We’ve taken the opportunity to have a chat with George Potts, the newly appointed Chair of the Scottish Countryside Rangers Association. George has been a Countryside Ranger for 33 years, based in and around the City of Dundee and we asked him a little about what got him to where he is today.
Hi George, would you tell us a little about your current post?
I recently retired from my post as Senior Countryside Ranger with Dundee City Council. I managed a team of Countryside Rangers with a city wide remit for environmental education and support for nature conservation projects. I think my team were well known for their lively events programme. I enjoyed a lot of freedom to develop the team, and my service, and as a result we were regularly involved in pilot projects and national initiatives.
Where did it all begin?
I’ve never really thought about this before. In hindsight, my mother was a considerable influence. She was born and brought up in rural Angus and as a Primary School teacher her natural inclination was to pass on her knowledge and understanding of the local natural world.
I always had great freedom to explore the countryside around the village where we lived – woods, quarries, Tay Estuary shoreline – right up until it was tea time, when occasionally a search party was necessary to secure my return!
What did you study and where?
I went to Dundee College of Technology to study biology. It was really geared to laboratory work and I might have ended up in a laboratory at Ninewells Hospital or, my own preference, as a chemist in a water treatment lab. However, I got a job on a Fish Farm and did that for a few years – let’s just say that was a character forming experience.
What do you remember most about your first job as a Ranger?
On 12th February 1983, I started work as a Seasonal Assistant Countryside Ranger with Tayside Regional Council. I was based at Clatto Country Park on the north western boundary of Dundee. The Park was based around a Service Reservoir and one of my first projects was to develop a coarse fishery. What I do remember most about that time were the long, hot summers of ’83 and ’84….
What was the most valuable bit of advice, that you were given, that you would pass on to new Rangers or those hoping to become Rangers?
There was a bit of advice I was given which I’ve never forgotten – following an unsuccessful interview for a permanent post the feedback was that I was ‘too quiet’. Believe me, no one has ever said that about me since!
For new/would be Rangers – it is a core skill to be able to readily engage with all sorts of people. That will get you further than a detailed knowledge of the life cycle of the lesser spotted gnat; interesting though that may be. Experience in a face to face customer service role will stand you in good stead.
Is there a piece of kit that you couldn’t do without? what is it and why?
Easy – a hat! – and although my head hasn’t always been as shiny as it is now, working outdoors in Scotland, the number one bit of kit must be a hat.
When you were a child did you have a particular favourite nature/conservation hero or TV animal show that really captured your imagination?
Now, we really must go back into the mists of time – I suppose you might be able to Google these cultural references, but the two I remember are ‘Animal Magic’ with Johnny Morris and ‘Out Of Town’ with Jack Hargreaves. Neither would stand the scrutiny of modern audiences but I still remember them decades on, so there must be some enduring qualities.
And by the power of Google…
As the new chair of SCRA – what do you think the biggest challenge will be? and what do you hope to achieve?
Our immediate past Chairs have been instrumental in overseeing two significant projects; the development of the Ranger Standards Award, and then securing SCRA’s charitable status – follow that!
I would like to see greater involvement of younger members in the projects SCRA is taking forward. It is vitally important that the profile and outlook of the SCRA council mirrors that of the membership. These are tough financial times, and the value for money offered by Ranger Services is sometimes lost in the desperation just to balance the books. I feel SCRA has a key role to play in helping employers to see the bigger picture where Ranger Services are involved.
What are you #wildabout?
Fish. They are fascinating, beautiful, mysterious and very often tasty! What’s not to like?
Thanks for featuring in our first ‘Getting to know you’ spot on the new website George.