Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.
I took the wrong direction when setting out to meet Tom. Fortunately it was only to the wrong café, and not on a windswept path in Wildest Pembrokeshire. I suppose if it had have been the latter it would still have been okay because Tom Moses is a Discovery Ranger for Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.
The National Park is 612 square kilometres in area and stretches from St. Dogmaels on the Ceredigion border in the north to Amroth in the south. It includes the Cleddau Waterway, an estuary and river system that flows from the Preseli Hills in the north of Pembrokeshire to the coast beyond Milford Haven. It’s a big area to cover.
I decided I could safely rely upon Tom to find his way around, so I stayed put at Coffee Cave and he was gracious enough to make his way to me.
Finally, together, in the same place, I think it’s only fair to buy his coffee and a cake and he tells me all about his work.
Of course Tom loves the outdoor life. It would be difficult to imagine someone doing this kind of work who did not appreciate the Gary Snyder quote, “Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.”
“I’ve not always been so sure of my way – in fact I rather lost it following my degree in Geology at Plymouth, ending up working in a call centre and very much living for the weekend. I‘ve a lot to thank the Prince’s Trust for setting me on a pathway that took me into environmental youth-work and brought me to Pembrokeshire from my hometown of Bristol 18 years ago..” Tom tells me.
He has also travelled extensively in places like India and Thailand, and to Chile with youth development charity Raleigh International (with Prince William). He has pitted himself against the elements and over the last few years taken himself off to sleep wild every month having adopted the ‘microadventure’ ethos of explorer Alastair Humphries. He is a big fan of simple low-cost adventures and suggests that anyone like him has a look at microadventuring.
Add his involvement with Youth Work, and Tom sounds ideally placed to coordinate an education and inclusion project.
“Project work with the National Park started in 2006 with the Lottery funded ‘Go for It’!, The project was aimed at getting young people out and about. ‘Your Park’ followed in 2012, developing the idea further by helping organisations who work with people to get out more easily. We were very focussed on what got in the way of people getting out and about. Being in nature is beneficial on so many levels, but getting motivated, overcoming access issues and just keeping going are a challenge for many people. We began our work with a range of groups, to discover what they wanted to achieve and what could be done to break down barriers holding them back.”
Through this work, confidence and competence of participating organisations staff grew.
“We are committed to social inclusion and work closely with diverse groups supporting people- from youth and parenting support, to carers and rehabilitation organisations to get into the great outdoors. We train staff and volunteers to support others. Much of our funding is dependant upon the sustainability of what we do. We refer closely to guidelines ushered in by the recent Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, and are one of a number of projects piloting new approaches being scrutinised by the Welsh Audit Office. Counting beans and bums on seats are no longer considered good indicators of success”
So what projects do you have that people can get involved with?
“ As a National Park our two main areas are conserving our ‘special qualities’; things that make Pembrokeshire unique and special, and providing opportunities for people to enjoy and benefit from them- in particular those who stand to benefit the most. We provide opportunities for people of all ages to get involved. For example, our current Pathways project is designed to remove some of the barriers faced by people wishing to explore the countryside through practical conservation volunteering. Over the three years of the project, its aim is to improve the health, wellbeing and prospects of the individuals and groups who get involved, while making improvements to the environment and building community.”
As project coordinator Tom is committed to building upon previous successes. “The Your Park project helped more than 40 local organisations to access the benefits that the outdoors can offer their customers. We look forward to continuing developing our work with existing and new groups with Pathways”
The project plans to make full use of the views, skills and experience that have grown over time. “We want to make sure that people have the opportunity to develop leadership abilities as well as have some inspirational experiences across our beautiful county. Pathways volunteers can undergo extra training and become activity leaders themselves- new skills that could really open doors for them!”
“We also run a Youth Ranger programme within Pathways, available to 16 to 25 year olds which involves a Saturday a month with occasional overnights- great fun whilst meeting like-minded friends and seeing some of the gems of the Park. Over the duration of Pathways we aim to support 15 different groups to significantly increase the amount and scope of activity outdoors, provide several hundred people with individual volunteering placements and clock up well over 4000 volunteer days.”
So where should people look to find out more and to get involved?
If you would like to become a Pathways individual volunteer contact Tom Iggleden by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07866 771190.
If you are 16-25 and would like to be a Youth Ranger, or a group or organisation interested in exploring how Pathways can help you achieve your goals contact Tom Moses by emailing email@example.com or call 07773 788205.
You can also keep up with Pathways, and work done by other members of the Discovery Team on their Facebook page ‘Your Park’