21 April 2000


The Sussex Downs is

Andrew Gattikers work place.

Suzie Horne talks to him

about his job as a ranger

DIVERSITY is one of the best things about Andrew Gattikers job as a ranger for the Sussex Downs Conservation Board. "The variety makes the job," he says.

Overseeing several parishes in the boards central area near Brighton, he might be advising farmers about Environmentally Sensitive Areas one day and developing new cycle routes the next.

Establishing new woodland and hedge planting schemes are also part of the job, while footpaths and bridleways take up a good deal of his time. But these are just a few examples of the scope of the rangers work.

The Sussex Downs Conserva-tion Board was set up in 1992 as an experiment and partnership between the Countryside Commission and 12 local authorities.

The boards objectives include protection and enhancement of the natural beauty and amenity of the Sussex Downs AONB. Promoting quiet enjoyment of the AONB and sustainable economic and social development are also important aims, but must be consistent with protection and enhancement of the landscape.

Across the whole of the 400sq mile AONB, up to 20 rangers work from four offices. The board is publicly funded and staff have to meet targets in 15 areas of its operation to qualify for that funding.

&#42 Two-year diploma

Andrew joined the board just over a year ago having completed a two-year National Diploma in environmental conservation at Brinsbury College in West Sussex. "I was open about what I might do after college, but I wanted a job like this," he says.

Countryside and environment issues were important to him well before he joined the board, with walking, clay pigeon shooting and beating among his interests. He also did volunteer and contract work for the board before becoming a full-time employee.

With Brighton and Hove on the doorstep and 32m visitors a year coming into the AONB, liaising with all local interest groups is important. For example, thousands of cyclists use tracks on the Downs each year and publicising codes of conduct and new routes is one way of developing responsible use of public access facilities.

Farmers attitudes also have to be changed sometimes, but there can be benefits for all those who live in, live from and who use and visit the area.

Farms both gain and suffer from having such a large urban and visitor population on their doorstep. It brings in revenue for B&B and customers for diversification projects, but also brings the problem of over-use in the honey pot areas and conflict between the demands of farming businesses and pressure for access.

&#42 Whole-farm projects

Rangers get involved in whole-farm projects with other bodies, looking at what schemes or opportunities might be available to develop both the landscape, environment, nature conservation and diversification opportunities on a holding.

As with most jobs, there is a lot of paperwork and two or three days in a row might be spent in the office. Colleague Mark Hayward says the job is roughly 60% administration and 40% out of the office.

Salaries for rangers vary. At SDCB, pay is based on the East Sussex County Council scale and varies from £11,000 to £17,000 a year.

"We are a countryside management organisation and were looking for people with that background but we do take them from quite a broad spectrum," says manager Pete Currell.

"They might have good practical experience, or a degree in geography or a specific countryside management qualification.

"Quite a few come in from other careers, but people dont do it for the easy life. Its a much more sophisticated job now."

* Sussex Down Conservation Board (01903 741234).

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