Edd Sopp: Assistant Ranger
My role is Assistant Ranger for the AONB, I am based out of Loggerheads Country Park and help to look after the Clwydian Range from Prestatyn in the north to Llandegla in the south.
Normally in the spring myself and the rest of the team are busy getting our sites ready for Easter and the summer months with the help of our volunteers, and conducting some of our important ecological surveys such as Black Grouse Counts. However, all that was put on hold when we went into lockdown at the end of March. The decision was made to close Loggerheads and Moel Famau Country Parks and from that point on my role started to evolve. At first we concentrated on preparing sites for lockdown, putting up signage to inform visitors and local people of the situation and carrying out any checks to ensure the parks were closed as safely as possible. We had to stop carrying out certain jobs as they were not safe to be conducted while lone working but it was interesting to experience the country parks when they were empty, at times it was really eerie walking around the usually packed Loggerheads and Moel Famau when they were devoid of people. There were some days when I could count the number of people I saw on one hand. The wildlife seemed to thrive having the country parks to themselves, most mornings the grey wagtails and black caps were down by the river catching flies and the elusive dipper was a regular on the fast flowing sections of the river.
The big change to my Role came when England started to relax their lockdown rules. We found our sites were getting busier and busier even though Wales was still in full lockdown. We had to start patrolling Moel Famau on a regular basis and helping advise visitors of the lockdown regulations and liaising with North Wales Police. We had great support from North Wales Police who were always on the end of the phone if we needed assistance and provided regular patrols past the carparks. Normally I work on a weekend rota with the rest of the Ranger team, this involves being around Loggerheads and Moel Famau checking the sites, engaging with the public and keeping on top of litter. However, during lockdown, the weekends were spent patrolling our sites, checking signage and monitoring on how many people were parking up trying to access our closed sites. This evolved over lockdown into spending core hours at Moel Famau advising people of the relevant regulations and explaining the different lockdown rules to people who had travelled from away to visit the country park. At the weekends we averaged between 50 and 60 cars turned away from Moel Famau each day, towards the end of lockdown this increased to nearly 100.
Now we have reopened it is great to welcome people back to the country parks and see them enjoying the sites that I have been lucky enough to be enjoying throughout lockdown.