24 April 2015

A sense of community.

Over the weekend a gate on a path I use infrequently was pulled to but not properly closed, I fastened it behind me and thought no more about it. The field in question has ewes and lambs and I'm walking through bit more than usual to check that my pups (they're nearly two so how I can call them pups I'm not sure!) are still fine with stock  - thankfully they are, looking at the sheep and pointedly looking away, phew. I noticed that the gate was a little stiff and slammed it shut. However, on the third occasion in a week when it wasn't properly closed I had a good look and found that it had dropped a little on its hinges which is why the bolt is not catching closed properly.  That evening I phoned the farmer whose stock is in the field to ask if he knew about the gate, as it turns out he didn't and was grateful for the information, he'll check it on his way past later and no doubt do some running repairs.

This week HB's brother has been out on his first 'proper' shout as a fireman.  He's been away on the training course, come home with all his gear (thanks sis for ironing it all for me), been to practice sessions and helped with one small incident but the other evening his alerter went off for the first time; he bolted out and ran from home to the station (100 yards approx) but as he started getting ready he realised he was nervous and that for all his training nothing prepares you for the real thing.
Goathland has a volunteer fire crew and they tried to get the Guinness record for the smallest fire station.

The phone has been ringing red hot with people reporting their firsts and hoping they will be the first to see / hear and that it will be their sighting that makes it into the Rural Ramblings column in the Parish Magazine, we have blackthorn, horse chestnut buds, swallows, house martins and cuckoo all recorded so far, we've had to let many people know that their first is not actually a first for the village this year.  Our BTO man reports that his new owl and kestrel boxes are unoccupied but he's hoping for residents next year.  The churchwarden tells us of a visiting blackcap and everyone is commenting on the number of moles throughout the village and the hares in the 'back fields'.  Yesterday's Village Lunch was full of talk of the new 'Natters and Nibbles' meetup in the Village Hall and concern for a 92 year old resident who is poorly again.

So why did I phone the farmer, HB's brother volunteer to be a fireman, people phone with nature sightings, share the news about an ailing neighbour?

It's all part and parcel of living in a small slightly isolated village which adds to or sometimes even instills that sense of community, there are times when the only people you can rely on are your neighbours which is a wonderful thing but just don't expect to keep anything a secret for long!

21 April 2015

It's that time of year.

Spring has sprung!
Dwarf daffodils and corydalis
I've heard the first chiff-chaff, seen the first butterflies (small tortoiseshells), watched the first swallow in the field, had a jar of rescued frogspawn sitting on the doorstep.  Most of us see and note these things and many also report them to Nature's Calendar as part of the Woodland Trust's great phenology project tracking the seasons.
Lots of other surveys are starting up for the summer season as well, within the last few weeks  we had details of several  in our news round up, there were Easter bunnies (well, hares and rabbits actually), East Anglian bats, Cornish basking sharks.

Send details of what you've seen.
People need records of not just the cute, cuddly and unusual but also the potentially dangerous in the form of invasive species for example quagga mussels or asian hornets and also things that simply shouldn't be there like small plastic pellets known as nurdles.
We keep details of many of the ongoing surveys like these on the website, you'll find them in the volunteering section, the page is Surveys and Fieldwork, find it here.

Do you take part in the RSPB's Great Garden Bird Watch in January? There are other similar surveys going on all year round, some to do at home and other more organised events like BioBlitz to join. You find details of these too.

Do you need records or run events?
If you're running a survey or organising an event like these we'd be delighted to add the details to the page, 50 listings are free (yet another free service from CJS!).  If you know of a survey or event that you think we should be listing but isn't there please send us the details and we'll check it out.

Volunteering is popular and much needed.
So much so that our volunteering section has got so large that we've split one of the the main pages into two separate ones.  You'll now find full or part-time placements in the same place as before: here But we've moved what we call Regular volunteers, those where you're needed for a day once a month or an hour or two once a week, these are now here.
Both pages are subdivided as well, the Placements page is broken up according to what you'll be doing whereas the Regular volunteering page is split according to geography, under the usual Regions that we use elsewhere.

17 April 2015

Dark Skies and missing sheep.

