New to Nature was a perfect starting point for Greg’s career in conservation, a prospect which had seemed unattainable. As a Nature Recovery Assistant at Deadham Vale, and Coast and Heaths Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), Greg, 26, is now gaining the experience and knowledge required to work in practical conservation beyond his placement.
Photo of Greg Chester-Parsons

Before his traineeship, Greg was working for a groundskeeping company that looked after old council-maintained sites. He had also enjoyed volunteering with a conservation group, yet without necessary qualifications and other initial barriers, a career in the sector seemed out of reach.

When a position on the New to Nature programme was suggested through his workers union, Greg saw an opportunity to obtain paid conservation experience . Deadham Vale AONB and Coast and Heath AONB in particular appealed to Greg; not only did the people working there seem motivated and well informed, but the vast areas of Suffolk reflected the number of different tasks and sites he would be able to get involved with.

Greg often spends his day with hard-working volunteers who help make positive environmental change. The daily practical work is varied, and activities can involve clearing invasive species, cutting and raking wildflower meadows, or maintaining footpaths. For Greg, the ultimate reward is seeing the difference made to the environment by many volunteer hours.

While this outdoor work keeps him physically fit, Greg’s mental health has also greatly benefitted from being surrounded by friendly, motivated and likeminded people. The flexible hours allow him a good work-life balance and time to attend important medical appointments. He feels supported by a network of people in his placement, with any questions always answered by his colleagues or line manager.

Greg’s career in conservation is just beginning. He hopes to remain working or volunteering in practical conservation, in a ranger or warden position, where he can continue to learn about the environment and ways of protecting it.

Greg said:

“I would have really struggled to find a similar role without this placement. Similar positions are nearly always unpaid, I wouldn’t have had the money to support myself or the energy to work another job at the same time.

“I’m getting a lot of experience and increasing my knowledge around conservation. I’m also meeting a lot of people in the profession who have given me a lot of advice and pointers on how to get into this industry.

“I am always amazed at the work our volunteers do. They work hard, sometimes multiple days a week, asking for no reward – other than a few biscuits – and achieve some truly astounding positive changes for the environment, which would just not be attempted without their help.

There are so many people out there who could be a massive aid to the environmental sector, but are unable to get over the initial barriers such as being unable to work long periods unpaid, lack of qualifications or disabilities. Being close to nature can improve anyone’s life, and getting more people to care and become involved, bringing their unique skills and knowledge, is incredibly important.

New to Nature is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund as part of the celebrations to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and the King’s Coronation, delivered through a partnership of Groundwork, The Prince’s Trust, Disability Rights UK, Mission Diverse and the Youth Environmental Service.

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