I lived in Skipton for a good chunk of my life, which is pretty much on the doorstep of the Dales. I was always out and about in these rural areas, walking at the weekends, anytime I could. I started work for the National Park through an apprenticeship through Ingleborough Dales Lottery Project doing a diploma through Craven College in Environment and Conservation and Land Based Business. Having done my 18 months a job came up, and I’ve now been here since May 2018. It’s a dream job of mine really, working in a place that I love. I’m lucky to work in a place near where I grew up, as not everybody can do that.
It’s a great job. One highlight was being taken in a helicopter to and from Pen-y-Ghent when we were laying paths there. But in general, one of the best parts is seeing these places through all the seasons, when most people only see them on TV. Sticking a new gate in half way up a fell and then turning round and seeing the sunshine down below in the valley is a good feeling. There’s a feeling of accomplishment, and leaving a bit of a legacy. On the other hand, being four feet deep in a hole you’re digging, trying to get a gate post straight, in snow, wind, hail and rain for eight hours can be pretty tiring.
Taking friends out for a walk up a fell, I’m always saying, “I put this flagstone in; I put that gate in; that signpost is mine, I did that on my first day.” I believe one of the flags on Pen-y-Ghent does bear my initials.
We need to protect these rural areas, and the natural landscapes. They’re breathing spaces. I’m proud to have a part in helping maintain that."
Tom Hickey is a ranger for the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
This is an interview from my 2019 “Dalesfolk” book. For more information, go here: http://gullwingphotography.co.uk/dalesfolk/