Ten years ago this week I rocked up at Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary in the Northern Territory, Australia. I was to be there, remote in the wilderness, for over 100 days in total.
I had quit a full-time job managing the wooded landscape in the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site that I worked really hard to land having taken a career change from IT and retrained. The decision to leave family and friends in the UK was incredibly difficult but such opportunities don’t come along every day so I went for it!
While at Newhaven I initially joined a team of ecologists to survey for reptiles, small mammals, and birds. The final two months of my stay were dedicated to surveying for black-footed rock-wallaby (Petrogale lateralis) amongst the towering sandstone escarpments. This small and agile marsupial hadn’t been seen locally for a number of years until I discovered a couple of isolated populations amongst the rock formations. Some of these locations are sacred sites for the Ngalia-Warlpiri/Luritja people and I was one of few people on the planet to experience their historic art works and places of ritual – a humbling moment in my life.
I returned to the UK following a certain coalition government taking power and it was difficult to get a job back in woodland management. Therefore, I chose to train as a primary school teacher. I worked as a teaching assistant in Manchester for a year and upon completing my PGCE, landed a job in a fantastic school community in Shropshire. Teaching is far from easy, and although my stay in the profession was short-lived, I look back with pride in having helped children learn about life.
Later I embarked on a Masters in entomology while getting my own company, Walkabout Ecology, up and running. Delivering environmental education alongside ecology work was brilliant. But then an opportunity came up in my homeland of Yorkshire. There I worked with people creating habitat for insect pollinators in York and Leeds.
Through growing connections I heard of a job looking after trees in Bradford. I landed the role of woodland manager and had come full circle to where I was in early 2010. Managing woodlands in Yorkshire was truly like a childhood dream come true!
Recently I landed a role in north Wales working with trees and local communities. This is the perfect blend in a job for me and a fantastic location to live and work.
The last ten years have been far from easy at times but I’ve enjoyed the journey. I’ve learnt loads about me, the world, and accumulated knowledge that I never imagined I’d acquire.
Overall, the best thing has been meeting and working alongside some of the most brilliant and dedicated people in their fields. They’ve all helped me grow.
Meanwhile, Newhaven has led the way in nature conservation and is now a world leader in reintroduction of native species. Josef explains this way better than I can in the following video. You’ll also see all of the escarpments that I’ve walked and climbed!