set up in 2012, I had a tremendous amount of support from the Community Ranger at the time.

ron Age activities at Holyrood Park. ©Historic Environment Scotland

Iron Age activities at Holyrood Park.

This has now turned into an organisation, and I have a team of volunteers that I now look after. I often refer back to the volunteer training I had with HES, it has stood me in good stead, not just in terms of preparing for volunteering, but also in terms of giving me a framework to train volunteers, and how to retain their commitment.

How does being a volunteer differ from being a full time ranger?
Being a volunteer is a great foundation for becoming a Ranger, you get to experience a lot of the fun side of the job, and see the behind the scenes side of the organisation. Now I am working as a Ranger the main difference is that there are longer hours, and more responsibility, but these are challenges I enjoy.

Do you want to volunteer with Historic Environment Scotland? There are lots of opportunities with rangers, at events and at many of the properties.

Or find out more about the different possibilities for volunteering in the natural environment.

This is a guest blog from Historic Environment Scotland. Why not get regular stories by subscribing to their blog?

All images ©Historic Environment Scotland.


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