It's been dark skies week 
We're fortunate enough to have plenty of dark skies which makes for wonderful star gazing, particularly in the winter under those amazing high pressure clear but cold nights.  We are slightly affected by the orange glow of Teesside in the west and the 24/7 illumination from RAF Fylingdales to the north east of the village.  I've been hoping all last week and this that we'll get a nice clear night to catch some of it on film (pixels if I'm honest!) but it never happened so you'll have to make do with this stock shot instead.
Milky Way, via Unsplash
"it's rather dark"
Years ago a city-dwelling friend from uni was coming stay for the weekend, I collected her from our nearest railway station (Malton, 20 miles away). We stayed in town for a meal before going home, she was chattering away quite happily but as we began to leave the town behind the conversation became a little more sporadic until after crossing the A64 and heading into open country she shut up completely. I asked if she was OK, "it's rather dark" was all she said!  She'd never before been anywhere that didn't have street lights, over the weekend she got used to the darkness and began to enjoy the night skies but struggled with the countryside night-time noises of owls and sheep.

Talking of which (sheep not owls) it's the time of year when the moor sheep are gathered in for lambing.  AW's in-law's farm, has an extensive stray (the area of common land the sheep graze) and the ewes sometimes wander down into the village to help themselves to bits of garden shrubbery overhanging walls and fences and the odd ice cream donated by stunned tourists. When they'd gathered their flock back in they found they were a dozen missing and asked anyone to let them know if they saw any in the village.  Sure enough the next morning there were three loitering around the bins on the car park and a couple heading off towards school.
Here's sheepdog Ten at Morton Close watching the flock.
A sheep's a sheep right? 
So how do you know which belong to which farmer? Simple they're all marked with different coloured stock marker paint - a greasy, waterproof dye which today is sprayed on the sheep, the office team remember it in battered tin cans being applied by hand.  Morton Close (AW's in-laws) have a red splodge of paint on the back of the neck, Friar's House Farm have the same spot but it's green, Liberty Hall has a red stripe across the middle. The mark is for the stray and is linked to the farm not the farmer or shepherd.  With so many farms and originally a limited range of colours not to mention part of a sheep to colour some of the marks could be quite inventive, Hill Farm no longer have sheep but theirs was officially a red crow's foot on the right hip / top of leg although it often looked more like an arrow or even a hand print!

16 April 2015

The latest edition of CJS Professional is now online, read it in full here: www.countryside-jobs.com/Professional/current.htm   You may need to refresh your browser.

Jobs advertised in this Month's edition:
Project Co-ordinator (hands on), Nimrod Environmental (Barnsley)
Community Gardener, Harmeny School (Balerno, Edinburgh)
Ranger (South), Lee Valley Regional Park Authority
Forestry Manager, Treelands (Southern England)
Ornithological Field Surveyors, ACE Surveyors (Scotland)
Survey Assistant (Casual), Bats, Angela Graham Bat Consultancy Service Ltd (Manchester)
Senior Ecologist, PV Ecology Ltd (Winchester)
Gardener, Clan Donald Skye
Forestry Manager, Treelands (Scotland)
South Humber Warden, Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust
Head Ranger, National Trust for Scotland (Mar Lodge)
Field Assistant, Ecology Solutions (Southern England)
2 Seasonal Rangers, Babergh & Mid Suffolk District Councils
Estate Gardener / Ranger, Harmeny School (Balerno, Edinburgh)
Field Studies Tutors, The Cranedale Centre (Malton, N Yorkshire)
Clerk to the Board of Conservators & Finance Officer, Conservators of Ashdown Forest

Other adverts:
One week course in Corsica, Operation New World
Training Bursary from the Dry Stone Walling Association in the North West

CJS Notices
Do you read our blog?
British Wildlife Photography Awards, final call. Entries close at midnight on 1 May.
CJS Focus on Marine & Coastal Environments
The lead article from Marine Conservation Society will focus on marine litter and the damage it can do to the marine environment. The South West Coast Path Association talks about coastal path management & WWT about coastal wetlands. Seawatch Foundation describes how important marine monitoring is to conservation and Scottish Seabird Centre explains why Bass Rock is so important to gannets.  
This edition will be published on Monday 25 May, included with CJS Weekly on Friday 22 May and in full in the June edition of CJS Professional on Thursday 11 June.  Send us your details here, and remember you can advertise free of charge (it's limited but it's free!). Deadline is a strict 15 May.

Top headlines from the past month: Click here to read

Training Calendar for June is 5 pages Click here to read

If you run training courses or events for likeminded countryside professionals please send details to Helen on training@countryside-jobs.com  or feel free to recommend providers and we'll contact them to include their courses (you're not committing yourself or them to anything, and like most things with CJS it's free!)

09 April 2015

I didn't know you did that!

What sort of jobs do you think Countryside Jobs Service advertises?

