Forestry Commission logo
England's Woods & Forests
We are soon to launch our new website for the public forests in England. Take an early look at the beta site

volunteering banner image

Shadow Rangers - Voluntary Work Placement

We are looking for individuals with an interest in pursuing a career in countryside management for our voluntary work placements. 

Successful applicants will be given training and development opportunities by work shadowing current countryside management staff.

We are NOT currently recruiting.  We are hoping to recruit again in late September/October. Any questions just get in touch.

Shadow Ranger Placements

Placements run for 6 months where the volunteer shadows a member of staff 1-3 days a week. These days are flexible and depend on shadow and mentor availability and requirements.  They will gain experience of working within the Forestry Commission and assist their mentor to complete various tasks. 


This placement involves working on a range of practical conservation tasks, site management and development, working with volunteers, community interest groups, managing public expectation and behaviours, small scale events and engaging with communities. Placements available in North  Nottinghamshire based in Sherwood Pines and our woodlands in Merseyside and Manchester.


This placement gives a great opportunity to shadow the team managing a busy Forest Centre. Shadow staff running a busy centre, engaging and dealing with the public, maintaining walking and cycle trails, play facilities, event management and working with groups of volunteers.  Placements available at Salcey Forest in Northamptonshire, Fineshade near Corby and within the National Forest in Derbyshire.


This placement will develop on the job skills and experience of surveying woodlands, tariffing & timber measurement and tree & plant identification. They will also have the opportunity to work with colleagues in planning and timber marketing. This placement is based in Sherwood Pines with travel across the East Midlands.

How to apply

Download the application form and relevant job description for the placement you are interested in.  Explain how your interests and experiences meet all of the areas outlined in the Person Specification. Please use examples where appropriate, without detail we cannot see how you meet the job specification.

Shadow Testimonies

Nick Baker,  Shadow Community Ranger

“I think having a formal placement, albeit as a volunteer, with a widely recognised and respected organisation such as the Forestry Commission stands out in any job application.  Structured training from top quality professionals is the kind of experience that employers are looking for and I believe is more credible than an equivalent amount of informal volunteering experience, giving Shadow Rangers an edge in that highly competitive job market.”

Rebecca Watts - Shadow Community Ranger

"When I applied for the role as a Shadow Ranger I would never have imagined I would be able to get involved with things like woodland workout days, supporting disabled visitors, fitness classes, dog poo awareness week and negotiating with groups of people, but they were some of the best experiences I had.  I remember thinking I would be moving trees all day, then being pleasantly surprised when I found myself pond dipping with little kids or spraying dog poo pink!"

Adam Mckillop - Shadow Community Ranger

“I applied for the Forestry Commission Shadow Apprenticeship as I had decided to opt for a possible change of career. I wasn't too sure in which direction I wanted to go and simple volunteering, although valuable, didn't seem to cut it. The Shadow Apprenticeship seemed to offer an experience and challenge that would be both educational and also physical. I therefore swapped a warm office and a mouse for the wild outdoors and a bowsaw!

Via the Shadow scheme I've worked with so many different people both FC staff, who have all been very supportive and friendly, and I've also had the opportunity to work closely with some truly fantastic members of the local community, including schools, friends groups, FC partners and local authorities.

The Shadow Apprenticeship is far from a woodland wander in the sunshine, mother nature definitely keeps you in line and calls all the shots. The work you undertake is both varied and enjoyable, plus you have the added bonus that whilst doing your Shadow you get a full body workout!

To get the most out of your Shadow you need to be dedicated to putting in as much time as you are able, getting your sleeves rolled up, working and making a difference. If you do this then the rewards really are worth their while.

I myself am now employed as a Community Ranger with the Forestry Commission covering the South Yorkshire region, proof that hard work and dedication really can make all the difference – it’s all in your hands.”

Emily Butt - Shadow Ranger, Sherwood Bushcraft

“I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw an advert for an apprenticeship scheme to gain new skills and experience as a Bushcraft Ranger.  Was this an opportunity to work towards having my dream job? Absolutely.

Having decided to change direction and swap my office job for a career working outdoors, this Shadow Ranger scheme was the perfect opportunity to get my foot in the door and since then I haven’t looked back.  I learnt how to light fires using traditional techniques, whittle spoons and tent pegs, make natural cordage, build a waterproof shelter to sleep in, purify water, forage for food and weave willow baskets.

There’s a huge sense of achievement working with different groups and passing on your skills and knowledge.  Many people we work with have very limited experience of the great outdoors and it’s amazing to see the look of enjoyment on their faces as they tuck into a scrummy campfire cooked lunch with a spoon they carved. 

The apprenticeship is hard work and you have to be really dedicated, but it’s an opportunity not to be missed if a career working outdoors is for you.”

