THE Forestry Commission is offering people the chance to become volunteer rangers in the New Forest.

Applications for the positions are now open, but there is expected to be competition for the spaces, after over 40 applicants were narrowed down to 12 last year. The commission’s 70 volunteer rangers are from a range of backgrounds including students, chemists, geologists and more.

They have all been united by their love of the New Forest, and many have been in their roles for ten years or more.

Bob Sparks, a digital broadcaster and lecturer, who became a volunteer ranger, said: “Like a lot of people most of my working life has involved spending far too much time on trains and sitting in an office, stopping me from venturing out into the beautiful landscape around us. I was delighted to be picked to be become a volunteer ranger. It has reconnected me to this amazing place and I have thoroughly enjoyed getting involved in a wide variety of tasks.”

More than 378 patrols across the New Forest were conducted by the rangers last year, which saw them get involved in conservation work and wildlife studies, as well as helping at visitor sites.

Zoe Cox, Forestry Commission community manager, said: “

We would love to hear from anyone who is interested in joining the team and taking up a stimulating new role where you can get involved in the Forest and learn more about this beautiful place we live in.”

Applications are open until February 24.