This week our Outdoors Manager Murray Sharpe is leaving the Arlington Ranger team along with him our Jacob Sheep and Red Devon Cattle.
Murray started with the National Trust when he was 16 as a volunteer at Alderley Edge in Cheshire, this was the start of just over 30 years working for the National Trust. Murray will now be taking on a farm tenancy on the estate and this will be bringing substantial changes to the ranger team itself. The Cattle, Sheep and grassland elements of the HLS project will all be leaving with Murray.
The ranger team has been responsible for the livestock since Arlington was gifted to the trust in 1949, the Jacob sheep on the estate today are the direct descedants of Miss Chichesters own pedigree jacob flock. In 2002 Murray bought 4 in calf cows as part of a grazing project which has grown to our 8 breeding cows today.
Murray Sharpe has been head ranger here at Arlington since 2001 and has been an extremelly positive champion in regard to the livestock and the conservation grazing project.
The key reason I applied for the role here at Arlington was because the ranger team managed the in hand livestock and Arlington certainly did not let down my expectations. It has been three years of hard work and I have loved every minute I have spent with the animals, extremely special moments have been watching my pet sheep lamb her first twins and watching the cattle graze through beautiful wood pasture.
There have also been times of emotional pain and throughout the highs and lows Murray has supported the whole team wonderfully throughout our learning and at times grieving process.
Without a doubt the biggest roller coaster was our cow Limmy who I have written an earlier blog about, she was special to all the team and her character meant she was a firm favourite; however in October 2013 she failed her TB test. As she had walked through the race I had stroked her back and smiled looking up at the vet stating that she was in fact, the best cow in the world.
But within a few minutes the vet looked up at me with trepidation and I knew the news was not positive, my eyes welled with tears and they continued to flow for the remainder of the day. Loading Limmy onto the lorry to take her away was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my job, even to the last moment I kept imagining a way of squirreling her away but unfortunately Red Devon cows are not the easiest to hide.
Throughout this even though Murray was feeling his own great sadness, he supported me as his member of staff putting my feelings above his own, coming in early to load Limmy into our trailer so that I would not have to and of course dealing with the tears!
Murray took the decision last year to follow his own dreams and applied for a farm tenancy on the Arlington Estate and the decision was taken that he would manage the in hand land and livestock. Of which part of this would be taking the Jacob sheep flock to continue their association with Arlington. Therefore to the visiting public nothing will have changed, everyone will still be seeing the cattle and sheep graze our grasslands.
However for the team the changes are great, it is with sadness on my part that we say goodbye to Murray who has lead the team with great passion and drive. I truly believe throughout his time in the National Trust Murray has inspired others, passing on his knowledge and passion for conservation and livestock. In 2013 we were interviewing for a seasonal ranger and of which one of the questions within the interview was; what was your inspiration to become a ranger? Steve one of the candidates who had volunteered here 10 years earlier replied “You Murray”.
It is a great loss for the National Trust to no longer have Murray within the organisation and the team will miss him.
In fact seeing Murray so happy encouraged to follow my own dreams and so I handed in my own notice to take on a partnership on my family farm taking with me the knowledge I gained from Arlington and Murray.
Murray has been an inspiration here at Arlington and his time here has helped Arlington become what it is today, a stunning property with high conservation value for all to enjoy.