Two junior rangers from the Cairngorms National Park made a big impression when they attended the EUROPARC International Junior Ranger Camp in Germany.
Fifteen-year-olds Keri-Anne Watkins from Aboyne Academy and Abigail Sinclair from Grantown Grammar School made the trip to the Muritz National Park, midway between Berlin and Rostock.
They completed the Junior Ranger course in 2017 and since then have taken part in follow-on events with rangers, helping with a variety of conservation work.
The pair enjoyed a busy programme of outdoor activities – hiking, canoeing, cycling and swimming as well as exploring the local area with visits to ancient forests containing 1000-year-old oak trees and Lake Muritz, the largest in Germany.
They also took part in essential conservation work, which saw them redirecting a footpath to accommodate a pair of ospreys which had built a nest on an electricity pylon nearby.
All the junior rangers also had to give a presentation on their national park or protected area.
Keri-Anne and Abigail told the camp all about the Cairngorms National Park and what makes it so special.
Keri-Anne said: “At the start of the week we were among so many people who we didn’t know at all.
“Yet somehow by the end of it we knew everybody by name and there were a lot of tears when the time came to say goodbye.
“We learned many things, not just about the Muritz National Park and its wildlife, but about all of the other parks where the junior rangers came from, all of which were unique in their own way.
“Each park has its own way of protecting nature and we brought back some of their ideas which we hope the Cairngorms can use too.”
She added: “What I enjoyed most about the week was getting to meet so many people of my own age from different countries and how close we all were at the end.
“Luckily, with the technology we have these days, we can all stay in touch, though I think it’s safe to say that we all wish we were still there as we had such a great time. It was amazing.”
Anna Fleming, education and inclusion officer at Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA), accompanied Keri-Anne and Abigail as mentor.
She was equally enthusiastic about the trip and the impact it had on the youngsters who attended from all over Europe.
Anna said: “Everyone had a great week.
“It was wonderful to see the young people open up and make friends with one another.
“Keri-Anne and Abigail helped people to bond by throwing an impromptu ceilidh and teaching everyone Scottish dancing.”
The Cairngorms National Park Junior Ranger Project is an exciting, fun and adventurous outdoor learning programme for young people aged 11–18.It involves pupils from secondary schools in the five local authority areas of the national park, working alongside ranger services and other partners in the protected greenspace.
The project is based on a European model of engaging young people in enjoyable, practical activities in protected areas, providing them with new skills aas well as the opportunity to act as ambassadors for the national park.
An initial five-day programme includes visits and talks, conservation tasks, outdoor activities, achieving the John Muir Discovery Award and graduating as a junior ranger.
Graduates then take part in a follow-on programme which operates one day a month.
For more information or to get involved in junior rangers contact Alan Smith, outdoor learning officer, on 01479 870518.