From forest school to social clubs, Lytham park ranger Julie has it all covered
Julie Norman has been a familiar face at Park View 4U, Lytham, for almost 10 years after joining the recreation site charity as its park ranger.
The play areas at the QEII Park View Playing Fields had been created and the charity was ready to move onto the next stage, engaging the community through education and regular activities.
Here, as she prepares to celebrate a decade involved there, she tells of her background and her duties:
“I have always worked within the charity sector as it is my passion to do something that has a positive impact on protecting the environment while supporting the local community.
“As a qualified Forest School Practitioner and having previously managed the education department for Lancashire Wildlife Trust, I was keen to bring the Forest School ethos to the Fylde and encourage park visitors to explore the wilder areas of the park.”
Julie runs a host of activities at the park to suit all ages.
She added: “There is no such thing as a typical day at the park but we do have regular weekly activities.
“Each week I deliver Forest Tots, our volunteer Gardening Hub, Forest and Beach School activities and a Health Walk, as well as co-ordinating and promoting the community groups that use our site and Eco Pod.
“We have a diverse programme with something for everyone to get involved with including our running group, yoga, junior herbalist club, yarn social group, guitar club, Spanish lessons, junior parkrun, street dance for toddlers and a wide range of workshops and events.
“Part of each working day involves promoting these activities via the noticeboards, social media, local press and radio interviews but since the pandemic I now produce a monthly e-newsletter ‘Growing Connections’ so that people can stay in touch with the park and find out more about things they may be interested in participating in.
“Fundraising is also a key part of working within any charity, therefore some time each day is dedicated to looking for funding and completing grant applications to raise essential money for park maintenance, improvements, running costs and projects.
“Most people think the role is all spent outside in the fresh air but there is also a lot of report writing, budgets, answering correspondence and research.
“The diversity of Park View 4U means I could be speaking to a company about designing skate parks one minute and then I could be inviting a world-renowned macro photographer from Kew Gardens to deliver a presentation on pollen and bees.”
Julie is keen to promote the benefits of connecting to nature and the outdoors.
She added: “I could never work in an office full time and love spending as much time as possible delivering activities outdoors.
“Connecting with nature and following the seasonal changes is good for your wellbeing and keeps you living in the moment.
“Recently, Rachel Harrison, Park View 4U’s community engagement officer, and I are running a project with pupils from Saint Bede’s RC High School, teaching them outdoor skills and practical conservation.
“They are splitting wood, learning fire lighting techniques using charcloth or birch bark and then roasting sweet chestnuts, before putting out the fire safely.
“One day recently we were teaching pre-schoolers how to use folding saws to create Christmas decorations.
“The following day, we tidied the area of our community garden where we have been growing Indigo, Weld and Woad as part of our natural art project ‘Plants to Dye For’. All of the projects we deliver are in response to requests from our visitors and to meet the needs of our local community.
“We are delighted that we have just been awarded the RHS Britain in Bloom North West Community Trophy to reflect the diversity and large range of opportunities available at the park.
“Generally having a cheery disposition and being able to adapt are the keys to being a park ranger – and of course keeping an eye on the weather forecast.
“Whether it is gale force winds or heatwaves, you need to be able to quickly change your activities to keep visitors safe and to keep plants watered.
“That is what keeps the job exciting as it is constantly changing, new challenges come your way and talking to our visitors inspires us to create new facilities and opportunities.”
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