In honour of International Women’s Day, we thought we would turn our spotlight on to a few of the many incredible women that work for Northumberland National Park, as well as some historic ladies who hailed from our beautiful county. A staggering 64% of our staff at the National Park are female. Here are some accounts from just a handful:
Gill Thompson is Northumberland National Park’s resident Ecologist, having worked at the Park for the last 17 years.
With degrees in Biological Sciences from Durham University and Environmental Technology from Imperial College, London, Gill is an expert in her field and is heavily involved in lots of different aspects of National Park work, from policy formation, planning advice and comments, to working with other staff and land managers to practically improve the natural environment of the Park.
When asked what the best part of her job is, Gill said:
“My work is really varied and I get to cover the whole of the National Park. Although I have been here for a long time, there are places I have only been to a few times and I’m sure some places I still have to explore!
“I like getting out and about in the Park and experiencing the changing seasons. At the moment, I am enjoying hearing birdsong and seeing the first buds and flowers of the year. I love getting up really early for the bird surveys – it is a real privilege to be walking around in the early morning with only the wildlife for company.”
Jane Riddell has been working as a National Park Ranger since April 2001. Based in the north of the Park at Rothbury, Jane covers work across Coquetdale, Simonside and the Cheviot Hills.
Jane’s varied role includes duties such:
- Public Rights of Way work – Rangers are responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the footpaths, bridleways etc. within the Park. This can include repairing/replacing stiles, waymarking posts and discs and work on bridges.
- Practical work – maintenance work on our historic buildings and sites. Workshop days building bird boxes and making public rights of way furniture (for example, finger posts and ladder stiles).
- Biodiversity work – species surveys and woodland management.
- Events/guided walks/education –Rangers assist in the delivery of a wide and varied events programme and deliver sessions to school groups.
- Working closely with the volunteers who come out and help with our main areas of work.
- Delivering the Young Volunteer Ranger Placement twice a year, giving young people the opportunity to come out and work with the Ranger teams and gain some hands on experience.
When asked what the best part of her job is, Jane said:
“The best part of my job is that every day is different. One day you can be out doing work on rights of way, and the next you can be working with a group of students looking at how to identify trees in winter.
“You get to meet some lovely people when out and about in the Park, and you are able to pass on information about the area to these visitors. It is also great to work with the Young Volunteer Ranger Placements, being able to pass on your knowledge and experience to those wishing to pursue a career as a Ranger is very rewarding.”
Mary Gough is one of the National Park’s Farming Officers. Having worked at the National Park for 10 years, Mary gives conservation advice to farmers and other land managers, such as game keepers, so they can conserve and enhance the special qualities of our National Park: the amazing habitats and wildlife; the fascinating archaeology; the pure, clean water; the dark, star-studded skies and stunning landscapes.
Most of the land within the National Park’s designation is privately owned and managed for farming and forestry. Mary assists land managers to access funding, such as Countryside Stewardship, to enable them to carry out conservation management. Where appropriate, she also provides assistance with diversification into other income streams so that farmers can continue to carry out traditional, High Nature Value land management.
Mary also explores opportunities with land managers to give more people, from all backgrounds, the chance to experience and learn about the National Park and its management first hand through visiting farms and estates in the Park.
When asked what the best part of her job is, Mary said:
“The best part of my job is working outdoors in beautiful, remote places with a wonderful variety of incredibly knowledgeable people. Every day is different and I am constantly learning new things. I’m very, very lucky to be doing the job I always wanted to do.”
Historic ladies from Northumberland
Josephine Butler – 1828 – 1906
Josephine Butler was born at Milfield in 1828, into the Grey family. A passionate social reformer, Josephine supported the abolition of slavery and strongly argued for the rights of women.
She rescued many young women from extremes of poverty, establishing a House of Rest for women in need of care in Winchester in 1882 and campaigned to repeal the Contagious Diseases Act. Josephine died in Wooler in 1906 and was buried in the churchyard in Kirknewton in 1907.
Lady Margaret Douglas – 1515 – 1578
Lady Margaret Douglas was born at Harbottle Castle in 1515, the niece of King Henry VIII and Grandmother to King James VI and I. Her claim to the English throne as a granddaughter of Henry VII and for her son through marriage to Mary, Queen of Scots saw her imprisoned in the Tower of London twice. She died in 1578 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.