Lydia Murphy, 2010

BBC Countryfile recently visited and featured Colne Valley Regional Park on their show.  The Presenter Charlotte Smith met up with the River Manager and Lydia Murphy (2010), Wetlands Officer for two back-to-back days of filming. So what Lydia has been doing since leaving The Abbey?

  1. When did you leave The Abbey and what are you doing now?

I left the Abbey in 2010. My main interests at school were natural history and music, so I ended up doing my undergraduate degree in Music, and then an MSc in Conservation Science. 

My first job was monitoring flows in rivers in East Anglia – who knew you could be paid to wear a pair of waders and stand in a river?! I’ve moved around a bit job-wise – after the rivers I did a spell at an international NGO, then moved back to my first love of British natural history and worked as an ecologist for a couple of years. Again, being paid to grub around in the undergrowth looking for badgers is my idea of a good deal.

Currently I work at Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust, where I work with anglers helping them to manage their fishing sites to be better for wildlife. 

This harks back to the subject of my MSc dissertation, where I worked with gamekeepers in Aberdeenshire to help them manage forests for red squirrels and pine martens. I really enjoy working with these guys – they are not seen as conservation managers in the traditional sense, but they and the Wildlife Trusts have more in common than we have differences to divide us.


  1. What do you miss the most about The Abbey?

I have very fond memories of my time at the Abbey. There was a really lovely sense of community and togetherness which I remember being a wrench to leave. But I needn’t have worried, over 10 years on and with everyone having disappeared off to opposite ends of the country (in some cases the world), you can still meet up for a reunion and it’s like you were in a classroom together yesterday.


  1. What would you say is your biggest achievement? 

In the summer I did my MSc dissertation in Aberdeenshire, I set up a folk group with a few locals and we ended up playing gigs in pubs and even recording an album. 

Evenings playing folk music followed by early mornings tracking red squirrels and capturing footage of pine martens on camera traps, all in the fantastic setting of the Cairngorms, felt like a perfect marriage of my interests!


  1. What advice would you give to current students? 

For anyone interested in getting into a career in conservation, more important than having the right degree is getting practical experience. 

Aside from that being the key thing employers look for on CVs in this sector, getting started early with volunteering and gaining practical experience through volunteering gives you the opportunity to work out what it is you’re most interested in and suited to. 

Some roles are completely desk-based, some you are more likely to see real mice than computer mice. There is something for everyone, but it’s important to work out where you fit in.

And some general advice – the current education system assumes that by the time you’re 18 or 21, you know exactly what you want to do. 

This is true for some people, but for the majority of us who aren’t sure, don’t panic. You have your whole life to work out how to fit in everything you are interested in.