End of era as ranger quits role on Farnes

David Steel, who is standing down as head ranger of the Farne Islands.
David Steel, who is standing down as head ranger of the Farne Islands.

Nearly 14 years after he first arrived on the Farne Islands, one of the Northumberland coast’s best-known figures is leaving for good.

David Steel is standing down and moving on to pastures new, having started working as a seasonal warden on the islands in March 2001.

David Steel, who is standing down as head ranger of the Farne Islands.

David Steel, who is standing down as head ranger of the Farne Islands.

Over the years, David has overseen the management of the islands, raising their profile and putting the Farnes well and truly on the map.

He has worked with no fewer than 73 different rangers and has become the longest-serving member of staff for the islands, beating the previous record by nine years.

David said: “It’s been a truly remarkable 14 years, each one as different as the next and it is a life experience I will never forget.

“Living and working on the Farne Islands has been a privilege and I have worked and lived with some fantastic people during that time.

David Steel, who is standing down as head ranger of the Farne Islands.

David Steel, who is standing down as head ranger of the Farne Islands.

“It’s strange to look back over the 14 years and see what has changed. When I first started in March 2001, mobile phones and the internet had not reached the islands.

“We used to have food delivered and only occasionally travel into Seahouses to make phone calls to loved ones from the red telephone box in the main car park.

“Even things people took for granted were a luxury – television was a real treat as the generator was temperamental, while the Shipping Forecast on BBC Radio Four was our lifeline as the weather would dictate our daily lives.”

David’s career on the islands has also coincided with a huge increase in visitors.

“When I first took over, the islands were receiving around 30,000 visitors per year,” he said. “With the great support of my teams, I’ve grown the business, with more than 53,000 people visiting last year alone.”

The Farnes have become a regular feature in national and local newspapers as well as on television and radio, with David appearing alongside the likes of Simon King, Bill Oddie, Robson Green, Mike Dilger, Gordon Buchanan and Michael Buerk.

However, David is not leaving the island life for good as he is heading further north to the Jewel of the Forth – the Isle of May – to become the new reserve manager.