WHENEVER I hear about a ‘park ranger’ I can’t help but think of my favourite childhood cartoon, Yogi bear.
You are unlikely to see Yogi or any other bear for that matter in Ty Mawr Country Park in Cefn Mawr (though if you do see one please let us know, it would be the news story of the decade).
But Ty Mawr is the only one of the seven parks in the county borough that keeps animals.
They have sheep, donkeys, pigs, chickens, ducks, guinea pigs and rabbits.
It is a menagerie that has been delighting visitors for many years but also one with a purpose – to teach youngsters about farming and about where their food comes from.
Bill Slater has worked at the park since 1998.
He is one of three full-time rangers based there and his tasks vary depending on the time of year.
Over the winter months, and throughout the year, much of Bill and his colleague’s job largely involves looking after the animal’s welfare.
The harsh winter just gone was a particularly tough time.
“This winter was pretty hard going for the animals,” he said. “The donkeys had to be kept in and the pregnant sheep suffered because of the lack of grazing but they all got through it.
“It was a busy time for us, especially as we try to do the jobs that mount up during the rest of the year in winter.”
In recent weeks, and indeed on the day that we met him, Bill’s job has been about education with school groups coming to the park to learn about the way it is run and the animals that are kept there.
On this particular day it was a group from Ysgol Bryn Gwalia in Mold.
“We get school groups from North Wales, Shropshire, all over the region,” said Bill.
“They come here to learn about farming and where their food comes from.
“People have become so remote from what they buy in a supermarket. It’s ridiculous how much food we throw away and, because of imports there’s no such thing as seasonal any more.
“You can buy whatever you want, whatever time of year it is. Here they learn how the animals are kept and where their food comes from and everything we do fits into their curriculum.”
As well as teaching youngsters about farming and running activities for the public, there is also the day-to-day running of the 35-acre site.
“Every day is different but it’s also a lot of the same things,” Bill continued. “There are always jobs that need doing and it all depends on the time of year. There’s a lot of planning ahead.
“We’ve got fields full of hay waiting to be cut as soon as the weather gets better.”
The park has a number of volunteers working throughout the year. They contribute a great deal of time to the park and their efforts are very much appreciated
“Students from the Derwen College in Oswestry who have disabilities or learning difficulties come down to work on the park,” Bill explained.
“We also have a number of retired people who volunteer. One of our volunteers has just built an animal shelter for us at cost price which has been very helpful.”
There are also junior rangers, aged eight to 16.
These are youngsters who like working with animals, being outdoors, trying their hand at various arts and crafts, going on walks and visiting other country parks in the Wrexham area.
Junior rangers work towards a series of four awards starting with ‘Hazel’ and working up to the ‘Sequoia’ award.
Anyone interested in volunteering or youngsters wanting to become a junior ranger should contact the visitor centre on 01978 822780.
See full story in the Leader