In the latest of our Meet the Forest Ranger series, we catch up with John Jacques at Sherwood Forest, who has a few surprises up his sleeve.
My dad was forever telling me to get myself a proper job but I have had the best jobs in the world; stunt man, actor, radio presenter, theme park entertainer and now Forest Ranger.
I have been a stunt double for Robert Carlyle and I’ve acted in Casualty, The Game and A Touch of Frost. I always seem to play villains or Eastern Europeans.
I am an entertainer and a people person. That is why I love being a Forest Ranger. I get to combine a love of nature with the great company of our guests.
I was never indoors as a child. My childhood memories are of mud pies, dog walks, wild crab apples and tree climbing. My dad was a farmer until his early 20s and he taught me so much about the natural world that I will always be grateful to him.
Nature doesn’t stop to put a brolly up. The forest is a year round experience and, unless it is dangerous to go out, my guest activities carry on throughout the winter, come rain or shine. Deer can appear from nowhere in the mist and stop you in your tracks with wonder.
My forest walks are sensory experiences. I get guests sniffing herbs, rubbing pine cones, listening for birdsong, spotting wildlife and tasting foraged foods.
Kids love plants that pop. And when they pop them they are giving nature a hand with seed dispersal.
Camping in the wild is like entering another world. Once you claim your territory and adjust to your circumstances, you feel that you have left time behind and nothing matters but the here and now, man and nature. That said, a warm cabin, with hot tub and door-delivered pizza does have its appeal.
A Forest Ranger is a hundred jobs wrapped into one. I am a travel guide for the local area, a fixer, a steward of the forest, an entertainer, a teacher and a quizmaster to name but a few of my responsibilities
I am like the BBC: I inform, educate, and entertain.
I’ll let you into a secret: My forest walks may look like journeys of discovery but before every walk I do a pre-walk to remove dangerous branches, make sure there are no other hazards and check for interesting sights to point out.
Mealworms make an interesting snack. One of my activities is a Bushtucker Trial, where guests can eat “Crunchy Critters” including dried mealworms, buffalo worms, crickets and locusts. They are actually quite wholesome with no fat, no sugar, no salt and lots of protein.
Most guests will have a go at eating the crunchy critters, but I have noticed girls are less squeamish than boys for some reason. Descriptions of the taste tend to be dry roasted peanuts, Weetabix or Ryvita.
Insects aren’t the only things we eat. We pick blackberries, crack hazelnuts, make a wild fruit salad and brew pine and nettle tea. It’s lovely to see children realising the connection between the food on their plate and the natural world.
My favourite time of year is that golden time where spring meets summer. The leaves on the trees are vibrant green, flowers are blossoming, birds are singing and, if we are lucky, the sun is shining. After spending 10 years indoors as a radio presenter I now soak up every moment of it.
Words that describe this job? Spring, summer, autumn, winter, bats, deer, shooting stars, den-building, foraging, bug hunting, bug eating, birdwatching, animal tracking…and lots of lovely guests to enjoy it all with.
Come and meet me here at Sherwood Forest. But beware; if you come last in the quiz I will make you eat crunchy critters as a forfeit.