Meet Ian: Ranger of the National Park
Strumble Head lighthouse is basking in shafts of bright spring light, the wind is rushing around the headland.
On the coastal path, Ian Meopham, a Ranger for the National Park, is clambering down on to the exposed beach beneath the bridge.
Slippery with seaweeds, these pebbles are normally home to the seals and their pups, but the low spring tide has left them exposed.
Ian has been working for the National Park since he was 19, with a few breaks in between. Completely entranced by the area since he first visited, he left the outskirts of London and sought out a life on the wild west coast.
Learning how we can best protect the environment and wildlife in a sustainable way is a massive priority for the Park, and of huge concern for Ian. Involving people in the work it is doing is one way to ensure that we understand and value its significance.
A few years ago the Park asked visitors to contact them or note down in a log book, any sea otter sightings and the results were overwhelming, due in no small part to the way people took the cause to their hearts.
Often we think this job is about the landscape, and it is, but it’s also about the people. One day I’m working with children on the tideline, and the next I’m talking to the WI about how best they can use the National Park.
Without people, the park wouldn’t exist, and introducing the community to its wild places, enabling them to access the raw beauty of the National Park, is the main part of Ian’s job.
We’re looking out to sea, at the famous cliffs we explore by kayak, with climbing ropes and carabiners and sometimes that we clamber down and swim from. As familiar as they are to us, they’re home to cormorants and guillemots, fulmars and seals and our islands are traversed by feet, claw and paw alike. Ian has to balance the health and happiness of each visitor, whether they are winged or walking booted.
So out on the coast for days, does he ever feel alone?
Never. Not with volunteers, visitors, the occasional sea otter and even a lighthouse for company.
No matter which section of the coast path you walk, you’re guaranteed to encounter the landscape, people and wildlife that so inspires Ian.