Green fields highlighted by sunrays through heavy clouds from Curbar Edge

#70People70Years - Anabel Cole

Junior Ranger, Anabel Cole

Anabel Cole - Student and former Peak District National Park Junior Ranger

The Mass Trespass of April 1932 brought together hundreds of young people, campaigning for the right to roam in the countryside.

Led by 20-year-old Benny Rothman, the Mass Trespass would ultimately pave the way for the creation of UK national parks - beginning with the Peak District on 17 April, 1951.

As we reach the end of our 70th anniversary year as the UK’s first National Park – and our commemorative 70 People for 70 Years project - it is fitting that the final words go to another young person with a passion for the outdoors.

Anabel Cole is a former Peak District National Park Junior Ranger, whose experiences in that role have inspired her to seek a career in conservation and countryside management.

While committed to looking after our precious landscapes for future generations, Anabel also has a poignant link with the past.

She explains: "Benny Rothman died a few months before I was born, in the same village I’ve grown up in, and the same city he was inspired to lead the Kinder Mass Trespass from.

“I am now the same age as Benny and the young people who joined him in the Trespass and, although the Peak District moors are now open to all, we are now faced by new threats, most notably climate change. Young people have a responsibility and the opportunity to lead in the conservation and protection of the countryside."

She adds: "I come from South Manchester, a place becoming increasingly busy with fewer green spaces. I am lucky to come from an outdoors family, living just an hour from the Peak District. I spent my childhood cycling the Manifold Way and the Tissington Trail and exploring Mam Tor, Lyme Park and the Goyt Valley. Holidays were spent walking in the Lake District, camping in Wales and, more recently, yacht sailing more than 950 miles around Scotland and the South Coast.

Anabel Cole

"My love of the outdoors has continued through university, climbing the Peak District and North York Moors crags and mountaineering in Snowdonia and Scotland.

"I joined the Peak District Junior Rangers in September 2016, initially spending two Sundays per month at Marsh Farm, Tittesworth Reservoir. I enjoyed every session of Junior Rangers, from spending hours bird-watching on Tittesworth Reservoir to learning drystone walling and bushcraft.

"To meet regularly with a group of like-minded young individuals, be part of a global nature movement and make a noticeable difference to the environment has provided once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to develop confidence, communication skills and practical conservation knowledge.

"Most notably was the invitation to represent the Peak District National Park at the 2018 EUROPARC Conference, working with other young individuals across Areas of Natural Beauty (AONB) and National Parks (both UK and international), to explore and present the challenges faced by young people in rural areas.

"A common theme that emerged for me was the need for long-term pathways to support children in nature discovery and the continuation of programmes such as Junior Rangers for young adults to aid progression into green careers.

"I’ve experienced first-hand the effect of Junior Rangers on my personal and career development, and wish more young individuals, both within and outside protected landscapes, had platforms like Junior Rangers to learn about and push for environmental change.

"More recently I’ve met with representatives of DEFRA, discussing antisocial behaviour in greenspaces, the revised Countryside Code and research regarding increasing children’s engagement and the ethnic diversity of visitors in protected landscapes.

"Junior Ranger activities have included annual bilberry bumblebee surveys on the Roaches, assessing river water quality and maintaining a woodland on the shores of Tittesworth Reservoir to conserve the Willow Tit. The latter involved regular winter tree thinning, ring-barking and constructing specific willow tit bird boxes.

"The ability to have our own woodland to manage over two years allowed me to really connect with our conservation efforts and visibly understand the effect of the management on the habitats and species around, not to mention achieving the John Muir Discovery Award.

"Other activities I have enjoyed were willow coppicing (and using the poles coppiced to make Christmas wreaths), surveying traditional hay meadows and completing the Mountain Training Hill Skills Award.

"I’m now building up my mountain days to complete my Mountain Leadership Qualification. I’m also looking forward to completing the RYA Day Skipper Qualification."

Anabel left the Junior Rangers when she turned 18, leaving prematurely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She began studying for a BSc (Hons) Environmental Geography degree at the University of York in 2020.

She says: "Wishing to understand the historical, present and future processes ongoing in the landscapes I explore and the ecological and environmental challenges faced, inspired me to pursue a Geography degree with an environmental focus.

"I’m lucky to have supportive parents, willing to give up their Sundays to drive a two-hour round trip to Junior Rangers, as well as spending holidays driving me back and forwards from work experience placements with the National Trust and National Parks.

"The practical habitat management skills and theoretical understanding I’ve gained have been vital to build a portfolio of experiences needed to pursue a career in conservation and countryside management. I’m now looking forward to further developing my knowledge and appreciation of upland peatlands and moorlands through a Year in Industry placement with the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, a specialism I wish to research in my university dissertation."

Anabel also combines her love of nature with another passion - crafts. She reveals: "During COVID lockdowns, I made bird and animal pompoms and photographed them in the landscapes I explore, posting the results on Instagram."

Find out more: @snail.and.friends.adventures

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