Countryside Rangers, of course; Countryside Officers, Rights of Way and arboricultural posts,  yes, those too.  But what about Volunteers Co-ordinators or Ecologists, did you know you'll find those too?  CJS actually advertises a lot more that you first think.

Every year we collate basic details of the adverts we've published; mostly for use in the office and some for inclusion in our information to readers and advertisers. Last year's numbers show that we advertised for more ranger type jobs than anything else, no surprise there! However the next two biggest categories were for jobs in arboriculture and ecology closely followed by trainee / apprenticeships with more than 250 posts in each group and over 200 working in environmental education. In our 2013 subscribers survey you asked for more horticulture jobs and to include outdoor activities instructors and working with animals and wildlife (zoos and similar) so we started including those making these the biggest 'growers' in terms of numbers of vacancies as we started sourcing more of these types of roles.  5.6% of our advertised vacancies were for horticultural jobs, 3.1% for outdoor activities and 2.6% for wildlife work, what's particularly pleasing for us is that you've obviously been applying for these and impressing the employers because now nearly half of the animal work jobs come direct to CJS and over a quarter of the outdoor activities and horticulture roles.  Which will please you too because it will mean that we get more of these sorts of adverts.

You can see the range of vacancies and the number of roles advertised in a nice neat table here.  And it's probably a greater range than you originally thought.

As it turns out it's more than some of advertisers thought too!.

One of our regular advertisers phoned to ask if we'd consider advertising an Environmental Education officer post and was quite surprise when we said that they account for over 6% of our total adverts.  It's the regular advertisers that sometimes lose sight of the width of CJS, we've made a note that we must include more details in our next advertisers information pack and when it's published make sure that every advertiser receives a copy - whether they read it or not is another matter!

This graph shows the number of roles advertised and the proportion of each group sent direct to CJS.
Despite our advertisers slight confusion over 60% of all adverts are sent direct to CJS, the remainder are sourced from national press, specialist publications and from over a 1000 individual company and council websites checked twice weekly, it's a mammoth task.
As you'd expect our best known areas have the higher proportion of direct adverts, 81% of roles for rangers came direct to CJS, 70% of rights of way vacancies and 65% Countryside Officer type posts. What's maybe surprising is that we also have high proportions of direct adverts for ecologists, researchers (mostly field workers), community involvement project work and environmental education officers.

As we continue to analyse the data from last year there will be more reports to follow, on geographical distribution and types of contracts offered.

NB: Data is across the whole of CJS not just online adverts. To gain access to all of these vacancies you need to subscribe to CJS Weekly, more information on that here.

07 April 2015

Easter Eggs!

  • Want to look around the Tardis?
  • Fancy a quick game of snake?
  • Or maybe a spot of dragon slaying?

We're not down the wrong trouser leg of time again these are all little bits of inside joke geekery carefully hidden in everyday computer programmes and we've been on an Easter Egg hunt.

One of my favourite Easter eggs was inside an early version of excel, if you pressed the right buttons in the right order your spreadsheet disintegrated (not really) in front of your eyes and you were piloting your own ship (be it Enterprise or Millennium Falcon) through space, another sequence of buttons gave you hyperspace and Escape, of course, allowed you to escape back to the humdrum reality of complex mathematical formulae or boring simple data entry.  Microsoft had lots of them but the boring people made them get rid of them claiming that the additional code made the 'files bloat' in other words get too big and slow them down. So they replaced them with silly paper clips instead! (no, I'm not writing a letter and neither do I want your help). 

The frivolity batten has been passed to Google, quite apt with their helter skelter slides in place of stairways.
So here are a few of theirs, type into their search box Do a Barrell Roll to get the page do a complete somersault, or askew to make it slant off sideways and they've got round the abandoned blink tag to make every tag on the page wink at you.
Firefox has a friendly robot (don't bite his bottom, as if anyone would even consider it!), find him at about:robots (in firefox obviously, won't work on safari or with other metals) and also a weirdly unsettling apocalyptic tome at about:mozilla apparently Mammon is Microsoft, it changes often and past outpourings are available on wikipedia.