Rose Tomson - Shadow Ranger

“I never expected to gain so much invaluable experience when I first applied for the Shadow Ranger position.  I had experience volunteering for organisations and felt quite confident when talking to groups, but felt a little intimidated when looking at jobs specifications which involved organising events and community engagement.  After 6 months working with a South Yorkshire Community Ranger, I was applying for jobs I wouldn’t have even considered beforehand, confidently knowing that I could do it. 

The team at Sherwood all take you seriously.  They genuinely are helping you to get work, not just in the FC but within the industry.  They arrange opportunities for you to progress and learn in the field and through them I did my First Aid certificate which is essential when applying for work in a competitive field.

My placement was with the South Yorkshire Beat and my Ranger/mentor was Hannah Darcel.  I chose to work 3 days a week and treated it as seriously as work.  I worked alongside Hannah on two relatively young and new woodlands planted on old Colliery sites so the role was to engage the community and encourage them to use and enjoy the woodlands. 

This involved organising events, creating a ‘Friends of’ group and working with groups using the site.  The first month or so was a period of settling into the role, getting to know the woodlands, how the FC worked and becoming familiar with the groups and volunteers.  As time progressed, Hannah started to give me more responsibility – taking on my suggestions for events and tasks, and would have me completing risk assessments in the mornings.  This led to her taking more of a back seat and by the end of my placement I was leading events myself and being totally involved in organising them and preparing resources. 

The role was very much about becoming familiar with the locals and building relationships with the community.  We went to community meetings and set up displays at events in the local library.  We worked with a local primary school for 6 weeks, teaching the kids wood skills and enjoying their progression.  Community events involved nature crafts and wood craft skills including making fires – I’ve never eaten so much food cooked on a fire! The regular volunteers were great, and liked to be busy with their tasks.  I saw wildlife every day – deer, grass snakes, butterflies and I loved seeing the woodland change from winter to spring and into summer.

I also took the opportunity to find out further how the FC worked.  I went out with a beat Forester to see how Forestry worked on a large scale, and went Bat surveying with the FC Ecologist.  Not just my Ranger but the whole Sherwood team were really helpful in feeding my curiosity.  It doesn’t just end after 6 months.  I know that if I needed any advice whilst in my new role I could contact them for advice and they would be happy to help.  I still receive job alerts and heads-up on local projects from Louise Fleetwood.

I would advocate the Shadow Ranger placement to anyone looking for further experience.  As a result I got a great job that I love and which I wouldn’t have had the confidence or experience to apply for beforehand.  I met some lovely people and was inspired every day.”

Sam Fletcher - Shadow Ranger

“Finishing university with no idea with what I was going to do with my life was scary, really scary. All I knew was that I loved the outdoors and couldn’t face a career staring at a computer screen! After volunteering with my local Forestry Commission community group I learnt about the Shadow Ranger opportunity and applied in a heartbeat.

By some miracle, I was then taken under the wings of two brilliant Community Rangers who helped me develop a host of skills that I never knew I had. As a Shadow I worked with people in community woodlands from every corner of society, from den building with small school children right through to hedge-laying with a group of retired adults.

The Shadow placement also allows you to learn about other aspects of forestry I’d never even considered. Through help from my Ranger mentors I was able to spend time working with Bushcraft Rangers lighting fires from sparks; marking trees for felling with Forest Craftsmen; marking out orienteering courses with Recreational Rangers and I have even surveyed ancient woodlands with the FC Ecologists. 

To be a Shadow Ranger I’d say you only need two things: time and boundless enthusiasm! If you are willing to put in the time the FC Rangers will invest their time in you and the rewards are huge.

Today I sit here having just started my full-time job as a Forestry Commission Apprentice Craftsperson in Galloway and I can say without cliché that I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the Shadow Ranger opportunity. Go for it! "

Alexander MacKinnon – Shadow Ranger

"I heard about the Shadow Ranger scheme whilst studying at University and thought it would a good opportunity to prove and improve my skills before I joined the job market. I was lucky enough to be given a place working with a very experienced community ranger in North Nottinghamshire and never regretted it one bit.

During my time with the Forestry Commission I worked with some brilliant members of the public and was always backed up by the very friendly and helpful staff from the Forestry Commission at Sherwood pines.

Whilst in the role I was able to build upon my interpersonal skills and build trust between myself and groups of other volunteers to the point where I was able to lead the group on my own something I had not done before.

I worked as many days as I could in-between my studies and found getting outside with a variety of people really good way of removing myself from the sometimes monotonous side of University that meant I could comeback feeling fresh and ready to re-approach my Uni work with renewed vigour.

The skills I have picked up and built upon along the way mean so much to potential employers and I’ve now been offered a fantastic role in a highly reputable company.

I would recommend the scheme to anybody looking for more experience it was great to get a feel for the tasks undertaken by rangers whilst having a lot of fun at the same time!"

In the meantime why not come and volunteer with us and see what we're really about?

Last updated: 3rd August 2018

England's Woods and Forests are cared for by Forest Enterprise England, an agency of the Forestry Commission.