Friends of Culzean


Supporting the National Trust for Scotland's Culzean Castle and Country Park

A Charitable Company Limited By Guarantee

Company No: 317093  Scottish Charity No: SC037983

The Rangers at Culzean

Deirdre Mackinnon is Senior Ranger at Culzean Castle and Country Park, having joined the team in 1976, some 31 years ago. Prior to this, she had spent two seasons working at the National Trust for Scotland properties of Ben Lawers and Bannockburn. At that stage, Culzean had two rangers, the Chief Ranger and Deirdre! Now she manages a team of 3 full time rangers with an additional 6 seasonal staff that join the team between April and October each year. The team usually consists of graduates in Environmental Studies or related subjects. Experience is essential for careers in this area; practical conservation work and working with people being particularly important, and Culzean provides these opportunities in abundance.


The Ranger team has a vital role to play at Culzean. Firstly, they are responsible for managing the park for wildlife. This involves managing the wildlife habitats on the estate; the woodland glades, ponds and waterways, shorefront and dunes, cliffs, etc.

An important part of the job is record keeping. Every day rangers go out on Park Patrol. They may appear to be enjoying a stroll in the woods but they are surveying the park looking for damage, litter picking, checking wildlife for new species or counting numbers and monitoring activity, meeting visitors and generally keeping in touch with the property. This is a remarkably important task and is essential for park management. As well as being used for wildlife management some of these records are fed into a national databases including the Wetland Birds Survey, Rothamsted Moth Survey, the Scottish butterfly census and bat and squirrel records are also submitted..

Only by keeping accurate records do the rangers know that the Red Squirrel population at Culzean is in decline with a significant increase in Grey Squirrel numbers. As a result, additional Scots Pines are being planted wherever possible to support the Red Squirrel population. New trees will be planted, for instance, to replace those lost during the winter storms or deliberately removed as they become unsafe. This winter, about 150 trees were blown down in the storms - a higher than usual number. All this timber will be used; onsite for fencing and barriers, for sale for chipboard or as firewood for lower quality timber. Timber that is unusable due to size or condition is used to provide wildlife habitats for insects, fungi and small animals. When replanting, there is a general move towards the traditional estate mixed woodland in most areas.

 

Perhaps one of the biggest responsibilities the rangers have is in working with visitors providing interpretation and information. Again, this is where record keeping is important as you cannot pass on to the visitors what you do not know! Being aware of what is happening and where it is happening allows the rangers team to greatly enhance the experience of visitors to the park. The rangers undertake a wide range of guided walks and excursions in the summer on a wide variety of topics covering all aspects including the history of the estate, its buildings and wildlife. Information about what is happening in the park is kept up to date on the plasma screen in the Visitor Centre Shop as well as on a white board near the Swan Pond.

As you would expect, the rangers work closely with other staff at Culzean. The Gardening and Wildlife Club (a group for adults) meet monthly and is run jointly by the gardeners and rangers. The Young Naturalists Club for children is mainly run by the rangers, with support from other departments when relevant. The Club has been enthusiastically supported by youngsters since it started in 1972. They meet fortnightly over the winter and have week long events in July and August - about 24 days each year in total. The Young Naturalists also share activities with the Castle Club run by the Castle Education Officer. The ECOS (Environmental, Conservation and Orienteering Skills) club is aimed at teenagers between 12 and 16 years. Apart from assisting the rangers as volunteer leaders with the younger Club and helping at events, the members have 14 of their own meetings throughout the year with activities ranging from important practical conservation projects on the estate to fun exercises such as survival, natural history studies and orienteering. Equally as important is the social interaction of the members making new friends with similar interests.

Culzean Castle and Country Park makes an important contribution to environmental education for schools. Parties of pupils from schools throughout south west Scotland and as far afield as Edinburgh and Northern Ireland visit Culzean for a wide range of programmes designed to support their school activities and curriculum. Between 16,000 and 17,000 school pupils from nursery to tertiary level visit Culzean each year to experience these educational programmes. The rangers alone work with some 10,000 of these children and Deirdre and her team are constantly improving and developing the projects to meet the school's curriculum needs in a wide range of subjects and to provide an exciting and valuable experience for the children. For example, a new World War 2 programme has been developed between the rangers and Lorna, the Education Officer at Culzean, and supported by a local enthusiast with a large collection of World War 1 and 2 memorabilia. All primary 7 pupils now study WW2 as a subject and topics such as the Eisenhower connection, the Land Army "Digging for Britain", the Home Front and rationing are all covered in the Culzean programme.

So, on your next visit to Culzean... why not join one of the many ranger activities and learn some fascinating facts about Culzean, its history and environment. Deirdre has a clear passion for Culzean... it has that affect on people.

Rangers Events are detailed in the Culzean Experience website:

www.culzeanexperience.com

Then follow the links to Events (top menu) then events leaflet (right-hand menu).