Feeling at a loose end?
Find a playable pacman game by searching for google pacman, it was one of their daily google doodles back in 2010 and still available, so not really an Easter egg but fun nevertheless, their April fool this year of 'real-life' pacman using GPS on maps for mobiles was a doozy too.  Snake is a real Easter egg though, only available in Internet Explorer, so maybe for not much longer, and you need a slow internet connection! It only works whilst your content is buffering, place your cursor in the video window and  press and hold the left arrow and the up arrow to begin the game.
And what about getting a look around the tardis.  This one's a real wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey sort of thing. On google street view stand outside Earl's Court Underground station and there is the Tardis in all it's police boxy glory, press the up arrow on your keyboard and you are sucked into the Tardis. (quick link to the tardis here)

I'm not entirely in favour of dragon slaying, I happen to be very fond of dragons, however in google sheets shift and F12 gives you a little message saying dragon slain. (or at least it used to when I checked before posting this blog it didn't work! so maybe dragonophiles around the web have slain the dragonslayer!!)

And sometimes these easter eggs even make headlines, remember remember the coverage spoof page 46 in apple's terms and conditions for ios7? (no, then read all about it here)

But why easter eggs? apparently it's because you have to hunt for them and like Easter eggs they contain a nice surprise.

BTW: we thoroughly enjoyed the chocolate ones over the weekend! and now it's time to leave the tardis and get on with some real work....
But if you know of any Easter eggs to while away the day do let us know, we're always up for a bit on nonsense - you knew that already didn't you!

03 April 2015

A huge change for CJS.

Today's edition of CJS Weekly is the first in our 21 year history to be posted second class.
Second class post but still a first class service from CJS. 

When this week's rises in the cost of postage were announced we looked at the options available to us. Unfortunately CJS can't absorb any further increases in the cost of producing CJS Weekly paper copies, the last subscription rate rise was in 2012. Which left us with two possible options either to increase subscription rates to cover the additional costs incurred or to change from first class post to second class and no subscription increase.  Most people agree there is very little difference in delivery speeds for first and second class mail, particularly for items posted on Saturday (like CJS Weekly); our own completely unscientific tests of sending out items first and second and seeing which got there first seem to show that sending by second class on Saturday doesn't make a difference, and if anything it speeds things up, a few second class items got there before first class ones!!
Therefore, we proposed a switch from first to second class from the first edition in April.  We hope that this should be sufficient to allow us keep postal subscriptions at the same rate for a few more years.  We've given postal subscribers a month's notice of the proposed change giving them the option to let us know if they didn't want us to change.   Only 6% of subscribers contacted us to say they would be happy to pay an increased subscription to continue to receive their copies by first class post.

We will monitor delivery and ask postal subscribers to let us know if their copies are arriving even later than usual.  If this happens we will look again at the options.

Reminder, Monday is a bank holiday and the CJS office will be closed, open on Tuesday as usual.

31 March 2015

Commitment or compassion?

Last week there were reports of workers phoning in for compassionate leave because they were heartbroken about the departure of Zayn Malik from One Direction.
What's not so surprising is the reaction to this news, people are almost resigned to the apparent idiocy by and lack of commitment from workers especially the younger ones (sorry for that huge sweeping generalisation!).  Which highlights one of the problems facing employers today - just where do you find the dedication that so many of us take for granted?

The CJS Team have battled on through births, marriages and death with a few minor and not so minor (car crashes and broken bones) disasters.  It's something we're very proud to be able to say that:
 "In 21 years and over 1,200 editions we have never missed a deadline". 
The hardest ever was the edition published the week our co-founder Anthea Carson lost her long battle against leukemia. TB and I were on duty that day when Niall phoned from the hospital with the news. We stopped and had a walk around the wood before getting on with things until Niall and family returned home (the CJS office was in their house in those days) when we all had a big hug before leaving the family alone. In true British fashion we dried our eyes, made a cup of tea and made sure that the 23 September 2001 edition reached everyone, until the following the week no-one was any the wiser. You can find out more about Anthea and Niall and their wonderful legacy to you our CJS readers here.

Perhaps it's only once you've been tempered in the fires of misfortune that you learn what's important. But maybe we can try (ha, ha, easier said than done) to persuade our youngsters away from TV, computers and social media and into real life away from artificial life inside games which are becoming addictive at ever earlier ages, see this recent report on Minecraft from the BBC.  Teaching them what's important, what's not and along the way learning not to cry over spilt milk.

How can we instill commitment and dedication in today's newly (and not so newly) employed? I wish I knew. 
But if you have it make sure you include it in your application and if you can give examples in your CV (although maybe not quite as extreme as ours which, under different circumstances, would probably be a genuine case for compassionate leave, except of course if we didn't carry on then....)

