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Rockingham Forest Blog

Valley of the Willow Brook in October

  • Writer's pictureSophie van den Bergh

A (first) week in the life of the Project Officer

Updated: Jan 12, 2023

Sophie van den Bergh

Sophie is the newly appointed Project Officer for Building the Links for Rockingham Forest, a Heritage-Lottery-funded project to link people to the habitats and wildlife of Rockingham Forest.

Sophie began her career as a “City” lawyer, buying and selling ships, but soon realized that this was not the “dream” job she was looking for and moved onto an array of different legal roles in civil litigation and child protection.


An opportunity to live abroad saw another change in direction as there was not much call for an English lawyer in Thailand, so Sophie turned her hand to institutional fund raising for an NGO – The Human Development Foundation.


On returning to the U.K, Sophie took some time to wonder what was next for her career now that she had three young children to consider too. Before long Sophie found herself involved in her children’s school, initially on a voluntary level but then going on to formally teach. She found teaching tremendously rewarding and was particularly keen to teach outside wherever possible, believing that much of real learning happens outside the classroom. Hence a move into outdoor education and forest school was a natural progression and Sophie spent the next "chapter" of her career being a Forest Leader for several organizations, including the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust, delivering sessions to an array of groups including teachers, Leicester city kids, the home ed. community and the wider public.

The current “chapter” brings her career up to date with her appointment as the Project Officer.

 

Having just completed my first proper week in post, I thought it was worth writing to introduce myself. You can see from the “blurb” above that my career to date has been quite varied but perhaps what it doesn’t explain is my absolute passion for the great outdoors and all creatures great and small. Quite simply, I have always loved being in the natural world and that wish to protect it and connect with it continues in my daily life. My love of the outdoors means that I try to spend as much time outside as I possibly can and always start my day with an early morning dog walk with my English setter, Mollie, who has led me on plenty of adventures!


So, what have I been up to this week? Really it has been all about getting my feet under the desk. I now have a laptop, email address – sophie@neneriverstrust.org and an office at Fineshade to work from. So please do get in touch either by email or knock on the office door should you be passing.


In addition, I had a chance to meet most of my colleagues at the Nene Rivers Trust who will be supporting me in my role– and how helpful they have already been, with their IT wizardry and general good advice! I’ve also been contacting all the partners on the Project to see how we can work together to deliver this exciting project for Rockingham Forest.

So far, I’ve managed to meet Forestry England staff who are providing some office space in Top Lodge, Fineshade, a great venue to host meetings in the Little Barn and they have agreed that we can use the site to host events to support the Project.


The former farmhouse at Top Lodge, - my office is on the first floor, but at the back of the building. The Little Barn is the single storey on the left.

I’ve also been able to meet up with Butterfly Conservation, an easy task, as I share an office with them. Watch this space for more information on the daytime-flying-moth programme they will be rolling out. In the next couple of weeks I shall be meeting all the other partners, in person where I can, and I look forward to telling you how I get on and what exciting elements they will be bringing to the project in the next blog.


In the meantime there is plenty else to think about as I turn my thoughts to how the Project can help parishes and local communities develop their own Nature Recovery Plans. I’m excited to see how I can help with this element of the project as these local plans could make a real difference to our area in the future. I envisage even larger areas of the map turning green as communities develop their plans to create and improve habitats for the benefit of wildlife and people.


I’ll sign off now, but will be back in touch soon.

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