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Community and Learning Ranger of Devils Dyke

PUBLISHED: 17:06 18 November 2013 | UPDATED: 09:43 21 November 2013

Catherine Cragg

Catherine Cragg

Archant

Recently, Catherine Cragg bagged her ideal job as Devil's Dyke's newest community and learning ranger. Here she explains what her job entails.

Following its highly successful 2012 walking festival, which saw hundreds of people take to their feet to enjoy walks, strolls, rambles and meanders through the countryside, the National Trust has launched another. The Great British Walk 2013 is taking place right now, coming to a close on Sunday 3 November. And no-one could be more excited about the fact than Devil’s Dyke’s newest community and learning ranger, Catherine Cragg.

Catherine is enjoying her first year working for the National Trust and has fully embraced her brief of making the countryside accessible and fun for all ages. Brighton-born Catherine has just finished overseeing a summer of outdoor family fun, including bug hunts, storytelling and wild art and now she is helping co-ordinate the Great British Walk 2013.

“As a girl, I used to walk my dog every day on the South Downs and loved being out in the glorious countryside,” recalls Catherine fondly. “As my career progressed, I wanted to do more to help the countryside I loved, so I volunteered with the National Trust at Saddlescombe Farm. I was delighted to be offered a permanent role here earlier this year, and joined the Devil’s Dyke team just when we were working out which of our guided walks and self-led trails to include in the 2013 walking festival.”

Catherine and her colleagues had plenty of walks to choose from. Devil’s Dyke and the surrounding South Downs is full of winding trails and well-worn tracks that take people through the beautiful valleys, hills and downlands of this ancient countryside. Local legends are rife, with stunning views and fascinating wildlife only adding to the appeal.

Catherine particularly enjoys looking out for flora and fauna while walking on the South Downs. “At this time of year, I love to see hawthorn branches laden with fruit, brightly-coloured rose hips and the blackthorn bushes heavy with sloes.

“I enjoy watching the goldfinches and yellow hammers feeding on the thistles and knapweed seeds, while skylarks, swallows and the occasional red kite circle in the skies above. The wildlife of the South Downs truly is magnificent at this time of year and seeing it on foot is by far the best way to appreciate it.”

Great British Walks on and around Devil’s Dyke have been graded according to their difficulty levels and suitability for families, casual walkers and more experienced ramblers. They range from short walks, that cling to the hill fort area via fairly flat paths and bridleways, to more challenging routes that follow the South Downs Way to Saddlescombe Farm or Fulking Hill. You can even walk down into the heart of the Dyke Valley itself – all 300ft of it.

Other walks require bus journeys to get to the start of the route, such as the Ditchling Beacon to Devil’s Dyke linear walk, or any of the routes starting from Steyning, Shoreham, Lewes, Newhaven or Seaford.

So, with such a wide choice, does Catherine have a favourite Great British Walk? “I have two favourites – both for different reasons,” she says. “The Ditchling Beacon to Devil’s Dyke walk is dotted with beautiful buildings and fascinating history. However, I also enjoy the shorter Devil’s Dyke butterfly walk for its abundant wildlife and pretty views. Both walks offer plenty of opportunities to watch the changing seasons, particularly the colours in the trees and if you are lucky, you get to see some incredibly vivid sunsets.”

You can download a series of Great British Walks for the Devil’s Dyke and South Downs area from the National Trust’s website. They are a mixture of self-led trails and themed guided walks. To find out more, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/devils-dyke/things-to-see-and-do/walks.

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