I’ve been asked a lot recently how to get into Rights of Way work, what’s required to get started and how to stand out at interview. The sector is very diverse and working for different organisations/authorities can mean totally different things even though it may be the same job title. To put it simply, there is no linear process to getting into this particular role but here are my top tips and how I managed to get into the sector.
How to become a Public Rights of Way Officer?
Firstly you need to understand what the role involves and if it’s actually right for you. Most of the Rights of Way Officer jobs include some form of outdoor work. This can range from inspecting routes so that you can instruct contractors complete minor maintenance jobs, all the way through to being very physically demanding by installing bridges/gates/signs every day. If you secure a role with a Local Highway Authority then the role will also include enforcement work, which is having to ensure land managers or developers are undertaking their duties and taking enforcement action where necessary. This means that you’re going to need to be confident, diplomatic, comfortable in confrontational situations and sure of yourself when challenged without escalating any issues. To see what’s involved, below are 2 job descriptions of roles I have worked in within the access sector, although there is a lot to cover it is great that no day is the same and you’re not stuck in an office 9-5 every day.
If you think these types of jobs would suit you then maybe it’s time for a career change! I adore my job, it’s brilliant waking up every day knowing you’re going to your dream job and would I definitely recommend working in the access sector to anyone who loves the outdoors. Interviews for these posts can be very competitive so it’s great even to make it to the interview stage. To reach this you will need a few things under your belt to tick the criteria and stand out from the crowd.
There aren’t really any specific access based qualifications and as long as you are the right sort of person for the post then it can all be taught as it is a very niche subject.
That being said a qualifications in subjects such as Environmental Science or Countryside Management will look great on the CV for these types of job.
Unless you’re lucky enough to move from one access job to the next then it’s unlikely you will have Rights of Way specific experience to put on your CV. To stand a chance against other applicants you will need to show you have people skills as you will be dealing with a range of people from parish councils to developers and farmers to the general public. Voluntary experience in practical work for NGOs will help to show you are able to undertake maintenance tasks on the network and voluntary experience with access organisations will definitely make you stand out at interview. The British Horse Society have Access and Bridleway Officer volunteers, a role like this will give you the skills and knowledge to excel at interview for a paid role in the sector.
Anyone aiming to become a Rights of Way Officer will need to build their knowledge based around Rights of Way legislation. Although it’s a niche subject there is a lot to know, from which piece of the Highways Act 1980 is required for enforcement action to whether it is a matter for the police or District Council instead. The best place to find out more is in ‘the blue book’ which is the bible for Rights of Way Officers. ‘The Blue Book’ or Rights Of Way: A Guide to Law and Practice as it is officially known, is the definitive guide to rights of way law in England and Wales published jointly by the Ramblers and the Open Spaces Society in 2007. You will also need some local knowledge of the area you are hoping to work in. Each Local Authority is required to publish a Rights of Way Improvement Plan (ROWIP), so you will need to get to grips with what’s included in this and what priorities the organisation have from this document.
Where to look for opportunities:
There are several websites to check for opportunities, there are generic sites such as Environment Job and Conservation Jobs. For a much more specific search for Rights of Way jobs then Countryside Jobs Service is great, it also shows volunteer and training opportunities to help you get into the sector. Once you’ve have gained some experience in the Rights of Way sector then you can become a member of The Institute of Public Rights of Way and Access Management, this will give you access to a mailing list of vacancies in the sector as well.
How I got into Public Rights of Way Work:
I’ve been working in access for 3 years now and didn’t have much Rights of Way specific experience before my first paid role interview so check out how I managed to get in below. There’s a brief copy of my CV, if you want to know more about these roles check out my LinkedIn profile.
Whilst at school I completed my Bronze, Silver and Gold Duke of Edinburgh awards which was what sparked my love of the outdoors and made me realised I didn’t ever want a 9-5 office job.
I then went to University and studied Countryside Management for 3 years, this was a brilliant experience and opened my eyes to what career I wanted to follow. My studies led to me completing my dissertation based on the question ‘Is the countryside of Northern England and the Scottish borders accessible for all people with disabilities?’. This research gave me the access bug and I realised this was the sector I wanted to work in.
During my studies I found time not only to work full time as a carer to fund my studies and hobby of horse riding but I also managed to volunteer with a number of charities and outdoor organisations. My studies required practical placements as part of career development modules, which was great, so I completed 2 student placements with the North Pennines AONB and Northumberland National Park where I continued to volunteer beyond my university studies. Throughout holidays from university I completed a residential volunteering placement with the RSPB and secured seasonal work with the National Trust and the Lake District National Park which gave me a foot in the door with the organisations, my hope being to get a full time job with them after graduation.
When I graduated I had the hard reality of the sheer competition for jobs in the outdoors sector and the realisation that you really do have to love what you do as the pay isn’t brilliant in the sector. I applied for all sorts of roles from ranger posts to cafe assistants and wasn’t very successful as they all wanted very specific paid experience, it’s one of these catch 22 situations where you won’t ever get paid experience in the sector until someone gives you a break and employs you.
I had a rethink and decided an internship was the way forward and applied to the RSPB for a residential internship. This wasn’t a paid role but the accommodation was provided and they paid for interns to complete their tickets such as chainsaw, use of pesticides and strimmers. I loved my time working as a chainsaw operator with them but soon realised this kind of hard work 5 days a week wasn’t necessarily for me, so I continued applying for all sorts of jobs.
I was offered an interview in Suffolk for a Rights of Way Officer role which I attended and was offered the post at the end of the interview. This was my first taste of access work and truly the perfect job. I worked here for two and half years and loved the role but my dream job opportunity came up. An Access Field Officer Role with an equestrian charity, this meant that I could mix my passion for access with my hobby and love of horses.
I’m very lucky to have worked full time in this role since March 2020 throughout the pandemic and I’m loving every minute of the job.
The dream job is out there for everyone and if you’re sat unhappy in your current job now is the time to do something about it.