Our trainees: Naomi's story

Naomi joined Cheshire Wildlife Trust as a Wild Stockport Trainee in 2021 thanks to funding through the Green Recovery Challenge Fund. This is her story...

I had a background in community arts engagement which I really enjoyed. I was a drama and singing teacher for some years but also suffered from depression that was getting progressively worse. I'm very open now about how nature connection has really helped in my recovery and that's the main reason I decided to pursue an environment-based career. 

My first job in this field was as a learning and visitor assistant at RSPB Leighton Moss reserve in Lancashire. I really enjoy working with children and young people and seeing them get excited about nature is one of my favourite things. Despite not being able to work on the reserve as much as originally planned due to the pandemic and first lockdown, I was tasked with the job of managing three social media accounts for three different reserves and I decided to make a bunch of engaging videos undertaking RSPB Wild Challenge activities! I loved every minute of it, and it was during my time there that my passion for nature and wildlife (which I'd always had but, in the shadows,) was fully ignited. Leighton Moss holds a really special place in my heart forever now. 

Wild Stockport trainees Eve and Naomi

Why did you apply?

I was really excited to see this trainee position advertised. I was unemployed and claiming universal credit and had been for some months due to the pandemic. It was refreshing to find a job that ticked all of my boxes when it came to engaging with communities and young people. The activity I pitched for my interview was actually one of the first projects we completed as the Wild Stockport Team - Bramhall's Big Hedgehog Trail! 

I feel like the trainee position was a perfect transition step for me, not coming from a conservation background, to allow me to continue to learn while working.

What have you enjoyed?

I have really enjoyed planning and delivering events during this project. The first one was the Bramhall big hedgehog trail - which engaged hundreds of people, from schools and nurseries to businesses, and the general public! A truly multigenerational event. 

We also ran a very successful wildlife gardening discovery day with a local primary school, in which over 90 participants attended in the space of 2 hours and had the opportunity to make bird feeders, spring bulb lasagnes, decorate bird boxes, and attend workshops about creating mini ponds and hedgehog houses. 

The enjoyment of running these events led me to secure a job with The Kindling Trust as their new Community Programme Co-ordinator which I started part-time in November. This will continue to be a part-time venture so I can still scratch my nature itch (and hopefully continue to work for Cheshire Wildlife Trust which has been such a wonderful, friendly, and caring organisation to work for)! 

Most recently, my favourite project has been co-ordinating our swift streets. This has involved recruiting over 40 Stockport residents to have swift boxes installed on their houses. By doing this, we have generated enough interest to triple, or even quadruple the number of houses in the coming years. I have learned so much about Swifts in the process and have developed a love (maybe even an obsession) with these incredible, unique birds and they need to be shouted about a lot more!

What lessons have you learned?

We went into the project so ready and raring to go, with millions of ideas, and soon realised that with a team of three we can't do everything! 

I learned how to prioritise, and listen to the community and give them what they want, while still ensuring funding aims were being met. 

I've learned a lot about the logistics that go into working as part of an organisation with a strong reputation (getting things signed off, staff hierarchy etc.)

I've also learned how rewarding it is to work within a team of passionate women in conservation. A movement that is slowly growing traction - but with that comes obstacles such as not being taken seriously by older or more experienced individuals or organisations. 

We especially found that during the swift streets project, some residents were reluctant to take up our offer until we mentioned a male, professional contractor would be helping. Cheshire Wildlife Trust is a very female-heavy organisation with a female CEO and that makes us feel empowered enough to confidently and competently do our jobs. And with more women fronting projects like this, we will slowly be able to tackle the stigma!

What are your hopes for the future?

Although I have a second job now, we have put a funding bid in to extend our Wild Stockport project for another two years. If funding is successful I will become the Stockport Swift Officer! (Amazing job title!) and will be heading up the aim to transform Stockport into a swift Town!! What a dream!! 

So fingers crossed we are successful! 

This job has changed my life, given me the direction and purpose that I've been pursuing for so long and I am so grateful to the funders for being able to make Wild Stockport happen!