27 March 2015

Down the wrong trouser leg of time.*

If you have the special little widget you'll see that CJS has added a GNU to the web server headers.  
It looks like this (the little lit up lantern) 
 or even this (little domino):

No, we've not gone completely stark raving bonkers (although I sometimes wonder), with several Terry Pratchett fans in the office we've joined the global memorial of keeping him name alive forever, for as he himself wrote
"A man is not dead while his name is still spoken." - Going Postal, Chapter 4 prologue.
So it's not really a wildebeest running around the website, just a special little message.
Find out more about our small piece of crackpottery here: http://www.gnuterrypratchett.com/ or get your own little widget from the links.

Fire, fire, fetch the water...
Leaving Discworld behind things are not much more sensible here on earth, our latest lot of IT gremlins are running amok and hanging their washing out to dry on the computer network.  A lengthy list of minor bugs, glitches and general IT annoyances to be fixed was given to our IT consultant and we arranged that he'd come to make a start on Tuesday however at quarter to four we received an email that said "Sending this from back of the fire engine". You see he's also a retained fireman and there was a moor fire that required crews from several stations to attend. Real fire takes precedence over our gremlins.

It sometimes feels that our trousers of time belong to the office dogs (ie have four legs to get lost in), I felt like I was down maybe the third leg one day this week when a particularly aggressive telemarketer was trying to sign us up for health insurance. She'd tried a few months ago and was put off but on the third phone call this week it was easier to let her get on with her spiel and as I was in the middle of boring paperwork and filing for end of year accounts it was a, I'm not going to say pleasant or even welcome, distraction.  Despite saying right at the start that we didn't have or want health insurance I was 'treated' to the whole performance.   With this particular insurance company you get cash back and benefits, she was most adamant that we'd feel the benefits of gym membership and we could get reduced or even free membership of a certain group, so after a quick google later when I find that our nearest one is 40 miles away, I asked if it was really worth travelling for an hour to spend 30 minutes in a spin class before getting showered and an hour back home when it's so much easier to walk out of the door and exercise the dogs across the wonderful rolling North York Moors for an hour or two.  Ah but that's not free (which is news to me) but she could get me reduced membership of the National Trust (some confusion over National PARK and TRUST there I think) and then I wouldn't need to pay the entry fee! Um...  No, no deal. So she tried "how do you relax?" and before I could even offer an opinion launched into an offer of free cinema tickets once a month or more, when I informed her that our nearest cinema in their chosen chain was over 30 miles away I was actually met with stunned silence - the first time she'd shut up since I answered the phone 15 minutes previously - before a stuttered "but that's not possible; everyone has a local cinema." which allowed me to get a word in edgeways and asked if she actually knew where we were? I didn't get an answer before she launched into the benefits of their treatment plans when she finally ground to a halt I said, as I had the beginning, that we're weren't interested and would not be taking out health insurance with them or anyone else come to that.  At that point she slammed the phone down - and good riddance say I as I exited the trousers at the ankle and waded onward into the mire of end of year accounts.

By the way, if you fancy joining us on our journeys around the trousers of time, the right or wrong legs, we're looking for a new Team Member, find out more here.
(and if you understood even half of today's waffle you'll be well on the way to fitting in!)

*A typically Prachett way of describing parallel universes or even multiverses.

23 March 2015

It's International Puppy Day!

If you weren't happy on Friday on International Happiness Day then have some photos of puppies for International Puppy Day which are sure to put a smile on your face.  

But seriously, there is a reason behind the apparent silliness, in the US (where this originated of course) it's a day to highlight the horror of puppy mills / farms and encourage people to adopt dogs from shelters or only to buy puppies from reputable breeders like the three pups in our collage - meet office dogs, Hebe (gets in twice, typical), Hester and Dido.  All from local breeders of working dogs so not only are they from reputable breeders they're of sound stock too. Our old timer, Maia, will be 15 in two weeks proving it's a good policy, we don't have digital puppy pictures of her.
Here in the UK Dogs Trust does something similar and have just launched their Be Dog Smart campaign helping families understand more about how to behave around dogs in order to keep themselves safe. Find out more about the campaign here, www.learnwithdogstrust.org.uk  and the reason behind it here.

20 March 2015

Are you happy?

Today is apparently International Day of Happiness
I like to think we are all relatively happy in the office, aided by frothy coffee, dogs and laughter.
National Trust for Scotland has some interesting news; details of which we included in our headlines today ‘The first ever study of happiness amongst its volunteers has found that they are roughly seven per cent happier than the average person’  - best get ourselves up to Scotland then!
We are all the more happy here because the CJS Weekly is now printed and online, running to 24 pages it includes details of a large number of training courses in May. 53 paid adverts 2 for paid training posts and 11 for volunteers. Have a very happy weekend.